Latest Staff Appointments News...
Hotel Lincoln Announces New Director of Sales and Marketing, Lea Rodriguez
March 26, 2015
Hotel Lincoln, the 184-room Joie de Vivre hotel located in Chicago’s storied Lincoln Park neighborhood, announces a new addition to the operations and sales team. Lea Rodriguez joins Hotel Lincoln as the new director of sales and marketing, bringing over 15 years of managerial experience to the property.
Originally from Ohio, Rodriguez discovered her love for hospitality during her time in event services at Sonesta Resort in the Caribbean. Her passion flourished as she worked with incentive groups to create memorable events and learned more about the hotel industry. Rodriguez credits her time at Sonesta for building her overall understanding of the inner workings of a hotel, giving her a foundation for her approach to sales and marketing strategies today.
Rodriguez spent two years at Sonesta before she took on the position as senior conference services & catering manager at the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans. She moved to Chicago in 2004 and honed in on her sales and marketing skills in positions at local properties including the Hard Rock Hotel and the Allerton Hotel. Prior to joining the team at Hotel Lincoln, Rodriguez served as the corporate director of sales for Kokua Hospitality and the director of sales and marketing for the Inn of Chicago.
“After my initial meeting with the Hotel Lincoln team, I was immediately drawn to the spirit of the property and its team,” says Rodriguez. “Creating a positive and enthusiastic atmosphere is very important to everyone at Hotel Lincoln. We enjoy coming to work every day and want our guests to feel equally as happy to be here.” Rodriguez says.
Rodriguez currently resides in Chicago with her 7-year-old daughter, Nola. The pair enjoys exploring the city and cooking together whenever possible.
metroConnections Announces new Business Development Manager
March 24, 2015
metroConnections, Inc. – an award-winning conference, event, stage production and transportation services firm – has announced Heather Morris as their Business Development Manager.
Morris joined metroConnections as a senior account manager, Attend-eSource® services in 2011, and was most recently in the role of account executive. In this new position, she will be responsible for building relationships with current clients, overseeing assigned accounts and partnering with marketing communications to build channel partnerships and marketing opportunities. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communication from Luther College, Decorah, Iowa.
According to Tom McCulloch, vice president of metroConnections, Morris was selected for her broad range of industry knowledge, client management skills and marketing and branding experience.
“Heather’s diverse background in client management, marketing and conferences and events led us to put her in a unique position to maximize her skill set,” said McCulloch. “In this position, Heather will use her broad range of industry knowledge and experience to allow our company to best serve our clients, while maximizing metro’s business opportunities.”
On the Move: Chris Schroeder, CMP to Cover Steve Yoder, General Sales Markets at AHC + Hospitality
March 24, 2015
Steve Yoder, general sales manager of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, has announced his retirement and Chris Schroeder, CMP, will fulfill his markets.
Yoder has been employed at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel since 1980 and was the first hire when the hotel company was established. In 2012, Yoder was awarded with the Supplier of the Year award by Michigan Meetings and Events. Yoder will end his role in general sales on April 30, 2015 and will remain a part time hotel employee, perusing new business development.
Stepping into the general sales manager role, Chris Schroeder previously served as director of convention services within the hotel corporation and has been employed at the Amway Grand Plaza for over 15 years. In this role he served as the point person for the Lansing State Association meetings, the largest single-market hotel bookings on a continuous basis in Michigan.
AHC + Hospitality manages three hotels in Grand Rapids, Amway Grand Plaza, JW Marriott Grand Rapids and the Downtown Courtyard by Marriott. AHC + Hospitality offers more than 1,100 rooms connected directly to a world-class convention center and serves as a meeting campus in the heart of the city.
Larry McAfee appointed General Manager of The Lodge of Four Seasons in Central Missouri
March 18, 2015
Tom Baker, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Principal of Access Hotels & Resorts announced the appointment of Larry McAfee as the General Manager of The Lodge of Four Seasons in Lake Ozark, MO.
McAfee most recently served as the General Manager of the Warwick Melrose Hotel in Dallas, Texas where he had the overall responsibility for the historic, AAA-4 Diamond Luxury Hotel. While at the Warwick Melrose he oversaw extensive property renovations including all guest rooms and other areas of the property and established market leadership in a competitive Dallas market.
