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Top 35 Travel Industry Leaders to Get Inspired by Mize

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20 min.

Although 2020 wasn’t favorable for the travel industry, the disruptions were only temporary, and things are slowly getting back on track. According to Statista, the Travel & Tourism market is projected to reach US$927,30bn in revenue in 2024.

While many factors have contributed to this quick return to normal, it wouldn’t have been possible without some of the most outstanding thought leaders who’ve been transforming the travel industry for the past several years.

Let’s see some of the most inspiring names in the travel industry and learn about their most remarkable contributions.

Alejandro Reynal | President & CEO at Apple Leisure Group | Executive Vice President of Hyatt Hotels Corporation

Alejandro Reynal is an experienced CEO. He led multimillion-dollar companies in the travel, hospitality, and business services industries to ensure success. With experience in markets worldwide, Alejandro is one of those few CEOs capable of managing transformative culture.

The Great Place to Work institute recognized his hard work, talent, and success. He was awarded as CEO of one of the “World’s 25 Best Multinational Workplaces.” 

Alessandra Alonso | Founder & CEO of Women in Travel CIC

It’s no secret that women are massively underrepresented in the travel industry. As a general rule of thumb, it’s much more difficult for women to find employment and training opportunities than for men.

In 2014, Alessandra Alonso decided to do everything in her power to change the narrative, so she founded Women in Travel.

Amit Madhan | President & Group Head – Information Technology & E-Business, for Thomas Cook (India) & SOTC.

Amit Madhan got his master’s degree in Management Studies at Sydenham, University of Mumbai, and an honors degree in Economics at the University of Delhi. He is an expert in Sales and Strategy, Commercial Planning, and Marketing Management. 

Amit Madhan made a name as a successful digital business entrepreneur. He has years-long experience building e-commerce platforms for tourism, travel, and insurance companies. 

Avi Meir | Co-founder & CEO at TravelPerk

If you need some inspiration, look no further than Avi Meir. A tech geek and travel enthusiast, he was the co-founder of the renowned TravelPerk – a travel management company catering specifically to businesses and business travelers.

Brian Chesky | Co-founder & CEO of Airbn

With over 150 million worldwide users, Airbnb is the largest online marketplace for lodging rentals, and Brian Chesky is its co-founder and current CEO. Few others in the industry are as renowned as Chesky.

Damian Scokin | CEO of Despegar.com

Damián Scokin, today a CEO of Despregar.com, has worked over a decade at McKinsey & Company, where he became a partner shortly after he joined the company in 1995. 

He was in charge of consulting and advising multinational companies. Damián Scokin is one of several experts who contributed and made the LATAM airline in Argentina possible.

David Galt | CEO at Webjet Company 

Webjet is recognized as one of Australia’s and New Zealand’s top travel agencies. It streamlines every aspect of traveling, whether booking tickets, scheduling flights, or finding the perfect accommodation. Its current CEO is none other than David Galt, an experienced digital marketer with a love for travel.

Flo Lugli | Founder and Principal of Navesink Advisory Group LLC, Mentor at NYU Tisch Center of Hospitality Innovation Hub Incubator Program

Flo Lugli is a senior executive with decades of experience. Thanks to unique skills ranging from management to leadership, Flo Lugli became one of the busiest independent travel and hospitality consultants. She even has experience with monitoring and restructurings driven by CFIUS compliance.

Travel Agent Magazine recognized Flo Lugli as one of the “Most Powerful Women in Travel” seven times. Lodging Magazine recognized her as one of the top 10 tech experts in the hospitality sector and one of the top 75 hotel executives. 

Gabriel Escarrer | Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO of de Meliá

Gabriel Escarrer has spent his whole life in the travel industry, being raised in a family of experienced hoteliers and becoming the executive vice-chairman/CEO of de Meliá – a renowned Spanish hotel chain established in 1956.

