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

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

Travel and Tourism Industry Trends Panel

October 26: 11:20 am MT

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 Detination 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 Tourism 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


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

Student-Led Industry Trends Session

October 27: 10 am MT

Students & Universities:
Colorado State University
University of North Texas
University of Pisa
Central China Normal University

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


Coming soon…

Grace bottitta-williamson

National Recreation and Tourism Coordinator

NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries

Colorado State University’s
Master of Tourism Management Board Panel

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

Seve Ghose headshot


Seve has had a 35-year career in five States in municipalities, counties, special districts, and the private sector. He has served the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) in various capacities– CAPRA Accreditation Board as a Visitor, Reviewer, Board Member and Chair and on the CPRE Exam Committee. Seve has presented at NRPA conferences since 2011 and at regional, State, and other conferences on various topics– national accreditation, urban tree canopy, naturalization, valuing our profession by telling the story, resiliency, bold leadership, and historical preservation, among others. He enjoys sharing the great story of parks and recreation and looks forward to creating a succession process by mentoring and coaching young professionals. In the Fall of 2020, he was selected to the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration. For his work over the years Seve was recognized with the National Distinguished Professional Award in 2013 at the NRPA Congress in Houston, Texas– for his advocacy of parks and recreation, leadership, innovation in public policy development and implementation, program development, research, and community engagement. He has also served as an instructor at the Parks and Recreation Maintenance Management School (PRMMS) in Oglebay. In August 2021 he will begin his tenure on the faculty for the NRPA’s Director School. On the personal side, Seve has travelled to thirty-six States with his family visiting, thus far, 120 National Parks and Monuments. He enjoys photography, golf, gardening as a cathartic endeavor, and staying in touch with friends in over a hundred countries.

Seve Ghose

Community Services Director

City of Fort Collins

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