Latest Staff Appointments News & Views...
Amway Hotel Corporation Appoints Leslee L. Fritz, CTA as Business Travel Sales Manager
Leslee Fritz returns to Grand Rapids as Business Travel Sales Manager for the Amway Hotel Corporation. The hotel collection, a combination of the historic Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, The JW Marriott Grand Rapids and the Downtown Courtyard are a vital part of the meetings and travel industry in Grand Rapids. The recent addition of Fritz to the sales team will create even more opportunities for corporate business travelers in Grand Rapids.
“Fritz is the perfect addition to the travel sales team here at the Amway Hotel Corporation,” says Nick Griffioen, director of revenue management for the hotel group. “Her history with Grand Rapids and her education in creating quality experiences for travelers within the city make her more than qualified to successfully manage sales for business and leisure travel.”
Fritz previously served as the corporate sales executive for Traverse City Tourism, the destination marketing organization that was awarded Best Convention and Visitors Bureau by Michigan Meeting + Events “Best Of Awards” in 2013. She also served as a marketing account manager for the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and National Account Director for the Grand Rapids Convention and Visitors Bureau. Her 20-year career includes successfully building sponsorships and advertising revenue, ensuring customer satisfaction and earning customer loyalty. She is known for thriving in a dynamic environment and will be an asset to the team within the Amway Hotel Corporation.
“I am a dedicated relationship building sales professional,” says Fritz. “I believe in cultivating friendships and personal connections with prospects and future customers by listening to their needs.”
Fritz’s work with the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce helped the team win the Michigan Chamber of Commerce of the Year Award in 2007 and 2009. She has served as a member of the American Business Women’s Association, Destination Marketing Association International, the Society of Government Meeting Professionals, and the Michigan Business Travel Association, on the selection committee for ATHENA Grand Traverse, Membership and Ambassador Committees for Meeting Planners International Michigan Chapter (MMPI). Fritz was nominated for the MMPI Finest Sales Professional Award and was awarded the Certified Tourism Ambassador™(CTA) designation in 2014.
Leslee Fritz graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Management from Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Before living in Grand Rapids, she was raised in the Detroit area.
About Amway Hotel Corp.
Amway Hotel Corporation owns and operates three hotel properties: the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, JW Marriott Grand Rapids and the Downtown Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Grand Rapids, MI. Amway Hotel Corporation is a division of Amway Corporation.
AH&LA Taps Senior Congressional Communications Director to Lead Advocacy Media Efforts
The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) today announced the appointment of Chandler Smith as vice president of communications specializing in government affairs. Smith, former Communications Director for Senator Dean Heller (R-NV), will work closely with the government affairs team to promote the association’s advocacy efforts with national, regional and Hill press. She will also be responsible for developing media strategies to gain more attention for the lodging industry’s significant contributions to job growth and the billions of dollars it adds to the nation’s economy every year.
“Chandler is an excellent addition to our communications team with a solid background in policy and media relations,” said Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of AH&LA. “As Congress comes back to work and with elections on the horizon, this is a vital time for our industry to be front and center on debates that directly affect our employees and small business hotel owners alike. With Chandler’s extensive Hill experience, we are better equipped to inform those debates.”
Smith, who will join AH&LA on September 8, served as Senator Heller’s director of communications for the past two years, providing strategic and media support and serving as a spokesperson for national, regional and Hill outlets. Prior to that, she worked as Communications Director for his 2012 Senate campaign after having served as press secretary. Previously, she worked as press secretary for the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and as deputy press secretary for Senator Richard Burr. Smith also spent three years working for the global non-profit One Campaign as a media coordinator.
Serving the hospitality industry for more than a century, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) is the sole national association representing all segments of the 1.8 million-employee U.S. lodging industry, including hotel owners, REITs, chains, franchisees, management companies, independent properties, state hotel associations, and industry suppliers. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., AH&LA provides focused advocacy, communications support, and educational resources for an industry generating $155.5 billion in annual sales from 4.9 million guestrooms.
Meet Chicago Northwest Announces Staff Appointment
Meet Chicago Northwest, the official destination marketing organization for Chicago’s northwest suburbs, has selected Heather Larson, CMP to spearhead the organization’s sales efforts as the newly-appointed Director of Destination Sales.
