2017 Supplier of the Year: Industry Leaders

Hotels & Resorts

Carina Bauer, IMEX Group

Name: Carina Bauer
Title: CEO
Company: IMEX Group
Affiliations: German Convention Bureau, MPI, EIC, ASAE, PCMA, AIPC, SITE, DMAI, IAEE, IAPCO, ICCA, US Travel, JMIC
Background: She has been involved in the meetings industry since 2002, first as marketing and operations director of IMEX Group and now as CEO. In addition to overseeing IMEX Group operations, Bauer is responsible for the group’s marketing and communications mix, specifically concentrating on strategic partnerships, sponsorships and press relations.
Guiding philosophy: “My and IMEX’s sole aim is to unite and advance the meetings industry—do everything we can to innovate, educate and help our clients make powerful connections with the right people,” she says.

Carina Bauer quickly became immersed in the meetings industry while working with her father, Ray Bloom, the founder of IMEX. As IMEX expanded to America, Bauer, Bloom and other leaders made a point of seeking out the best in the industry to collaborate with and learn from, including the host destinations and venues; their association partners; their exhibitors, hosted buyers and attendees from throughout the world; and sustainability partners.

Bauer says that her and IMEX’s sole aim is to unite the meetings industry by doing everything they can to innovate, educate and help their clients to make powerful connections with the right people.

She emphasizes that IMEX needs to keep improving, partly by introducing meeting and event innovations to better serve planners and buyers.

“The IMEX team always wants to provide living examples at our shows for planners and buyers to see what can be done next in areas like CSR, sustainability, wellness, new formats and designs, and so on,” she says.

Tammy Blount, Visit Monterey

Name: Tammy Blount
Title: President and CEO
Company: Visit Monterey
Affiliations: Chair, Destinations International (started when it was International Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus in mid-1990s)
Background: Worked in hospitality industry for 30 years, starting with hotels and moving to the destination side. One of first to earn Certified Destination Management Executive certificate.
Guiding philosophy: “My job is to surprise and delight our customers with creativity and ideas and connections that empower the meetings we get to touch be ones of unparalleled inspiration, collaboration and success.”
Testimonial: “She has used the experience, research and knowledge gained from her involvement with Destinations International to grow tourism exponentially in Monterey County.” –Mark McMinn, VP of Sales, Visit Monterey

As new chair of Destinations International, Tammy Blount has great respect for how events impact lives. “The Hospitality Industry has an unique position of privilege in the world—we create experiences and memories that last lifetimes,” she says. “We are in an industry that, like no other, has the ability to break down the barriers to understanding, spread knowledge and cultural exchange and provide the platform for breakthroughs and discoveries that change our entire existence.”

The 30-year veteran of the hospitality industry sees her role as doing everything she can—with her team at Visit Monterey, her community, and her industry—to enable these things to happen. The numbers show it is working. In 2016, travel spending from overnight visitors in Monterey County was more than $2.8 billion, a 3.6 percent increase from 2015.

As someone who learned by doing, Blount is passionate about continuing education for elevating the profession. She was one of the first to earn a Certified Destination Management Executive certificate and continues to challenge herself and her team to try new things.

Leslie Menichini, Rosen Hotels & Resorts

Name: Leslie Menichini
Title: Vice President of Sales and Marketing
Company: Rosen Hotels & Resorts
Affiliations: MPI and MPI Foundation, PCMA, HSMAI, SITE, Visit Orlando, Runway to Hope, A Gift for Teaching and the Rosen Hotels & Resorts Leadership Team.
Background: Started in Minnesota and Oklahoma. She spent time in Las Vegas with Bally’s/Paris Las Vegas, Caesar’s, Hilton and Flamingo. In 2001, she returned to Orlando to join independent hotelier Rosen Hotel & Resorts.
Guiding philosophy: When your customer is your friend, it’s easy to help them because you care. You become even more engaged and committed to their ROI.
Testimonial: “Leslie is the essence of a true hospitality leader. Considerate, fair but firm.” –Peter Shelly, executive vice president, HelmsBriscoe

Leslie Menichini has an extensive background in the hospitality industry spanning 38 years working for the biggest companies in the business. Menichini has moved throughout the country, beginning in Tulsa, Oklahoma, before working as director of sales for Westin Hotels in California. After 10 years with the major brand, she moved to Orlando and spent seven years with Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. Later, Menichini occupied an executive director role in Las Vegas, synergizing sales efforts for major properties. Now she works as vice president of sales and marketing for Rosen Hotels & Resorts.

