Who to Watch in Travel and Hospitality: 9 Names You Should Know
An industry filled with diverse talent and innovative thinking, hospitality and travel attracts some of the brightest minds and highest achievers. From operators, consultants and developers to educators, award-winning writers, and bestselling authors, these veterans of the hospitality sector stand out among the pack.
Recognized as a leading hospitality needs expert, Jonathan Albano has spent over 15 years bringing owners and vendors together for mutual gain. During much of that time, he has defined Membership Services for AAHOA, one of the nation’s fastest-growing organizations in the hospitality industry, with over 12,500 members, who collectively own more than 20,000 hotels, valued at $128 billion. Albano is also the founder and CEO of LodgingMetrics, a secure, cloud-based dashboard that allows hoteliers to identify and track critical business metrics, anywhere and anytime, via tablet, laptop or smartphone.
Positioned at the forefront of the sharing economy, Chip Conley is a hospitality entrepreneur, social change agent, disruptive business rebel and bestselling author. At the age of 26, Conley took an inner city motel and transformed it into the second-largest boutique hotel brand on the planet. Since then, he’s amassed an impressive record of accomplishments that brought him the Pioneer Award, hospitality’s highest honor, previously awarded to industry icons Kimpton, Marriott, and Wynn. Conley is also the founder of the Celebrity Pool Toss, which raises millions of dollars for the Tenderloin community where he opened his very first hotel.
For over a decade, Keith Durst has served hospitality clients through representation, financial funding management and sourcing, real estate, food and beverage strategy oversight, concept development, and everything in between. As Principle at Durst Hospitality Group, Durst has helped his company build several Michelin-starred restaurants, along with projects in the new World Trade Center, and Brookfield Place in the World Financial Center. Whether he’s acting on behalf of owners, working in concert with owners, or negotiating agreements between ownership and operator, Durst also puts the weight of his entire organization behind each project, no matter its size.
For over 40 years, Chuck Hamburg has worked in the hospitality industry as an operator, educator, consultant, and developer. During that time, Hamburg’s services and expertise have been sought after by hoteliers, independent restaurateurs, and corporate CEOs. An Illinois BASSET Certified Instructor, Hamburg is an Associate Professor in Roosevelt University’s Hospitality Management Program and has been involved in hospitality academia since 1971. In 1995, he started Creative Hospitality Associates, where he helped take the enterprise from humble beginnings to one of the top hospitality consulting firms in the United States.
After gathering years of experience working within the hospitality industry, Michael Hraba brought his expertise to Waterford Hotels and Inns, where he specializes in oversight of green hotels/eco resorts, project management, food and beverage, room operations and social media. Empowered by extensive experience with both large and boutique hotels, Hraba is also the founder of Hraba Hospitality Consulting (HHC), a consulting hospitality firm focusing on boutique hotels, eco-resorts, NPS lodges and green hotels. At HHC, Hraba consults with clients to support growth and development of new and existing properties.
Not one to sit back and wait for the opportunity to knock, Dan Huber became CEO of a chamber of commerce at age 25 and CEO of Iowa’s third-largest chamber of commerce at 29. Since then, he has made a substantial mark in the hospitality business and the local community, serving as commission chairman for the Iowa Department of Transportation Commission. In 2007 he became co-owner of Frontier Hospitality Group, ultimately taking on the CEO position in 2014. As Frontier celebrates over 66 years in the hotel business, Huber marshals his team’s vast experience in hotel operations and applies it to new hotel development.
TripAdvisor’s first-ever Travel Advocate, Wendy Perrin is a well-known travel expert, keynote speaker, thought leader and award-winning travel reporter. Advising more than 315 million monthly visitors, Perrin is trusted by the world’s smartest travelers, who rely on her in-depth insight and expertise. In addition to her role at TripAdvisor, Perrin has been a keynote speaker at the United Nations, Harvard University, on cruise ships and at conferences worldwide. Appearing on Good Morning America, The Today Show, and CNN, she has also earned a Lowell Thomas award for investigative journalism and won the Travel Journalist of the Year award.
With an extensive background in real estate marketing and travel related services, Chris Willard possesses an outstanding knowledge and industry contacts in the hotel representation space. As Vice President of Sales & Business Development at Genre Hotels, he leverages these assets to deliver full-service sales/marketing, technology, and hotel management for major properties all over the world. Willard is also the founder of 2 Hands 2 Cans, a non-profit organization that empowers at-risk individuals to become self-sufficient and excel by addressing their immediate and long-term needs through education, extended job-skill training and career placement.
A multi-talented veteran of the hospitality sector, Derek Wood has worked at every level of hospitality. Somewhere along the way, he turned his real-world general manager experience into a diverse entrepreneurial career that has positioned him as a leading industry consultant. As founder and President of Guest Check, Inc., Wood provides clients with onsite inspection reports, while partnering with hoteliers to create remarkable guest experiences. From small, single properties to multi-property globally flagged hospitality chains, Guest Check is able to serve a diverse client list, thanks to a knowledgeable staff of experts, led by Wood.
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