Latest Staff Appointments News...
Gina Gemberling Named Director of the Springfield, Illinois Convention & Visitors Bureau
June 23, 2015
The Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau is pleased to announce that Gina Gemberling has been named as its new executive director after serving in an acting role for the past 16 months. Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder announced her appointment during a press conference in May.
In addition to acting director, Gemberling has served as a sales manager, a services manager and the director of sales and marketing for the bureau. She earned her Certified Destination Management Executive certification from the Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI) in 2009. Gemberling has been with the SCVB since 1993.
Gemberling plans to capitalize on the city’s strong tourism product with an integrated sales, marketing and services approach to all bureau programs. “Springfield is the second-largest tourism destination in the state of Illinois and the industry makes a $407 million impact on our county’s economy. I think there is opportunity for growth and we are working proactively to implement programs that drive group and leisure tourism sales to our destination. Our city is a national treasure, and I couldn’t be more excited to be leading the bureau at this time.”
International Hospitality Executive to Grow Convention Business for One of the Largest Meeting Spaces in the Midwest
June 22, 2015
The Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center and The Westin Kansas City at Crown Center has appointed Jim Krause the new Complex Director of Catering & Event Management. In his new role, Krause will oversee day-to-day operations for meetings and events guests, as well as the development of new catering business for the complex.
With more than 20 years of management and administration experience in the hospitality industry, Krause joins the Crown Center team after three years as an executive director of conventions and banquets at 4,000-room Sheraton Macao, the largest Sheraton property in the world. There, Krause had direct oversight of the Catering & Event s team as well as banquet operations, a total of 145 associates with annual sales of $20.5 million in 2014. Prior to joining Starwood in 2012, Krause held several catering and convention management roles at Vdara Hotel & Spa, Green Valley Ranch Resort, Venetian Hotel & Casino, Tropicana Hotel & Spa and Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“Having developed fruitful convention processes in the Las Vegas strip for two decades, Krause is eager to bring his years of knowledge and international exposure to Kansas City.” said Steve Shalit, general manger, Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center and The Westin Kansas City at Crown Center. “Under his leadership, our team will continue to be on the forefront of the meetings and conventions industry.”
Krause has proven his successes in working with cross-functional teams and managing large-scale projects with tools such as Delphi and Meeting Matrix. He studied at the University of Minnesota, School of Business Management, with an emphasis in accounting. He is also qualified as a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP).
Krause began his new position June 8th. For more information about the complex’s meetings and events offerings, visit www.crowncentermeetings.com.
Mayor Jean Stothert has named a new Director of the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau (OCVB)
June 19, 2015
Keith Backsen will begin work next month. He is currently the Vice-President of Sales & Services for Visit Spokane in Spokane, Washington. He has nearly 30 years of experience in the hospitality and convention industry.
“Keith brings enthusiasm and experience that will help Omaha grow as a tourism destination and convention city,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “He is well-known in the industry and will be a strong leader, innovator and mentor to our Convention and Visitors Bureau staff.”
In Spokane, Backsen opened sales offices in Washington D.C. and Chicago resulting in increased convention bookings. He also worked on the public campaign to expand the Spokane Convention Center with a $65 million bond issue. The expansion of the convention center and increased hotel inventory has allowed Spokane to pursue large conventions and grew convention bookings by 129% in the last two years.
“It is a privilege to have been selected to join such a great organization in a truly wonderful destination. My wife and I couldn’t be more pleased or excited to become part of the community. I feel especially lucky to join the team at Visit Omaha and continue the work of bringing visitors to the City,” said Backsen.
Backsen is a member of the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and past President of PCMA’s Pacific Northwest Chapter. He is also a member of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI).
Mayor Stothert hired Backsen after a national search, conducted by SearchWide. The $40,000 search fee was paid from the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau budget. Backsen will begin work next month. His annual salary is $150,000.
Backsen replaces Dana Markel who resigned in March to accept a position in Overland Park, Kansas.
Carrie Stremsterfer Joins Hyatt Regency St. Louis at The Arch as Associate Director of Sales
June 16, 2015 | Courtesy HotelOnline.com
Hyatt Regency St. Louis at The Arch is pleased to announce the appointment of its new Associate Director of Sales, Carrie Stremsterfer, who will be responsible for large convention business coming to St. Louis. Prior to joining the property, Stremsterfer was a member of the Hilton family for over 10 years, where she most recently opened the brand new Hilton Garden Inn Washington DC/Georgetown Area and exceeded revenue at the property by 113%.