Larson joined the Meet Chicago Northwest sales team in 2010. She has worked as a Senior Account Executive specializing in corporate meeting and convention sales. Larson has been able to market the northwest suburbs to meeting and convention planners across the country through trade show marketing and relationship building. She was able to procure many large and small corporate meetings and conventions into the Bureau’s northwest suburban partner hotels.
Larson also sits on the Board of Directors for Meeting Professionals International’s Chicago Area Chapter. Meeting Professionals International is the largest association in the meetings and conventions industry and Chicago is the largest chapter. Larson volunteers her leadership skills as their Director of Membership.
"We are very excited to have Heather moving into a leadership role with our bureau, she is a dynamic sales professional that we are confident will lead our team to very positive gains." said Dave Parulo, President of Meet Chicago Northwest
About Meet Chicago Northwest
Meet Chicago Northwest represents eight communities in Chicago’s northwest region as the official destination marketing organization for this area. Meet Chicago Northwest is the first convention bureau in Illinois to earn the prestigious Destination Marketing Accreditation Program (DMAP) accreditation developed by Destination Marketing Association International. More information about the Meet Chicago Northwest is available at www.ChicagoNorthwest.com or by calling (800) 847-4849.
VISIT Milwaukee Names New Senior VP Sales
Marco Bloemendaal will join the staff of VISIT Milwaukee as senior vice president of sales effective Sept. 8.
“Marco Bloemendaal’s extensive sales leadership experience in hotels, major meetings and leisure destinations and secondary markets will be very helpful to our efforts to sell Milwaukee in today’s competitive market,” said Paul Upchurch, President & CEO of VISIT Milwaukee. “We are excited to welcome Marco to Milwaukee.”
Bloemendaal is currently senior vice president of convention sales and services for VISIT Seattle. He also spent five years as director of convention sales at Experience Columbus and four years as senior national sales executive at the Orlando/Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
A native of the Netherlands, Marco spent eight years in both hotel operations and sales in Amsterdam, including two years as director of international sales, North America for more than 60 hotel properties in Europe, where his major accounts were located in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Atlanta.
About VISIT Milwaukee
VISIT Milwaukee markets Greater Milwaukee to tourists, and convention and meeting planners, both nationally and internationally. VISIT Milwaukee has approximately 600 members, including hotels/motels, restaurants, attractions, services and area businesses. Total business sales related to tourism amounted to $4.62 billion in Greater Milwaukee in 2013 and supported more than 48,500 local jobs. The City of Wauwatosa, Potawatomi Bingo Casino and the Wisconsin Center District are strategic partners with VISIT Milwaukee, providing funding support for conventions and tourism programs. For more information call 1-800-554-1448 or visit www.visitmilwaukee.org.
Marcus® Hotels & Resorts Names Bob Megazzini General Manager of The Cornhusker, A Marriott Hotel, in Lincoln, NE
Marcus® Hotels & Resorts, a division of The Marcus Corporation (NYSE: MCS), announced longtime hospitality veteran Bob Megazzini has been appointed general manager of The Cornhusker, A Marriott Hotel in Lincoln, Neb. In his new role, Megazzini will oversee all operations of the newly revitalized 300-room property and further strengthen its reputation as the premier downtown hotel in Nebraska’s capital city.
“Bob is a highly regarded executive in the hotel industry and will bring exceptional leadership and expertise to The Cornhusker. We are excited to have someone of Bob’s caliber oversee the final stages of our property renovations and promote the significant changes and improvements we have made to one of Nebraska’s most prominent hotels. I have no doubt he will be a great asset to our hotel management team as he continues to position The Cornhusker as a leader in its market,” said Thomas F. Kissinger, interim president, Marcus Hotels & Resorts and senior executive vice president, The Marcus Corporation.
“I am excited to start my new chapter at The Cornhusker,” said Megazzini. “The Cornhusker Hotel has been a part of the Lincoln community for many years, and I look forward to continuing to provide the high-quality hospitality our Marriott guests and other travelers visiting Lincoln have come to expect.”