Gloria Guevara | President & CEO of WTTC

Gloria Guevara has over 25 years of experience working in both the private and public sectors of the travel industry. Between 2010 and 2012, she was the Secretary of Tourism in Mexico. Currently, she’s the CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Greg Webb | CEO of Travelport

Grebb Webb has decades of experience in the travel industry. As a member of the US Travel and Tourism Advisory Board and CEO of Travelport, he’s brought incredible changes to the industry.

J.D. O’Hara | CEO at Internova Travel Group

Internova Travel Group is one of the largest privately held travel service companies. It focuses on providing next-level experience in all travel niches. Thanks to his skills and expertise in financial modeling, business development, and corporate finance, J.D. O’Hara managed to become its CEO.

As CEO at Internova Travel Group, Mr. O’Hara focuses on increasing value for the company’s supplier partners, improving services for travelers, and enhancing tools and support for Internova Travel Group travel advisors.

Jim Tedesco | Vice President of Sales at Apple Leisure Group Vacations

Jim Tedesco has left his mark on the tourism industry as the vice president of sales at Apple Leisure Group Vacations. The company is a leisure travel and resort brand management group that brings value to resort owners, partners, and travelers.

Joao Ricardo Mendes | CEO of HURB

Joao Ricardo Mendes is the genius behind HURB – Brazil’s largest online travel agency. Intending to “make travel easier,” HURB focuses on helping travelers enjoy the best experiences at some of the most affordable prices.

Kelley Louise | Founder & Executive Director of Impact Travel Alliance

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent global lockdowns have made it crystal clear how much human activity such as traveling impacts our surroundings. That’s what Kelley Louise has been trying to tell us all along.

She founded Impact Travel Alliance in 2015 to educate global travelers and help them positively impact local communities and our surroundings wherever they go.

Kurt Ekert | Chairman of the US Travel and Tourism Advisory Board 

Kurt Ekert has quite a resume in the travel industry. He’s spent the last few decades in the travel industry, holding leadership positions in Continental Airlines, Orbitz Worldwide, eNett, Cendant, and even Travelport. Currently, he’s a senior advisor at CWT and a chairman of the US Travel and Tourism Advisory Board.

Leonel Andrade | CEO of CVC Corp

Leonel Andrade has been in the travel industry for over 24 years, the past 15 of which he’s spent in leadership positions, and he recently became the CEO of CVC Corp.

Liz Jaquez | VP of Revenue Generation at Janko Hospitality

After graduating from the University of Michigan, Liz Jaquez started as an operations manager at Hyatt Regency McCormick Place. Today, Liz Jaques is a VP of Revenue Generation and Corporate Director of Marketing and Digital Strategy at Janko Hospitality. 

The promotion came in 2021 following the impact of COVID-19 as Liz Jaquez proved as a valuable asset to help the company cushion the blow of the pandemic. Liz Jaquez is a recognized expert in the industry. HSMI Adrian recognized her revenue management executive and digital marketer skills.

Lori Kiel | CCO at Kessler Collection

Lori Kiel is one of few successful women in the hospitality industry with more than 30 years of experience. She became an expert on brand and market valuation throughout her long career and used this analysis to create custom-tailored ADR strategies.

Lori Kiel has a keen eye for the economic trends of the key markets. She has unparalleled leadership skills and has led many teams of Sales and Revenue professionals to success. 

Mercedes Blanco | VP Strategic Partnerships of The Hotels Network

Mercedes Blanco is a bilingual (Spanish and English) IE business school alumni. She is also a Harvard-certified digital marketer. However, her successes outshine her formal education. Mercedes Blanco even managed to get nominated as one of the #Top25Minds in hospitality sales, marketing, and revenue by HSMAI. 

Today, she is VP Strategic Partnerships of The Hotels Network. We are talking about a company working with over 12,000 hotels worldwide focused on promoting the adoption of innovative technologies. 

Nicolas Huss | CEO at Hotelbeds

Nicolas Huss is CEO at Hotelbeds, the world’s leading bedbank. He has extensive experience in the travel, financial services, and payments sectors. More importantly, he is comfortable around cutting-edge technologies. It makes him a perfect CEO at a company focused on improving RevPAR and occupancy rates for its patterns through optimized distribution channels.

