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!

October 26: 9:30 am MT

Stanley Rowland headshot


Stan Rowland is Chief Executive Officer of the Blue Climate Initiative, a global collaborative engaged in protecting the ocean and reasonably and responsibly using its potential to mitigate climate change and other major environmental and social issues. Stan is also Chairman and President of Tetiaroa Society, an environmental nonprofit that sponsors scientific research and engages in conservation and community-based education programs in French Polynesia. He is also a member of the Advisory Board of Island Conservation which focuses on preventing extinctions by removing invasive species from islands.

Stan provides legal services to Pacific Beachcomber S.C., which owns and manages several operations in French Polynesia including The Brando resort on Tetiaroa which has established new standards in sustainability with deep sea water air conditioning, carbon-neutral operations, and innovative environmental programs.

Formerly, Stan was a partner in the San Francisco-based law firms Allen Matkins, Pillsbury and Thelen, and was the Managing Partner of the Hong Kong offices of both Pillsbury and Thelen. Stan is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley (Economics) and Cornell Law School.

stanley rowland

Blue Climate Initiative

Tetiaroa Society

Recognizing the Rights of Nature in Sustainable Tourism: Reflections on Possibilities & Promise

October 26: 10:10 am MT
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

Megha Burduk headshot


Dr. Budruk has a Ph.D. in natural resources from the University of Vermont and is trained as a natural resource social scientist. Her research interests focus on the inclusion of stakeholder perspectives into resource management.  Specifically, she studies human – nature relationships, visitor experience and impact management, and community development within the context of parks, protected areas, and cultural monuments. She has extensive research experience with several US federal, state, county and local public land management agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, National Park Service, Arizona State Parks, and Maricopa County Parks.  Megha’s work contributes to the long-term sustainability of natural and cultural resource settings through an increased understanding of human relationships with these settings.

megha budruk, Ph.D.

Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs, Watts College of Public Service; Community Solutions and an Associate Professor, Parks and Recreation Management, School of Community Resources and Development

Travel and Tourism Industry Trends Panel

October 26: 11:20 am MT

Moderated by Lina Xiong, Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, Colorado State University

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)

Andrew Grossman headshot


Andrew Grossman has been with the Colorado Tourism Office for over two years as the Director of Destination Development within the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. Prior to this position, he climbed the ranks at Travel Oregon from Destination Development Coordinator to Destination Management Specialist, and, finally, Destination Development Manager. With this experience and his prior experience at Sustainable Travel International, Grossmann knows all the ins and outs of destination development in Colorado and beyond. 

andrew grossman


Destination Development

Colorado Tourism Office

Toby Bloom headshot


Toby Bloom

 National Program Manager of Travel

Tourism and Interpretation

U.S. Forest Service

Oct 26: 1:00 pm MT

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

Oct 26: 1:40 pm MT

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

Oct 26: 2:20 pm MT

Stefanie Benjamin Headshot


Stefanie Benjamin, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management department at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Her research interests include social equity in tourism around the intersectionality of race, gender, sexual orientation, and people with disabilities. She also researches film-induced tourism, implements improvisational theater games as innovative pedagogy, and is a certified qualitative researcher exploring collective storytelling, duo-ethnography, visual methodology, and social media analysis. Lastly, she serves as a Faculty Advisor on the Equity and Diversity Board for the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity & Engagement at UTK.

stefanie benjamin


Tourism RESET

Alana Dillette headshot


Alana Dillette, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor in the Payne School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at San Diego State University. Originally from the islands of The Bahamas, she is always trying to maintain her connection to home through research on sustainable tourism initiatives for small island states. Her other research interests include issues around diversity and inclusion, more specifically looking at the intersection between tourism, race, gender & ethnicity. Currently, she is working on research to gain a better understanding of the African-American travel experience.