About The Cornhusker, A Marriott Hotel
Located in the heart of downtown Lincoln just minutes from the historic Haymarket District, The Cornhusker, A Marriott Hotel, has proudly served Nebraska’s capitol city for almost 90 years. With 290 guest rooms and 10 luxurious suites within easy walking distance of the University of Nebraska campus, Memorial Stadium, the State Capitol, the Pershing Center and the new Pinnacle Bank Arena, The Cornhusker is the premier downtown destination for business and leisure travelers. Take advantage of the hotel’s newly renovated amenities including 46,000 square feet of flexible meeting space and complimentary Wi-Fi in all spaces– or grab a perfectly paired bite and brew at The Miller Time Pub & Grill, take a dip in the heated indoor pool, hit the gym and more. To keep up with the latest Cornhusker happenings, find the hotel on Facebook or follow it on Twitter (@thecornhuskerh).
Read the full release from Marcus Hotels & Resorts.
Innsbrook Announces Chris Moore as New Chief Financial Officer
Innsbrook announces Chris Moore as the corporation’s new Chief Financial Officer. As a member of the Executive Management Team, Chris will be an active participant in the business with his involvement in accounting, strategic planning and growth.
“In joining Innsbrook I am looking forward to joining a successful and stable management team,” said Moore. “I look forward to getting acquainted with the staff, property owners and customers over the coming months and continuing to build upon the strong foundation that has been laid by Innsbrook’s leadership team.”
Moore has been involved with the construction and real estate industry since his high school years, working as a laborer and painting contractor. After his collegiate experience at the University of St. Mary (Leavenworth, Kan.) and then the University of Kansas, where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting and Information Systems, Chris began his experience in the financial side of real estate. Prior to joining Innsbrook on August 1, Chris gained corporate and real estate finance experience with RealFoundations, HSBC, Bear Stearns and PNC Real Estate.
“Innsbrook has been a financially sound organization with an excellent reputation since 1971,” said Innsbrook Corporation President Charlie Boyce. “We’re excited to welcome Chris to our team. He brings with him an excellent skill set that will uniquely serve us as we continue to develop Innsbrook for another generation.”
Chris and his wife Christy have a three-year-old daughter and two-year old son. When not spending time with his family, Moore enjoys golfing, soccer, waterskiing and light remodeling around the house. The family recently relocated from Chicago to Dardenne Prairie, Mo. to be closer to their family in St. Louis.
Chris is replacing Innsbrook’s longtime Chief Financial Officer Connie Buechele who joined Innsbrook in 1977.
Innsbrook’s scenic 7,500 acres are located just 45 minutes west of St. Louis and include recreational and residential properties, a conference center, restaurant, 18-hole public golf course, and more than 100 lakes. Families, couples, and individuals come to Innsbrook for homes, corporate meetings, weddings, family activities, and vacations from all over the country.
Rapid City Chamber of Commerce Names New CVB Head
The Rapid City Chamber of Commerce has announced Julie Schmitz Jensen as the new Executive Director of the Rapid City Convention and Visitors Bureau. Jensen replaces Michelle Lintz, who has retired after 28 years with the Bureau.
According to Linda Rabe, President of the Rapid City Area Chamber of Commerce, “After conducting a nationwide search, I am thrilled to say that Julie Jensen was hired back to head up our Convention & Visitors Bureau. She has the leadership qualities and experience, as well as a deep commitment to our community and region that gave her the edge over the other candidates from across the country.”
Jensen takes the helm of the Bureau after an interesting turn of events. Jensen is returning to the bureau after an 18 year hiatus. She previously held the position of Executive Director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau from 1983-1996. Jensen left the Bureau at that time to raise her three children. Jensen was excited for the opportunity to return to the Bureau and had this to say about her new position. “I couldn’t be more thrilled and honored to be returning to the Rapid City CVB. Michelle Lintz has left such an amazing organization and staff, which is making this transition seamless. I look forward to carrying on and growing our visitor industry. We are going to be doing BIG THINGS!”
Jensen has extensive experience within the tourism marketing industry. In addition to her previous role with the Rapid City Convention and Visitors Bureau, Jensen worked at the Sioux Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau and served as the Tourism Department Liaison for the South Dakota Governor’s Office.
The Rapid City Convention and Visitors Bureau is a division of the Rapid City Area Chamber of Commerce. The CVB’s mission is to market the Rapid City area as a convention and leisure destination and to promote economic growth that will enhance the area for visitors and residents.