When looking back over all of the incidents that have occurred over the past few years, including wars, random acts of violence, natural disasters and even the Zika virus, she maintains an optimistic perspective because of the resiliency of the industry. “Through it all, our industry consistently has come together to ensure longevity. We have continuously aligned to overcome these many obstacles and ultimately, I believe, have become a stronger industry for it,” Menichini says.

Kevin Edmunds, AIC Hotel Group

Name: Kevin Edmunds
Title: Vice President of Meeting and Incentive
Company: AIC Hotel Group
Affiliations: International board for the Society of Incentive Travel Excellence, Eagle Scout
Background: He started at his father’s hospitality representation firm and then became the West Coast regional director for AIC Group, meeting and incentive markets. Six years later, he was promoted to vice president of sales. He also spent five years with Palace Resorts.
Guiding philosophy: Not forgetting where you came from. “I personally believe this concept gives you a sense of respect for the past and every stepping stone you take to get to the position you land,” he says.
Testimonial: “One sure aspect when dealing with Kevin is his knack for being genuine, authentic and approachable.” –Jenna Paseka, director of key accounts, JNR Incorporated

"Within our team, we stand on two major components, building true organic relationships and honest engaged exposure.” This is how Kevin Edmunds, vice president of meeting and incentive for AIC Hotel Group, defines his mission.

His leadership strategy not only focuses on immediate goals, but keeps the bigger picture in mind by building a network that will pay off for years down the road. He encourages his employees to participate in associations and foundations to give AIC Hotel Group exposure. Edmunds believes volunteerism is a key component to reaching his company’s annual fiscal and impression goals.

Hospitality is second nature to Edmunds. It’s in his genes and DNA. He and his brother followed their parents’ footsteps into the business. However, he dabbled in sports broadcasting during an internship with CBS Newspath Sports in New York City.

“Don’t be transactional; be transformational,” he says.

Stephanie Glanzer, MGM Resorts International

Name: Stephanie Glanzer
Title: Vice President of Sales
Company: MGM Resorts International
Affiliations: MPI, SITE
Background: Began career in leisure sales with MGM Resorts International in 1998 at The Mirage, which led to leadership positions at The Mirage and Bellagio. In 2007, moved to Aria Resort & Casino and Vdara Hotel & Spa, where she was instrumental in the creation of ARIA’s reputation as a meetings destination.
Guiding philosophy: Make meeting planners look like heroes to their stakeholders and participants.
Testimonial: “Stephanie and her team have built a culture of high-touch customer service.” –Anthony J. Calanca, executive vice president exhibitions, UBM Americas

Growing up a serious ballet dancer, I had to have strict discipline, dedication and structure. I feel that background helped to create the foundation of what I do today,” says Stephanie Glanzer, vice president of sales for Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Delano Las Vegas and Luxor Hotel. Such diligence is essential in her position, where she oversees sales for more than 2 million sq. ft. of convention space, as well as convention, catering and exhibitor services.

Glanzer knows passion counts, and relishes being part of a dynamic meetings and events industry that can educate and stir souls. Even in her current strategic role, she remains involved with groups as small as 10 and as large as 20,000, from contract to event.

As a young ballerina, she learned that being in a dance troupe called for both individual excellence and teamwork. Today, she is quick to give a shout-out to her team. Another youthful lesson: All the hard work and preparation are but prelude to the show. These are lessons she has incorporated into her very DNA.

John Iannini, Melia Hotels International

Name: John Iannini, CIS, CTC
Title: Vice President of Meetings and Events in America
Company: Melia Hotels International
Affiliations: 2018 SITE Foundation president, MPI, Georgia English Bulldog Rescue board of directors
Background: 20-year veteran of incentive business; Wyndham Hotel Group; Melia Hotels International starting in 2010.
Guiding philosophy: “Honesty and integrity are the cornerstones as I play ‘matchmaker’ to hotels and clients around the world,” he says.
Testimonial: “John’s unwavering focus on the customer is certainly one of the many traits that sets him apart from his competition. He always has the customer in mind, ensuring that their experience is top notch.” –Rhea Stagner, CIS DVP, sourcing and supplier relations, Maritz Travel-A Maritz Global Events Company

"I recognize that my customers always have a choice. Therefore, a superior customer service experience is integral and key to my success.” This is how John Iannini, vice president of meetings and events America for Melia Hotels International, builds loyalty.