Alana Dillette

Co-Director & Research Fellow

Tourism RESET

Oct 27: 9:20 am MT

Andy Wirth headshot


Andy Wirth is an executive leader with global experience. In addition to serving as the Chief Executive Officer at various operating companies, Wirth has extensive experience at the strategic investment level. His career includes building and funding startups, developing high performance teams and standing up and leading companies and organizations in a diverse set of industries and sectors. Wirth’s experience crosses from the private sector to NGO’s and NPO’s, and from local and state governments to the US federal government and to sovereign nations in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North America. Wirth’s announced retirement was short lived, as his good friend and business partner, also “retired”, ski racer Bode Miller and Wirth developed and launched several companies. Most recently, Wirth and Miller cofounded the Peak Ski Company LLC and the M Bar W Group.

The Peak Ski Company is a global company headquartered in Bozeman, Montana. The company builds high-performance and the most technologically advanced skis in the world for recreational skiers of all ability levels. Contemporaneous to designing and manufacturing high-performance skis and, holding to the Peak Ski Company’s ethos of extreme innovation, Peak is developing proprietary advanced materials and is radically reengineering the process and machinery used to manufacture skis with globally renowned and industry leading partner companies in the US and Germany. The M Bar W Group is an asset management and consulting firm with clients and projects in North America and Europe.

Mr. Wirth recently served as Chief Executive Officer for global operating companies, including: Based in the Middle East, the $33.5B giga project NEOM, located in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows Ski Holdings; Intrawest ULC in Vancouver, Canada and has helped build and lead companies engaged in risk and security management/mitigation within austere environments outside the United States. Wirth spent much of his early career working with various ski resort ownership groups/holding companies based out of Steamboat, Colorado.

Andy has always been very active in his communities and served on over twenty nonprofit boards of directors. Wirth has also maintained a lifelong commitment and an action-oriented disposition relative to conservation and environmental issues. The genesis of Wirth’s conservation and environmental ethic can be traced to his grandfather, Conrad Wirth, who served as the Director of National Park Service under Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson. Conrad Wirth’s influence led to Wirth working as a backcountry ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park and as a wildland firefighter on an initial attack Hot Shot crew and Wilderness Ranger in northern New Mexico. Wirth attended Colorado State University, the University of Edinburgh and has professional certificates from Stanford University.

Andy is a horseman, alpine and nordic skier, alpinist, ice climber, skydiver, trail runner, triathlete, and scuba diver. The son of a US Air Force Fighter Pilot, Wirth was born in West Germany and spent much of his youth with family in the highlands of Scotland. He currently resides in Southwestern Montana, near the town of Norris.

Andy Wirth

Cofounder & CEO

Peak Ski Company, LLC, and The M Bar W Group, LLC

Student-Led Industry Trends Session

October 27: 10 am MT

Moderated by David Knight, Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, Colorado State University

Students & Universities:

Colorado State University

Julia Branstrator, Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, Ph.D. Candidate


Julia’s background is in international sustainability studies bridging hospitality, tourism, technology, and innovation, which informs an interdisciplinary approach to biological and cultural (biocultural) conservation through tourism. Her work is housed within Dr. Cavaliere’s Tourism and Conservation Lab. Her research takes a standpoint approach, informed by the experiences and adaptations of protected area and gateway community residents, to explore biocultural dynamics through technology use, identities, and affect.

University of North Texas

Megan Kelly, Master of Science in International Sustainable Tourism (MIST) Program


Megan graduated from the University of North Texas with a Masters in International Sustainable Tourism. Her research focused on analyzing for sustainable tourist behaviors on Instagram for the official tag of #VisitCostaRica. She was awarded a Fulbright to Chile, where she will continue researching tourist behavior on social media with a focus on small business impacts and training. Currently, she works as a marketing and regenerative tourism specialist for First Nature Tours in Portland, OR.

Bobby Robbins, Master of Science in International Sustainable Tourism (MIST) Program


Bobby Robbins is a second-year International Sustainable Tourism graduate student in a joint program between the University of North Texas and CATIE in Costa Rica. From 2012 to 2019, Bobby lived at the foothills of the Himalayas, along the ancient Tea Horse Trail in Yunnan, China. There he co-founded a social enterprise called Harmony Bridge that focuses on economic development in remote, ethnic minority villages through sustainable tourism development. Prior to relocating to China, Bobby worked as a corporate consultant specializing in strategy and leadership development. Bobby also served 15 years as a U.S. Army officer.