Nina Garrison | Senior Brand Manager, Global Independent Hotel Brands at Hyatt Hotels Corporation

HSMAI recognized Nina Garrison for playing a vital role in building a marketing plan that generated over four billion impressions and over $6.25 million in hotel revenue across three Hyatt brands. She was named one of the Top 25 Extraordinary Minds in Marketing in 2022. 

After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, she immediately started working in marketing at Park Hyatt Chicago. Today, she is a leading marketing expert. She is led by her passion for building solid brands focused on establishing personal connections with consumers.

Pete Comeau | Managing Director of Phocuswright

Pete Comeau is a recognized name in the travel industry due to his decades of experience. As a managing director of Phocuswright, the leading authority in travel, tourism, and market research, he oversees critical processes assisting in product and strategy development.

Rafael Durand | COO at PriceTravel Holding | Founder of Indestination.store | Founder of WePartner

With over 25 years of experience in the hospitality sector, Rafael Durand is another perfect industry leader who inspires avid travel and tourism professionals. He is still passionate about the industry and engaged in multiple projects. He is the founder of Indestination.store, a multichannel distribution engine, and the founder of WePartner, a customer engagement company.

Rafael Durand is also the COO of PriceTravel Holding, one of the largest distribution companies and wholesalers in Latin America and Mexico. It has one of the most comprehensive B2B travel programs in the region, housing more than 2,000 travel agencies. 

Rafat Ali | Founder & CEO of Skift

Rafat Ali is all about the accessibility of information and education. In 2012, he started Skift, a travel intelligence platform that shares the latest news and data relevant to anyone in the travel industry – whether they are business owners or travel enthusiasts.

Richard Branson | Founder of Virgin Group

Richard Branson is known for his innovative and, at times, even playful approach to business and travel. He has an adventurous spirit, so his frequent stunts like hot-air ballooning and powerboat racing are no longer surprising.

Richard is recognized as an ingenious entrepreneur and the multinational company Virgin Group founder.

Rita Visser | Director of Global Travel Sourcing/GPO at Oracle

Rita Visser has long been considered a thought leader in the travel industry. As a GPO at Oracle, she strives to transform this industry, drive efficiency, and improve performance using data-driven decision-making.

Timothy Hughes | Vice President of Corporate Development at Agoda

Timothy Hughes started as an online travel industry expert, running a comprehensive blog page, the Business of Online Travel (BOOT). He’s now the vice president of corporate development at Agoda, an online travel agency and search engine for flights, hotels, vacation rentals, and airport transfers.

Tony Fernandes | CEO of AirAsia Group

Tony Fernandes is the current CEO of AirAsia Group, a low-cost airline located near Kuala Lumpur. He successfully turned a failing commercial airline into a multi-million airline that accommodates any traveler’s needs, regardless of the number of zeros in their bank accounts.

Zane Kerby | President & CEO of American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA)

ASTA is the largest association of travel professionals in the world. Currently led by none other than Zane Kerby, it represents the business and public interests of independent travel intermediaries, hotels, airlines, rental car companies, and more.

Phillip Jones | Chief Tourism Officer at The Royal Commission for AlUla

Phillip Jones, as Chief Tourism Officer at The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) since May 2019, has been instrumental in transforming the historic city of AlUla into a key tourism destination. His work emphasizes archaeology, heritage conservation, and master planning, building on his rich background as president and CEO of Visit Dallas and the Department Secretary of Tourism for the State of Louisiana.

Jones’ extensive experience in the travel industry, including leadership roles in key national travel and tourism associations, showcases his dedication to promoting tourism as a means of economic development and cultural preservation. His efforts in AlUla are a testament to his visionary approach, blending cultural heritage with modern tourism needs.