"Carrie's swift ascendency in her previous tenure are markers of a strong leader and her engaging demeanor will be an asset to Hyatt Regency St. Louis at The Arch," said General Manager Joseph Hindsley. "Her diligence and determination towards customer service has allowed her to excel in leadership positions. We are excited to have Carrie on the team."
Stremsterfer started her career in the hospitality business in 2005 as a Sales Manager Leader in Training at the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner in Virginia, and within eight months was promoted to Business Travel Sales Manager where she surpassed 2007 sales goals by 128%. Her passion, resolve and commitment to customer-focused solutions led to various successful ventures within Hilton including Outside Sales Manager, Group Sales Manager, Senior Sales Manager and most recently, the Director of Sales & Marketing at the Hilton Garden Inn Washington DC/Georgetown Area. Originally from Southern Illinois, Stremsterfer earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in 2005 in Hospitality Business from Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. She was also an active member of the Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity.
"I look forward to working alongside with some of the brightest minds in hospitality at Hyatt Regency St. Louis at The Arch," says Stremsterfer. "My decade long career working at an array of properties has prepared me for the next chapter in St. Louis."
Naperville CVB Announces New Chairman
June 15, 2015 | Courtesy PositivelyNaperville.com
At the Naperville Convention & Visitors Bureau (NCVB) meeting held on April 6, 2015, Sandra Wolf was named the new Chairman of the Naperville Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The NCVB is a division of the Naperville Development Partnership. It represents the city’s eighteen hotels with more than 2,300 rooms, working to attract visitors to stay, play, shop and dine in Naperville. The Visitors Bureau is the city’s concierge; providing information on all of the attractions, restaurants, shops and activities it Naperville has to offer.
“The tourism attraction program through the Naperville Convention & Visitors Bureau is a significant piece of Naperville’s economic vibrancy. Sandra Wolf brings many years of experience in the hospitality industry and has been an integral advisor to our Naperville CVB for almost a decade,” said Christine Jeffries, President of the Naperville Development Partnership & Convention & Visitors Bureau.
About Sandra Wolf
Sandra Wolf is the General Manager at Country Inn & Suites in Naperville and has been working in the hospitality industry for almost two decades. She graduated from Eastern Illinois University with a Bachelor’s in Hospitality. She then had an internship with Lodge of Four Seasons at the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. In her current role as General Manager at Country Inn & Suites by Carlson, she is responsible for all aspects of a full-service hotel experience.
Her work in hospitality expands to Director of Operations, as well as Director of Food & Beverage in both the downtown Chicago and O’Hare Market, with hotels expanding from 500-1,200 rooms. In addition to this, she has been active in the Chamber of Commerce for several towns and cities in the Chicagoland area. Because of her expertise in the hospitality industry and visitor attraction, coupled with her familiarity with the community, she is able to bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to her position as chairman for the Naperville Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Crystal Mountain names Arah Johnson Vice President of Sales
June 11, 2015
Crystal Mountain is pleased to announce the promotion of Arah Johnson to Vice President of Sales.
In this new capacity, Johnson will not only lead Crystal Mountain’s group sales and conference services departments but additionally, the reservations department with a focus on revenue management. Arah’s 19 years of sales insight and leadership at Crystal Mountain provides the resort an opportunity to align resources for seamless coordination and communication with contracted meeting, conference, wedding and social groups, leisure travel and strategic promotions and sales campaigns.
“It is with tremendous confidence and pride that that Jim and I place these responsibilities in Arah’s very capable hands,” says Chris MacInnes, chief operating officer at Crystal Mountain. “We are committed to developing Crystal’s next generation of leadership and she will play an integral role in the continued growth of our mountain community.”
A graduate of Central Michigan University, Arah joined the resort in 1996 as a group sales manager, responsible for golf and social markets. Later, as senior sales manager her markets included associations and key accounts. In 2009, she was promoted to director of sales, and in 2014 she also took on leadership of the conference services department.