University of Pisa

Caterina Tomei


Let me introduce myself: I am Caterina Tomei, I am 26 and I come from Volterra in the district of Pisa, the city where I start my academic career after my graduation in 2015.

As I said before I finished high school in 2015, obtaining the diploma in human sciences. After I moved to Pisa in order to start the University and in December 2019, I obtained the three- year degree in Foreign Languages and Literature with a thesis about the Bildungsroman. In 2019, the University gave me the chance to do an internship and I chose the “Grand Hotel Duomo” in Pisa, where I worked for the first time as receptionist.

After the graduation at the beginning, I decided to continue my career in the literary field. Later I realized that this choice did not satisfy me at all and I started to work as receptionist at the local campsite of my hometown in the summer of 2021. Thanks to this experience, I understood how I was in love with my area, with its culture, tradition and sense of belonging. Moreover I realized how much I love interact with tourists and costumers, so I decided to change my path and enrol to my current master degree.

Luckily, my bosses called me again for the second year as seasonal worker at the campsite. Thanks to my job, I had the chance to find an exciting field where I had the opportunity to prove myself with what I learned in my academic year (I speak English, French and German) and I acquired other important skills like the relationship with costumers.

Job was the main reason of my change, but not only. Nowadays we have to focus on what is happening around us: in touristic field, we have to realize how sustainability is important as well as nature and local heritage. If we consider that we are living in a “globalized” period, we have to underline what the environment can offer and what can we do in order to protect him and give a heritage for future generation.

Marta Antonini


My name is Marta, I am 23 years old, and I live on the island of Elba, the main island of the Tuscan Archipelago.

About my studies: in June 2018 I graduated from the scientific high school of Portoferraio (LI) and in November 2021 I obtained a three-year degree in foreign languages and literatures at the University of Pisa.

For the University I moved to Pisa, and this allowed me to continue my studies, since immediately after graduation I enrolled in the master’s degree “Planning and Management of Mediterranean Tourism Systems” at the Lucca Campus Foundation.

I chose this path because I believe that nowadays, given globalization, it is very important to focus on the possibilities that the tourism sector offers, always respecting the environment.  To do this, it is obviously important to know the languages, first English.

As for work, however, I started working at the age of 16 during the summer holidays: for 4 years, I worked as a server in a slow food Osteria in my village. The last three years I have worked as a cashier in a take-away pizzeria and, in addition, this summer I had a two-week experience as an English teacher for a summer camp for 10-13 year olds as well.

I am very proud of my path and of all the choices made to date.

Central China Normal University

Jinyu Shi, MTM China Program


Jinyu Shi is studying at the MTM-China project which is a collaborative Master of Tourism Management program between Central China Normal University and Colorado State University. Jinyu is interested in the ‘Researching Tourism’ focus on youth outdoor field trip education, which is closer to nature and outdoor recreation education. This field of research focuses on encouraging students to explore and learn independently through field trip experiences. Jinyu is currently participating in a research group on improving young students’ learning ability at an elementary and middle school level through an outdoor field trip, with hopes that tourism and education can be better combined to make future development more sustainable.

Oct 27: 12:00 pm MT

Paloma Zapata headshot


As CEO, Paloma leads the organization’s global efforts to maximize tourism’s contribution to conservation and development in order to protect destinations, preserve natural environments, and improve community well-being. With over 15 years of experience in sustainable tourism and economic development, Paloma has designed and implemented impactful initiatives and projects in 25 nations across the globe. Her work has ranged from addressing the shortcomings of the current tourism supply to deriving sustainable development strategies and formulating policies. Some of her achievements include contributing to the creation of sustainable tourism master plans for Belize, Bermuda, Colombia and Panama, as well as developing a plan to link disenfranchised communities in Cambodia’s Siam Reap region to the tourism value chain.

Paloma joined Sustainable Travel International in 2015 and previously served as Vice President. Prior to joining Sustainable Travel International, she served as a Senior Consultant for Tourism & Leisure consulting, leading numerous transformative tourism development projects around the world. Earlier in her career she worked for IBM’s microelectronics division as Staff Industrial Engineer and registered three patents.

