Plenary Speakers

Plenary Speakers

The Tourism Naturally team is thrilled to announce the following speakers for Tourism Naturally 2022. Stay tuned for more speakers to be announced soon!

David Buggs


Mr. Buggs is the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), an agency of the state of Texas.  His role is developing and managing the execution of TPWD’s Diversity and Inclusion strategy.  David is also the former Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for FedEx Office Inc. He is an accomplished cultural compliance and management professional with years of experience in the area of relationship building, leadership development, mentoring, training and executive coaching.  David also provides insight on behavior management, cultural understanding, multigenerational management, and ethical and government compliance.

Mr. Buggs has shown commitment to the following boards and professional memberships:

  • Texas Audubon Society (Current Board Member)
  • Minorities In Natural Resource Conservation (Chair)
  • Conservation Diversity and Inclusion Joint Venture, DJV (Current Management Board Vice Chair)
  • National Conservation Leadership Institute 2012 Fellow
  • Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (Current Diversity and Inclusion Committee Co-chair)
  • Minorities in Natural Resources Committee (Current Chair)
  • National Black MBA Association (Life Member)
  • Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)
  • Women’s Business Council Southwest (Former Advisory Board Member)
  • Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (Former Board Member)
  • Arlington Convention and Visitors Bureau (Former Board Member)
  • Greater Dallas Asian American Chamber of Commerce (Former Advisory Board Member)

Mr. Buggs received a B.S. in Marketing at Southern University. He continued his education with an MBA in Marketing at Baylor University. Then, he completed the Executive Development Program at University of Texas at Austin.


Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Steve Hood headshot


Steve Hood is senior vice president of research for STR. He has been with STR for over 17 years and was involved in the original development of the STAR program. Steve played a major role in the historical launch of programs that incorporated daily, group and transient, and international data. He is currently responsible for research-related activities at STR, while helping to manage STR’s relationships with several major organizations. Steve also serves as the founding director of the SHARE Center, STR’s outreach to universities around the world. He represents STR at national and international lodging and tourism conferences and you can see his articles in publications such as Hotel News Now ( Steve serves on several advisory boards for industry and academia. In 2012, Steve was recognized by ICHRIE with the Industry Recognition Award for demonstrated commitment to advanced hospitality and tourism education. In 2013, he was named an honorary faculty member at the University of Delaware. Prior to STR, Steve served as vice president at two database consulting firms in the Northern Virginia area. Steve grew up in the Baltimore/Washington area, received his undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland, and now lives in Nashville with his wife and four children.

steve hood

Senior Vice President

Smith Travel Research (STR)

Andy Wirth headshot


Andrew “Andy” Wirth is the former President and Chief Executive Officer of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, the parent company of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows ski resorts. Mr. Wirth was in the position as President and CEO of Squaw Valley since 2010 and has more than 25 years as a senior executive in the mountain resort and hospitality management industry. Most recently, Mr. Wirth led the landmark transaction involving Squaw Valley’s acquisition by KSL Capital Partners in 2010 and also led Squaw Valley’s acquisition of Alpine Meadows resort operating company in 2011.

Mr. Wirth is an accomplished executive, active philanthropist and leader in his community on environmental, social and educational causes. He has been selected to and serves on the following board positions in California, Nevada and the North Lake Tahoe community:

  • Chairman – Board of Trustees for the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority;
  • Executive Committee Member – Board of Commissioners for the California Tourism organization, Visit California;
  • Executive Committee – California Ski Industry Association;
  • Chairman & President, Lake Tahoe Winter Olympic Committee Board of Directors;
  • Board of Directors for and Founders Circle member of the Tahoe Fund;
  • Board of Directors of the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation;
  • Board of Directors of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association.

The genesis of Andy’s conservation and environmental ethic was his work as a backcountry ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park and wildland firefighter on an initial attack Hot Shot crew and a Wilderness Ranger in New Mexico.   Wirth attended the University of Edinburgh, Colorado State University and has professional development certificates from Stanford University.

Mr. Wirth’s interests include sky diving, skiing, snowboarding, trail running, triathlon, SUP, surfing, scuba diving, triathlons, and rowing.  Wirth was born in Nuebrucke, West Germany and resides in Truckee, California with his wife Karen, an accomplished attorney specializing in real estate law, and their rescued border collie.