Baker said, “McAfee’s leadership at the Warwick Melrose along with his renovation experience he gained on the extensive property renovations at the Warwick Melrose, and Tides Inn Resort will be a welcome asset to our organization during the multi-million dollar renovations currently underway at The Lodge.”
McAfee added, “The Lodge of Four Seasons is a historic luxury resort and the enhancements we have underway will take The Lodge to the next level and allow us to maintain the resort as the premier destination resort at the Lake of the Ozarks.”
McAfee’s prior hospitality experience includes Independent Hotel Consulting, General Manager of The Tides Inn, Sedona Resorts, Irvington Virginia, Director of Food & Beverage Operations at the Washington Court Hotel and the launch of the new Diplomat Resort, Country Club and Spa, Hollywood Florida. As Executive Chef he held the position at the Wintergreen Resort, Virginia and the Boca Raton Hotel & Club, Florida in addition to Executive Chef for Servico Royce hotels, and the Europa Hotel in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
“McAfee is a Professional Hotelier with emphasis on, revenue generation, team building, and exceeding customer service expectations. He has strong experience in food & beverage, hotel and resort operations, which includes championship golf and Marina’s. Mr. McAfee’s background experience encompasses all areas of guest services operations, with extensive hands on project management that includes ground up construction and total renovation. Larry will also be active in the community working for the best interests of the ownership,” concluded Baker.
The Lodge of Four Seasons offers 359 rooms and over 60,000 square feet of meeting space. Amenities include the Midwest’s best 36 holes of golf, a full service marina and five diverse restaurants. The Lodge is also the home of the nationally recognized Spa Shiki.
Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center and The Westin Kansas City at Crown Center has appointed Katie Allen as complex director of sales.
March 17, 2015
In this role, Allen is responsible for driving group room night bookings for the complex and targeting new groups to host meetings and conventions at the leading hotel complex.
Named “Leader of the Year” by Starwood Hotels and Resorts in 2011, Allen has more than 15 years of experience in hospitality management. She previously served as director of catering and event management and director of revenue management at the hotel complex, as well as the regional leader of catering and event management in Starwood Hotels and Resorts’ southern region. Allen has led her catering and convention services team to “Best in Westin” for meeting planner satisfaction and “Best in Starwood” for associate satisfaction in engagement and supervisory effectiveness. Prior to joining Starwood in 2007, Allen worked with Marriott International Hotels as a manager for inventory, catering, events and more.
“Katie’s played a crucial role in making sure our guests’ meetings and event experience runs smoothly, as well as rolling out new Starwood initiatives, tools and systems to better serve planners at our 150,000 square-foot hotel complex,” said Steve Shalit, complex general manager. “We expect to attract new groups of different sizes and industries under her leadership.”
Allen has demonstrated the ability to lead hotel sales and reservation teams to new levels of success with a greater understanding of strategic selling and profit maximization. She’s successfully analyzed hotel sales strategies, identified inefficiencies and potential opportunities and developed more strategic sellers, increasing revenue and improving guest satisfaction. Her expertise includes group and catering sales, relationship management, project management, training and teambuilding, market share growth and associate development.
“I hope to lead the complex sales team in uncovering the most untapped group potential for Kansas City – to build our convention business and overall better the guest experience,” said Allen. “I’ll work to be a part of the VisitKC trend that is making Kansas City synonymous with the place to be for meetings, conventions and social business alike.”
Katie will begin her new position the first week of April, overseeing a team of nine sellers. For more information about the complex’s meetings and events offerings, visit www.crowncentermeetings.com.
David Pulford Named General Manager for Fern's Kansas City Office
March 11, 2015
Fern, a leading national service contractor, has announced that David Pulford, a 25-year veteran of the live event industry, has joined its staff as General Manager of the Kansas City branch.
Pulford most recently worked on the production and marketing strategy of ESPN's Global X Games (six annual events in five countries - France, Brazil, Spain, Germany, and the United States). He also filled similar roles for the College Football Playoffs, where he worked closely with the Rose Bowl and the National Championship Game. Prior to that, Pulford was Director of Operations at Sprint Center for over five years after its opening.
"I am very excited for the experience and enthusiasm that David will bring to the Kansas City branch and the company," said Aaron Bludworth, President and CEO of Fern. "His diverse and successful background will add another dimension to our team, and he will be a valuable part of our continued growth strategy in Kansas City as well as nationwide."