Iannini says he is a graduate of “the school of hard knocks,” referencing the Gulf War and 9/11 as memorable lessons. These major, historical events prepared him to better understand the dynamic and evolution of the marketplace. He also ran his own incentive agency for almost 20 years before taking on the role of global account director for Wyndham Hotel Group and then joining the Melia Hoteals International team in 2010. He says all of these experiences have equipped him to effectively serve customers and salespeople.

Today, he finds joy in mentoring hospitality professionals to help them reach their full potential. “I take the responsibility quite seriously,” he says.

Jorge Meraz Ibarra, Velas Resorts

Name: Jorge Meraz Ibarra
Title: Director of Cluster Group Sales-International
Company: Velas Resorts
Affiliations: SITE
Background: Started hotel career as a driver for a Velas executive and rose to director of group sales at Grand Velas Riviera Maya by 2008. Now directs incentive sales for all Velas properties.
Guiding philosophy: “Incentive attendees should leave motivated to win the program again, so both our clients and attendees win,” he says.
Testimonial: “Flexibility and attention to detail are just two of the qualities I look for when it comes to finding the perfect partner. Jorge and Grand Velas have gone above and beyond our expectations.” –Cynthia Kunz, sales vice president and partner, Incentive Travel Solutions

"Companies want results. It’s our job to motivate their incentive winners to repeat the experience.” This is the what of Jorge Meraz Ibarra’s job as director of cluster group sales for luxury, all-inclusive Grand Velas hotels.

The how—which he encapsulates as “impeccable properties, impeccable service, an infrastructure not found elsewhere”—traces to his drive to excel as the oldest in a family of seven growing up near Mazatlan, Mexico. He left for el Norte at age 16—not to pick grapes in Napa or cotton in Texas, but to attend Fullerton College in California, followed by a degree in international business administration from Autonomous University of Baja California.

He began his hotel career as a driver. Then, at a bridal show in Arizona, he happened to be at the Velas booth when a prospect began asking questions. He not only answered them; he made the sale. Before long, he was sales manager for weddings, then incentive sales. “My boss said, ‘Jorge, it’s like a wedding, but instead of satisfying a groom and bride, you have a CEO and VP of sales,’” he says.

Katy Britzmann, Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa

Name: Katy Britzmann
Title: Director of Sales & Marketing
Company: Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa
Affiliations: Marketing Chair, Kauai Visitors Bureau; member Kauai Tourism Strategic Planning Committee
Background: Before arriving at Grand Hyatt Kauai in 1997, the University of Idaho Marketing and Management graduate was national sales manager at The Westin Seattle and Westin Kauai at Kauai Lagoons.
Guiding philosophy: “Living and sharing the spirit of aloha, which incorporates being a good steward to the land, being kind and acting as a collaborator is my guiding philosophy in my personal and professional life.”

Over the last 20 years with Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, Director of Sales & Marketing Katy Britzmann has seen an evolution in the event industry with groups eager to incorporate local culture into gatherings. “It is not just Mai Tais by the pool anymore,” she says. “Planners are looking for something deeper. want their groups to experience a sense of the place.”

That fits perfectly with the Grand Hyatt’s mission to share the spirit of Old Hawaii. A Manager of Hawaiian culture is on staff and associates are happy to share their skills. “It really makes it special when the doorman is the one blowing the conch shell at a welcome reception,” says Britzmann.

That is part of the team spirit she prizes when it comes to events. “I create the palette, but we work together to paint the picture,” she says.

Another shared goal is sustainability. “Social responsibility has to be more than just words,” Britzmann says. “We are passionate about working with the community, our team and planners to be good stewards of our island.”

Brian Lynx, Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort

Name: Brian Lynx
Title: Director of Sales and Marketing
Company: Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort (Maui, Hawaii)
Affiliations: past vice president of meetings, conventions and incentives for Hawaii Tourism Authority
Background: Has worked at eight iconic properties in Hawaii (on three islands) and beyond.
Guiding philosophy: Benchmark off the best and keep programs as innovative and creative as possible.
Testimonial: “I’ve never worked with anyone in his capacity who is as universally well-regarded as he is. Brian’s dealings with customers are characterized by integrity and caring, personal service.” –Matt Bailey, president and CEO, Aqua-Aston Hospitality

While it’s thrilling to represent spectacular properties, it’s also incredibly important to remember the purpose they serve—inspiring groundbreaking ideas.” That’s how Brian Lynx, director of sales and marketing for Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, describes his mission as a facilitator of indelible meetings and events.

