People News: Visit Orlando, Freeman and More Tap New Executives, Announce High-Level Promotions
The meetings industry continues to demonstrate a rosy outlook for the year ahead as event-related organizations across the U.S. announce a bevy of new hires and an array of leadership promotions. Check them out!
Visit Orlando recently named 25-year hospitality industry veteran Mario J. Bass as its new COO, responsible for overseeing internal operations and leading and implementing the organization’s strategic initiatives, strategic plans and annual business plans.
Bass most recently served as the chief sales officer for Visit San Antonio. During his five-year tenure, he contributed to the overall success of the entire organization, leading the strategic business efforts of their destination sales and experience departments by focusing on building long-term, value-based, customer relationships to positively position the city and exceed its goals.
Prior to Visit San Antonio, Bass served in various roles at Marriott for 21 years, including as director of sales and marketing for several hotel properties, director of corporate sales and director of sales. He has worked at an array of Marriott’s largest, flagship hotels, including the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square, New York City, and the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas.
Global events leader Freeman recently promoted 25-year team member Chris Schimek to COO, event and exhibit operations, responsible for all event and exhibit operations across North America.
In his new role, Schimek will provide leadership and strategic direction for regional warehouse operations and local event logistics at venues, graphics production, fabrication and custom exhibits. He most recently served as Freeman’s executive vice president, delivery and brand experience, and prior to that, as executive vice president and COO, West division.
Destination DC (DDC) made several executive team promotions recently.
As CMO, Robin A. McClain leads the marketing and communications team and is responsible for advertising, communications, content, creative, research and events. She joined DDC in May 2011 as director of communications, began leading the department in Nov. 2012 and was promoted to senior vice president in 2017. Prior to DDC, McClain worked for the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board for several years, and started her career as a broadcast journalist in several markets including D.C.’s local FOX 5.
As senior vice president, tourism, sports, visitor services, Theresa Belpulsi is tasked with leading a team responsible for attracting more international visitors, group leisure and student travelers, and professional, amateur and collegiate sporting events. Her team also provides robust visitor services. A 20-year veteran of DDC, Belpulsi joined the organization in 2002 and soon after began leading its tourism sales. Prior to DDC, Belpulsi worked for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, among other roles.
As senior vice president, convention sales and services, Melissa A. Riley leads a team of 25 convention sales and services professionals, responsible for generating positive economic impact for the district through room night generation and visitor spending. A 25-year veteran of the industry, Riley’s tenure at DDC spans more than 20 years. She became department head in 2014 after several promotions that took her from national sales manager to senior national sales manager and director of convention sales in Jan. 2003.
Six-year hospitality industry veteran Rico Ashab has been appointed chief of staff to DDC President and CEO Elliott Ferguson. Ashab’s tenure began in 2017 as part of a temporary staffing group with convention services, and he became the convention services coordinator and has served as executive assistant to the president and CEO since 2019. In his new role, he will work closely with DDC’s board of directors and city partners to advance the organization’s mission.
Maritz Global Events
Maritz Global Events has appointed event sustainability expert Rachael Riggs as general manager, environmental strategy. In her new role, Riggs will lead global sustainability initiatives to manage and implement emissions reduction strategies across the organization, and will continue to work with clients to develop sustainability strategies, measure impact and develop wellbeing programs for their events.
A 25-year events industry veteran, Riggs joined Maritz Global Events Design Studio in 2018. She serves on the Net Zero Carbon Events Measurement Working Group, the Events Industry Council APEX Commission and the Global Wellness Institute’s Workplace Wellbeing Working Group.
Plunge Beach Resort
Plunge Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has appointed hospitality, sales, marketing and relationship development expert Joe Imbrogno as general manager. Prior to his elevated role, he served as assistant general manager and director of guest excellence at the seaside property.
Imbrogno brings more than 25 years of professional experience in organizational management, including leading and managing teams, budgeting and contract negotiations, business administration, marketing, social media management and event planning, to his new position.
Before coming to Plunge, he was a guest experience ambassador at Sonesta Hotel Fort Lauderdale Beach, and prior to that, was the co-owner of Exakt Marketing, a marketing agency focused on crafting unique experiences for hotel and spa guests, college and university students, event attendees, restaurant diners and fitness club members.
Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau
The Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau’s (ACVB) board of directors recently elected a new 2023 chair: travel industry veteran Bob Somers, who currently serves as senior vice president of global sales for Delta Air Lines.
Somers began his career at Delta in 1983 and has held various positions of increasing responsibility in the company’s sales and marketing divisions. He joined ACVB’s board in 2017 and began serving on the organization’s executive committee in 2022.
Somers is a member of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and was honored with the GBTA Allied Member of the Year award in 2016. Business Travel News also named him one of its 25 Most Influential Business Travel Executives in 2016.
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