Arah is highly respected as a sales professional in the resort industry and dedicated community leader. In addition to her role at Crystal Mountain, she is as a member of the Frankfort-Elberta School Board and devoted to her family, raising three very active children - Christian, Gabe and Seth with her husband Andrew.
Lauri A. Christiansen Joins SmartSource Computer & Audio Visual Rentals, Inc. as Marketing Director
June 10, 2015
SmartSource Computer & Audio Visual Rentals, (SmartSource Rentals), one of the nation’s leading providers of computer, audio visual (AV) and trade show technology rentals and services, announced the appointment of Lauri A. Christiansen, MBA, PMP as Director of Marketing. Christiansen brings 15+ years of B2B marketing and sales experience, both for major corporations and as an entrepreneur.
For the past four years, Christiansen has been the Owner and Principal of B2B Marketing Strategies, LLC, a consulting firm that specialized in serving clients in the distribution, technology, and industrial markets. In this capacity, she assisted nearly a dozen companies by developing and executing marketing and sales strategies, managing large strategic projects, and producing branded marketing content that resonates with customers.
Prior to forming B2B Marketing Strategies, she was a Director of Marketing and Business Development for Interline Brands, where she acted as Brand Leader for the security hardware and access control business. During her tenure, she was responsible for the strategic development and execution of all marketing, sales, and product development activities, resulting in double-digit sales growth, far exceeding the industry average. She has also been a Senior Manager of Product Information Services in Brand Marketing for ADI (Honeywell International), marketing electronic security products to systems integrators in the U.S. and identifying new avenues for growth. As a Program Manager with MSC Industrial, she developed and marketed electronic value-added programs and services to increase customer retention.
“We are very pleased to have Lauri join our team at SmartSource Rentals,” said Vice President of Sales Jeffrey Byrne. “Her broad B2B strategic marketing, sales, and project management expertise will be vital to our organization’s continued growth and ongoing responsiveness to our customers in a variety of markets.”
Read the full release here.
Lake of the Ozarks CVB Hires New Director of Member Service
June 5, 2015
The Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitor Bureau is looking to the future with a new Director of Member Services. Lance Utley has accepted the position bringing more than two decades of hospitality and tourism experience to the job.
“We are very excited to have Lance join our team and bring his years of sales and management experience along with his passion for the Lake Area to the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau,” CVB Executive Director Tim Jacobsen said. “Lance is ready to continue his endeavor to grow business at the Lake and bring new visitors to the area.”
Utley began his career in hospitality and tourism in 1993 as a bellman for Henry VIII Hotel in St. Louis Mo. He moved to the Lake of the Ozarks in 1997 and began a career in hotel and hospitality sales at several Lake Area properties including Marina Bay, Holiday Inn Sunspree and Directed Sales at Inn at Grand Glaize and Country Club Hotel, as well as helping open The Resort and Yacht Club, now Camden on the Lake.
Utley has represented the Lake area in many different trade organizations that includes Meeting Professionals International, Society of Government Meeting Professionals and Missouri Society of Association Executives.
In the last six years he has served as both Miller and Camden County Medium Representative to the board of The Tri County Lodging Association and been appointed to the board of Directors of The Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau for which he has served as President for the past two years.
metroConnections Promotes New Director of Sales
June 4, 2015
metroConnections, Inc. – an award-winning conference, event, stage production and transportation services firm – has announced Jason Rudoy as their director of sales.
Rudoy joined the metroConnections team in 2005, working as a sales account manager. In that role, he surpassed quota and assisted with public relations and marketing activities for the sales and operational teams. Rudoy has over 15 years of experience in the industry, holding previous positions in event and meeting management with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Target Corp.
In his new role, Rudoy will be responsible for sales reporting, teaming with marketing to assist in lead generation for all four service centers, implementing client strategy and overseeing ongoing day-to-day sales training and support. He will also work closely with each service director to maintain consistent, streamlined sales across all teams.
“Jason has been managing some of our largest accounts, he’s exceeded sales goals, and has made customer satisfaction his foremost priority,” said Tom McCulloch, metroConnections vice president. “In his new position, he’ll work to develop and support our sales team across events, conferences, production and transportation services, and I’m positive he’ll be very successful. This is a great step for Jason and metroConnections.”