A graduate of Royal College of Music in London, where he played at Royal Albert Hall in front of the Queen of England, his passion since has been orchestrating experiences—as a hotelier and, from 2013 to 2015, as vice president for meetings, conventions and incentives for Hawaii Tourism Authority, where he created campaigns that generated $1.4 billion in new revenue for the state.

“The exchange of cultures is the essence of travel,” Lynx says. “It’s what makes many of us want to voyage not only as a way of fostering new connections, but also to add a new chapter to the shared history of both communities. The meeting business is the pinnacle of allowing this vision to flourish.”

Margie Sitton, San Diego Tourism Authority

Name: Margie Sitton
Title: Senior Vice President of Sales and Services
Company: San Diego Tourism Authority
Affiliations: MPI, Destinations International sales and marketing committee
Background: Started at The Sheraton Universal in Los Angeles as a desk clerk and climbed up the ladder to director of sales and marketing. She was transferred to San Diego in 1988 to open Sheraton Grande Torrey Pines, now a Hilton, in La Jolla, California; spent 12 years with Hilton Hotels and Starwood Hotels and Resorts; and has been with the San Diego Tourism Authority for nine years.
Guiding philosophy: “Sales managers must have a passion for the customer, their hotel and our destination,” she says.
Testimonial: “She is an outside-the box-thinker.” –Scott Hermes, chairman of the board, San Diego Tourism marketing district

"I believe my job is to give my team the ‘confidence’ to do their job. That means great training, tools, mentoring, creativity, attitude and setting high expectations.” This is how Margie Sitton, vice president of sales and services for San Diego Tourism Authority leads her employees.

Sitton is grateful to her mentors for showing her the ropes and seeing potential in her. She didn’t originally aspire to pursue a career in sales, but trusted her first general manager to go this route. When she embarked on this journey, sales classes didn’t yet exist, so she learned by doing.

For the past 35-plus years, she has been a sales leader who prides herself in being hands-on with meeting professionals. She was involved in creating a “site experience” program in San Diego to exceed customer expectations and convince planners that her city is the best destination to host a meeting. Sitton also launched San Diego Meeting Certified in 2014 to create synergy between sales managers of area hotels, venues and attractions.

“My goal is to make sure every customer interaction is meaningful for the planner, especially at the site inspection,” she says.

Junior Tauvaa, Visit Anaheim

Name: Junior Tauvaa, CTA
Title: Senior Vice President of Sales and Services
Company: Visit Anaheim
Affiliations: MPI board of trustees member, APEX committee, DMAI sales and marketing committee, PCMA partner summit chair
Background: Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board; Meeting Professionals International in Dallas; Visit Anaheim. He also has experience as a business consultant for Arthur Andersen.
Guiding philosophy: “Empowering my team members to make good business decisions on behalf of our organization and on behalf of our customers.”
Testimonial: “Junior is patient, consistent and trustworthy. I know he’s got our best interest in mind. It’s a true partnership in every sense of the word.” –Cindy Sample, director of trade show operations, NAMM

"We’re always sort of looking to reinvent and sort of create the destination for the organization of the future. We want to be able to differentiate ourselves.” This is how Junior Tauvaa, vice president of sales and services for Visit Anaheim, defines his organization’s guiding principle.

To achieve this goal, Tauvaa credits his curiosity and encouraging everyone to ask questions. Relationship-building also plays a vital role in his success. While working for Jay Burress (the current president and CEO of Visit Anaheim) at MPI in Dallas, Tauvaa made such a positive impression on his boss that Burress recruited him to join the Anaheim team.

His background at MPI has given Tauvaa a unique perspective, from an association angle. By developing an understanding of the needs of meeting professionals, he is able to gauge their requests and provide them with proper support.

“To me, sales is sort of finding a solution to a challenge. That’s my approach in terms of meeting with customers. They have a challenge. They need space, or they need to get their community together and see if we can find a solution,” he says.