To contact Pulford, call 816-221-0525 or email him at email@example.com.
DuPage Convention & Visitors Bureau Welcomes New Sales Manager
March 9, 2015
Ami Dean has joined the staff of the DuPage Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) as sales manager for the corporate, fraternal and Chicago associations markets.
Ami’s focus is on showcasing DuPage County as a preferred destination and helping these groups to plan and successfully conduct their meetings and events.
She reports to Lisa Landers, CMP, Director of Sales, and works closely with the rest of the DuPage CVB sales team. A major goal is to increase hotel stays by meeting and event attendees, thereby increasing occupancy tax revenues which positively impact the county's economy.
Prior to joining the DuPage CVB, Ami worked in Peoria, IL as a senior sales executive for The Rally Point Meeting & Conference Center and later as a sales executive at the Peoria Marriott Pere Marquette hotel for Marriott International and the First Hospitality Group, Inc. She holds an MBA from the University of Phoenix.
“We are excited to have Ami on board,” states DuPage CVB Executive Director Beth Marchetti. “She brings strong skills and experience that she can utilize to communicate with our members, promote DuPage County, and, most importantly, bring new groups to the area to drive revenue for the county.”
Ami can be reached at the DuPage Convention & Visitors Bureau in Oak Brook, Illinois, at 630.575.8070, extension 206, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Butler's Pantry Exclusive Caterer at the Coronado Ballroom
Butler’s Pantry has announced they are the exclusive caterer at the Coronado Ballroom as of February 20, 2015. Located at 3701 Lindell Boulevard, the Coronado Ballroom and its Grand Lobby will receive nearly $300,000 in renovations.
Butler’s Pantry will retain the Coronado’s current Vice President of Catering and Design, Rob Schaefer. “The Butler’s Pantry and Steven Becker Fine Dining team are closely collaborating to make this transition a seamless one,” said Richard Nix Jr., President of Butler’s Pantry. “We are excited about this new venture and our top priority is to ensure all Coronado Ballroom events are executed flawlessly. At Butler’s Pantry, we pride ourselves in our attention to detail. We make sure every piece of the puzzle comes together in an exceptional, thoughtful way.”
Steven Becker Fine Dining had previously provided catering services at the Coronado Ballroom. “We enjoyed eleven years at the Coronado Ballroom,” said Steven Becker. “My wife, Kathy and I are looking forward to pursuing our St. Louis based Nadoz Bakery establishments. I trust the Butler’s Pantry team completely. In fact, they will provide the catering for our daughter’s wedding at the Coronado Ballroom in 2015!”
Officers Named for Statewide Tourism Organization
The Tourism Industry Coalition of Michigan (TICOM) recently named its officers for the upcoming calendar year.
The newly elected officers are: President, Rick Hert of the West Michigan Film Office; Vice-President, Dennis Eade of the Michigan Steelhead & Salmon Fishermen’s Association; Secretary, Julie Pingston of the Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau; Treasurer, Dan McCole, Michigan State University; Director-at-Large, Linda Jones of the Michigan Grape & Wine Council; Director-at-Large, George Moroz of the Henry Ford and Director-at-Large, Lisa Shanley of the South Haven/Van Buren County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
MPI Appoints Michael Woody as Chief Operations Officer
Meeting Professionals International (MPI) has announced the selection of industry veteran Michael Woody as its new chief operations officer (COO). In this role, Woody will lead the daily operations and marketing efforts of the association, ensuring the delivery of community-wide member value and brand consistency. He will officially begin the role on March 23, 2015, reporting to MPI president and CEO Paul Van Deventer.
Woody has more than 27 years of experience in the meeting and event, hospitality and tourism industries and is a current, active member of MPI. As COO, he will be responsible for the development and implementation of tactical business plans as well as management of MPI’s events, professional development, chapter business, marketing, communications, and European operations teams. In his current role, Woody serves as the assistant executive director for the Grapevine Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), the fourth largest budgeted bureau in the State of Texas with an annual operating budget of $24 million. He leads daily operations and oversees a team of more than 150 employees, providing direction, supervision and consultation for all CVB departments including comprehensive sales, marketing, sponsorships, public relations, advertising, festivals and events, convention center operations, and historic planning and preservation initiatives.