Paloma holds a master’s in business administration and a postgraduate degree in tourism management from ESADE Business School in Barcelona, Spain. She is a native speaker of Spanish and English.

paloma zapata


Sustainable Travel International

Oct 27: 2:30 pm MT

Grace Bottitta headshot


Conservation through the participation in equitable experiences (aka responsible recreation and sustainable tourism) is critical to protect and conserve natural and cultural resources. Utilizing her 25+ years in the conservation sector, Grace works with the outdoor recreation and tourism industry sectors to strategically engage them to national marine sanctuaries (aka blue parks) through shared values. Recently, she has introduced a “destination stewardship” approach to advance both protection of NOAA’s resources while fostering sustainable economic growth in communities adjacent to sanctuaries. Grace is a strong advocate for a federal interagency coordinated approach to strengthen local resource allocation and decrease stakeholder fatigue. Prior to joining NOAA, she specialized as a bird and wetland biologist with the National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Canadian Wildlife Service, and Ducks Unlimited, Inc. In recognition of her conservation efforts, she was selected as a National Conservation Leadership Institute (NCLI) Fellow. As an avid birdwatcher, kayaker, gardener, travel enthusiast, local foodie, CrossFitter and mom of twins, Grace and her family are naturally active outdoors. Grace invites you to join the celebration of 50 years of ocean conservation and stewardship at Protect. Enjoy.

Grace bottitta-williamson

National Recreation and Tourism Coordinator

NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary System

Colorado State University’s
Master of Tourism Management Board Panel

Moderated by Price Willoch, MTM program graduate

Ken Widmaier headshot


Following over 40 years in the hospitality industry serving top tier hotels, resorts and property management companies, I am excited to embark on my next venture to devote my experience, industry acumen, creative problem solving and enthusiasm to meaningfully contribute to a select portfolio of passion projects and clients. I thrive on optimizing performance in upwardly repositioning assets as well as in properties not achieving peak results. Driving asset value, building teams to achieve strategic goals, cost management, talent development and strengthening corporate and stakeholder value while increasing market share through innovative industry solutions are all
challenges I embrace and excel in.

For almost a decade leading Sage Hospitality as Chief Operating Officer and Business Development, we grew revenue from $600 million to $1 billion and strategically transformed a portfolio of primarily select service properties to a collection of luxury, independent, soft branded and lifestyle assets which consistently bolstered market share and elevated guest service rankings.
An achievement I am especially proud of is the growth of the Sage independent and soft branded portfolio through decisively securing management contracts during a historically unprecedented pandemic, providing vital job security for associates across the country.

Prior to Sage Hospitality, I was the Senior Vice President of Operations for the east region for Destination Hotels & Resorts, one of the country’s largest hospitality and property management firms, where I owned full P&L responsibility, designed and executed critical growth paths, repositioned premium independent and branded
hotels and resorts and implemented profitable long-term business strategies still in place today.

I find personal fulfillment in giving back to the hospitality industry and our future generation of leaders by serving as a board member for CSU Ft. Collins’ Masters of Tourism program, mentoring approximately six students each year, and guest lecturing at a number of institutions of higher learning including Colorado State University – Fort Collins, Metro State University – Denver, College of Charleston and Ryerson University.

Beyond career pursuits, I enjoy spending time with my wife, daughter and two sons and appreciating the Colorado lifestyle, particularly hiking in the Rockies. I love professional sports and admittedly, I’m a frustrated Raiders fan but I enjoy going to Coors Field to watch the equally frustrating Colorado Rockies. Clearly, you do not want me rooting for your team!

Ken Widmaier


Front Range Hospitality Consulting

Samantha Albert headshot


Samantha serves as Deputy Director for the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office (OREC). Her work as Deputy Director supports the office’s mission of inspiring industries and communities to thrive in Colorado’s great outdoors. This is accomplished by supporting programming that focuses on four areas: economic development, conservation and stewardship, education and workforce training, and public health and wellness. Prior to her work with OREC she worked for El Pomar Foundation where she helped direct the Regional Partnerships program and supported regional grant-making in Northwest Colorado. 
Samantha received a B.S. in Political Science from Colorado College. She spends her free time participating in a variety of outdoor activities, with some of her favorites including SUPing and hiking.
Samantha Albert

Deputy Director

Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office