Andy Wirth

CEO & President

Ridgeline Executive Group, Inc

George Wallace headshot


Wallace is a Professor Emeritus in the HDNR department, founder and former director of the Center for Protected Area Management (CPAM). His teaching, research and service have focused on: protected area management, private land conservation, land use planning and ecotourism. Dr Wallace and his colleagues at CPAM have provided technical assistance and training to those managing conservation areas in the US and many countries in Latin America for over 20 years. The Wallaces own and operates 2 farms one of which has won several awards for their conservation practices. He is active civically on boards and commissions related to planning, agriculture and the environment. He is a member of the World Commission on Protected Areas.

George Wallace

Professor Emeritus

Warner College of Natural Resources

Headshot of Kelly Bricker


Dr. Bricker completed her Ph.D. research with the Pennsylvania State University, where she specialized in sustainable tourism and protected area management. She has research and teaching interests in ecotourism, sense of place, community development, natural resource management, value of nature-based experiences, and the impacts of tourism.  She has authored and edited books on sustainability, which highlight case studies in tourism meeting environmental and societal issues in Sustainable Tourism & the Millennium Development Goals: Effecting Positive Change; educational texts focused on adventure education in Adventure Programing and Travel for the 21st Century and graduate education in De-Mystifying Theories in Tourism Research; co-edited This Land Is Your Land: Toward a Better Understanding of Nature’s Resiliency-Building and Restorative Power for Armed Forces Personnel, Veterans, and Their Families (Sagamore Publishing, LLC). Bricker is a founding member of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, and the Center for Dark Skies Studies located at the University of Utah.


1998    Ph.D.               The Pennsylvania State University

Major:  Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management

Minor:  Geography


1986    M.S.                 Western Illinois University

Major:  Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Administration

Minor:  Communications


1981    B.S.                  Western Illinois University

Major:  Outdoor Recreation Administration

Minor: Zoology

Kelly Bricker, Ph.D.

Professor & Director

Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions

Arizona State University

Andrew Rhodes headshot


Andrew John Rhodes Espinoza has more than 16 years of work experience working for the conservation and sustainable use of the natural capital of Mexico, has a deep knowledge of the socio-environmental challenges, environmental public policy, a solid technical – administrative experience, a wide network of national and international contacts and a great passion for Mexico, its culture and biodiversity.

He currently serves as Ocean Coordinator, attached to the Undersecretariat for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, Mexico´s Sous Sherpa for the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Oceanic Economy and Deputy Chair of the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Prior to these assignments, he held executive positions in the National Commission of Protected Areas of Mexico; as National Commissioner, General Director of Institutional Development and Outreach and Director of Climate Change Strategies.

Additionally, he served as General Director of the Pronatura System as well as Central Coordinator of the Fund for Protected Areas in the Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature AC.

Andrew Rhodes


World Commission on Protected Areas

Union for the Conservation of Nature

Andrew Grossman headshot


andrew grossman


Destination Development

Colorado Tourism Office

Toby Bloom headshot


Toby Bloom

 National Program Manager of Travel

Tourism and Interpretation

U.S. Forest Service

Colorado State University’s
Master of Tourism Management Board Panel

Ken Widmaier headshot


Mr. Ken Widmaier is Sage Hospitality’s Chief Operating Officer, guides Sage’s portfolio of Premier & Lifestyle, Full Service and Select Service hotels towards continuing success and growth, he focuses on development of talented associates across the country and spearheads Sage’s mission of being the premier hospitality management and investment company in the U.S.

Widmaier spent over 20 years at Destination Hotels & Resorts as the Senior VP of Operations and was responsible for a portfolio of 12 hotels and $300 million in annual revenue. During his time at Destination, Widmaier developed expertise in long-term planning and strategic direction for both new and existing properties. Prior to Destination Hotels, Ken spent 15 years with Marriott, where he honed his operational expertise. While with Marriott, he worked in a variety of locations including Pittsburgh, Boston and Los Angeles.

Widmaier is a graduate of Florida International University. In line with Sage’s commitment to the community, Widmaier was a volunteer at the Olney Boys & Girls Club where he coached children in a variety of sports. Additionally, he is a former member of the Board of Trade and Federal City Council in Washington D.C.

Ken Widmaier

Chief Operating Officer

Sage Hospitality

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