Teresa White, Wyndham Hotel Group

Name: Teresa White
Title: Senior Director of Global Sales
Company: Wyndham Hotel Group
Affiliations: MPI, Strategic Account Management Association (SAMA)
Background: Began at Dolce Hotels and Resorts in 1993. She joined Wyndham Hotel group as senior director of global sales in 2015.
Guiding philosophy: “Meetings can be brilliant through a great partnership between our hotels and our clients. It takes serious listening skills, strong relationships, an understanding of customer goals and drive to ensure the meeting experience contributes to their overall objectives.”
Testimonial: “Teresa has brought Wyndham a depth of knowledge for how to win at booking meetings. She has mastered the art of finding solutions that work for the hotels and her clients.” –Madlyn Caliri, director of global procurement, RELX Group

Teresa White attributes her successful, 24-year career in sales and marketing roles to her drive and excellent mentors.

“Early on, I got my start in operations, and developed a solid understanding of business and customer-service skills,” she says. “I attribute my success to a strong desire to keep learning and growing—topped with the good fortune of working with exceptional industry leaders and great mentors throughout my career.”

She says that one of her current challenges is to help provide special experiential activities for groups.

“Today’s meeting planner still needs convenience and value, but really treasures the ability to create an experience for attendees,” White says. “With a portfolio of 20 distinct brands, I’m able to offer customers a tailored experience that will really resonate with their guests.”

White says that planners are especially interested in experiential team-building activities, and that the Dolce Brand has been able to successfully address the interest by offering activities such as a bike-building competition at its Silverado Resort and Spa, Napa, in California and Concoctioneering (a mixology competition) at The Alexander in Indianapolis.

John Rovie, Monarch Beach Resort

Name: John Rovie
Title: Director of Sales and Marketing
Company: Monarch Beach Resort
Affiliations: Throughout my career I’ve had the good fortune to be involved with many of the great acronyms of our industry… ASAE, PCMA, MPI, FICP & SITE! The education and relationships that these affiliations have afforded me has been paramount to the growth of my career.
Background: The Arizona State University graduate spent the first half of his career at Westin Hotels & Resorts and Fairmont. Subsequently, I was very fortunate to work at The Arizona Biltmore, The Broadmoor and Coeur d’Alene Resort. I’m thrilled to now be a part of the best-in-class team at Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point, California. The opportunity to learn from so many great leaders at these incredible resorts has been, and continues to be, an incredible benefit.
Guiding philosophy: If you treat your colleagues like family and your customers like guests in your home, you will win.
Testimonial: "I've had the pleasure of knowing John for well over a decade and have worked with him as a business partner and as a client. John has an incredible work ethic and is one of the most service-oriented sales leaders I know. We’ve held large scale events and board meetings and the attention to detail that he and his teams consistently display is second to none. In today's world of 'better sameness,' John truly stands out from the crowd." —David Peckinpaugh, President, Maritz Global Events

John Rovie, director of sales and marketing at Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point, California, started working for a resort in Vail after college and thought it would be fun for a few years until he figured out what he really wanted to do. Thirty-one years later, he is pretty confident the hospitality industry was the right choice. His career path led him to Westin Seattle; Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in Arizona; Arizona Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix; Coeur d’Alene Resort in Idaho; and The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado; before landing him in Southern California.

He believes the key to success in this industry is to stay on top of changing market needs, and be better than the competition in meeting those needs. “I try to always maintain a focus on the core of our business…hospitality,” he says.

Andrea Kasnic, Hyatt Regency Chicago

Name: Andrea Kasnic
Title: Director of Sales and Marketing
Company: Hyatt Regency Chicago
Background: Graduate of Florida State University
Guiding philosophy: “Love what you do and work hard and make every day great.”
Testimonial: Andrea’s customer service attitude and her willingness to go the extra mile make her the perfect Hotel partner. Her involvement in the Hyatt Convention Alliance has been key in helping NBWA secure future Convention locations. I always look forward to working with her. – Patti Rouzie, vice president of membership and meetings, National Beer Wholesalers Association

Andrea Kasnic, director of sales and marketing with Hyatt Regency Chicago, has been with the global hospitality company since 1998 (she started as a management trainee at Hyatt Regency O’Hare) and has become an enthusiastic promoter for the property and the Windy City. She is passionate about her team and working with them every day to improve the attendee experience. As part of a team, she helped create World of Hyatt Convention Alliance, a grassroots effort started at the hotel level to impact customer experience within her group of convention hotels. She also transitioned the sales team within the hotel to include the event sales team, which created a more seamless approach to the selling process. She is also actively involved in World of Hyatt Sales training opportunities to help mentor newer sales associates within the company.

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