“We are very excited to have Michael join the MPI leadership team. He brings a unique blend of passion for MPI and our community, with broad experience across the hospitality and meeting and event industries, including hotels, F&B, publishing and DMOs,” said Van Deventer. “We believe Michael’s strategic planning experience with repositioning American Airlines’ publications and hands-on approach to promoting and differentiating the Grapevine CVB will be instrumental as we continue to grow our association.”
Over the course of his career, Woody has worked in sales, restaurant management, operations, marketing, communications and publishing. In addition to his role at the Grapevine CVB where he served from 1997-2005 and 2012-2015, he held senior leadership positions at American Airlines from 2005 to 2012 including director of art and editorial for the custom publishing and in-flight portfolios and ultimately as publisher of the in-flight portfolio of magazines which included American Way, Celebrated Living and American Airlines Nexos.
"It is indeed an honor to be joining Meeting Professionals International as the new COO. I have had the opportunity to gain tremendous insight over the recent months from many business unit leaders in the organization, the executive team and the board of directors as to where the opportunities are and how this position can help move the needle on so many fronts,” explains Woody. “My focus will be on the core strength of education and connecting planners and suppliers in unique and engaging ways that will increase membership, marketplace relevancy and the value proposition for all MPI members. The team is very passionate about their responsibilities, the organization and the future of MPI. This is an exciting opportunity and I am very anxious to get started!"
Woody is based in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and is an active alumnus of The University of North Texas (UNT). He has served as a member of the UNT College of Merchandising, Hospitality Management & Tourism Board of Governors since 2006 and is currently the board’s chairman. In addition, Woody has served as a guest lecturer for the university’s Hospitality Management & Tourism Department for the past 20 years. He also serves on the board of directors for both the Tarrant County Hotel Association and the Society of American Travel Writers, Central States Chapter.
Visit KC Welcomes New Manager
Visit KC, Kansas City’s tourism and hospitality organization, is pleased to announce the recent addition of Kaleena James as destination services manager. A Kansas City native, Kaleena brings more than 10 years of event management experience to Visit KC. Her first day was Feb. 9.
In her role as destination services manager, Kaleena will serve as a primary liaison between meeting planners, the City and members of its service industry. She’ll work closely with assigned convention groups to plan, host and promote their events in Kansas City.
Prior to joining Visit KC, Kaleena served as senior event manager for the Kansas City Convention Center where she partnered with Visit KC on several key convention accounts, such as the International House of Prayer, the American Academy of Family Physicians and Church of God in Christ. A graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Kaleena’s background also includes event management positions with the Priest Holmes Foundation and the KC Event Center. She also previously served as a senior media relations director for AM Marketing.
“Kaleena’s experience with the Convention Center, coupled with her positive energy, make her an excellent addition to our growing team at Visit KC,” said President & CEO Ronnie Burt. “Our destination services team goes above and beyond to help our partners succeed, and I expect Kaleena to play a big role in that.”
In addition to serving as a lifetime member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Kaleena is also active with local charitable organizations such as Face to Face and Sleepless in the City, an annual fundraiser for homeless youth.
Marcus® Hotels & Resorts Names Michael Swasey Area Vice President
Marcus® Hotels & Resorts, a division of The Marcus Corporation (NYSE: MCS), announced Michael Swasey has joined the company as area vice president.
Swasey joins Marcus Hotels & Resorts with 20 years of hospitality experience, having most recently served as vice president of hotel operations for Alena Hospitality, based in Orlando, Fla. His prior experience includes serving as vice president of asset management for Inland American Lodging Management, L.L.C. (now Xenia REIT) in Orlando, Fla., and serving in operations roles for B.F. Saul Company – Hospitality Group, Bethesda, Md.; Legacy Hospitality, Inc., Albuquerque, N.M.; InterContinental Hotel Group, Atlanta, Ga. and Sage Hospitality, Denver, Colo.
“Mike brings an extensive background of operations expertise to our portfolio and we are excited to welcome him to our executive team,” said Joseph Khairallah, chief operating officer of Marcus Hotels & Resorts.
Swasey graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah and holds a master’s degree from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. He serves on the American Hotel & Lodging Association Food & Beverage Committee and is a member of HAMA (Hospitality Asset Managers Association).