Phillip Jones | Chief Tourism Officer at The Royal Commission for AlUla

John Pagano | Group CEO at Red Sea Global (RSG)

John Pagano, Group CEO at Red Sea Global (RSG) since 2018, is a visionary in sustainable tourism with 40 years of industry experience. Under his direction, RSG achieved a landmark $3.76 billion in green financing in 2021 and initiated the development of the Jumeirah The Red Sea hotel, showcasing his commitment to regenerative tourism practices. 

Beyond leading RSG, Pagano, a licensed pilot and advocate for sustainability, exemplifies his dedication to innovative and environmentally friendly tourism solutions.

John Pagano | Group CEO at Red Sea Global (RSG)

Katerina Giannouka | CEO at Jumeirah Group

Since December 2022, Katerina Giannouka has led the Jumeirah Group, a global luxury hotel chain under Dubai Holding, overseeing its expansive portfolio of 26 properties and 6,500 keys across the Middle East, Europe, and Asia. 

Bringing over two decades of experience in the hospitality industry, including significant roles at Rosewood Hotels & Resorts and Radisson Hotel Group, Giannouka’s expertise spans business leadership, hotel development, and strategic advisory, guiding Jumeirah’s continued growth and success.

Katerina Giannouka | CEO at Jumeirah Group

Sandeep Walia | COO for the Middle East, Egypt & Türkiye at Marriott International

Sandeep Walia stepped into his role as COO for the Middle East, Egypt, and Türkiye at Marriott International in 2021, overseeing an impressive portfolio of 230 properties and spearheading over 100 projects in the region. 

Under his leadership in 2022, Marriott launched 24 properties, including the prestigious Ritz-Carlton in Jordan, and signed significant deals with NEOM in March 2023 for luxury developments in Sindalah. With a career that began as a butler at Oberoi Hotels, Walia brings 26 years of hospitality experience to Marriott, driving expansion and elevating guest experiences across the Middle East.

Sandeep Walia | COO for the Middle East, Egypt & Türkiye at Marriott International

Duncan O’Rourke | CEO for the Middle East, Africa, Türkiye & Asia Pacific / Premium, Midscale & Economy brands at Accor Group

Duncan O’Rourke took the helm as CEO for the Middle East, Africa, Türkiye, and Asia Pacific for Accor Group’s Premium, Midscale, and Economy brands in January 2023. In his expansive role, O’Rourke directs operations of 1,000 hotels and resorts, with an additional 200 properties under development, spanning renowned brands like Swissotel, Movenpick, and Novotel. Accor’s workforce under his jurisdiction numbers 100,000 across these regions. 

Bringing 35 years of hospitality experience to his current position, O’Rourke has been a part of Accor since 2016, previously serving as COO for Europe’s luxury segment and Central Europe. His leadership extends to being a key member of Accor’s executive committee, where he oversees business operations across 44 countries.

Duncan O’Rourke | CEO for the Middle East, Africa, Türkiye & Asia Pacific / Premium, Midscale & Economy brands at Accor Group

Final Thoughts

Looking at some of the biggest names in the travel industry opens up a whole new world of possibilities. All their accomplishments can serve as incredible inspiration for many who are thinking of starting their own business. Use the stories of these travel industry thought leaders to fuel your next adventure and set yourself on a path to success. 

Although 2020 wasn’t particularly great for the travel industry, the disruptions were only temporary, and things are slowly getting back on track. According to Statista, Revenue in the Travel & Tourism market is projected to reach US$927,30bn in 2024.

While many factors have contributed to this quick return to normal, it wouldn’t have been possible without some of the most outstanding thought leaders who’ve been transforming the travel industry for the past several years.

Let’s see some of the most inspiring names in the travel industry and learn about their most remarkable contributions.

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Mize is the leading hotel booking optimization solution in the world. With over 170 partners using our fintech products, Mize creates new extra profit for the hotel booking industry using its fully automated proprietary technology and has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue across its suite of products for its partners. Mize was founded in 2016 with its headquarters in Tel Aviv and offices worldwide.

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