The Elite Meetings Advisory Board is comprised of leaders from some of the most respected companies in the world. They are integral to the certification process of all hotels listed on EliteMeetings.com.
Meet our Board:
Director of Travel & Corp Events
R.J. Apana, originally from Ferndale, Washington, graduated with a bachelor's degree from the University of Washington. In 2008, following his passion of event planning, he joined Apogee Physicians, the largest privately held hospitalist company in the United States, as the Director of Travel and Corporate Events. In addition to overseeing all of Apogee's corporate meetings, summits, trainings, orientations and social events, R.J. built the infrastructure of their corporate travel program creating an internal "Travel Department."
Since 2008, Apogee has grown 300% and while this immense growth occurred, R.J.'s focus remained on client satisfaction and fiscally responsible spending. Currently he manages a travel and events team that continues to focus on these components in the fast-paced and rapidly growing hospitalist/healthcare industry.
R.J.'s events have taken him to numerous destinations across the United States in addition to international destinations including Dubai, India, and Mexico.
Director, Meetings & Travel
Enterprise Holdings, Inc.
Amanda Armstrong, originally from Colorado Springs, Colorado, graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder with a bachelor's degree in international affairs. After working for a newspaper for a year in Santiago, Chile, she accepted a stateside logistics position with INTRAV, an international travel company. After four years on the road as a travel director, she became a program director in product development to research and operate programs in Africa, Holland, and Belgium.
Armstrong transitioned into event management at a consulting firm in Clayton, Missouri. After a steep two-year learning curve in operating large, domestic educational training events, Enterprise Rent-A-Car hired her to head their Corporate Meetings Department at their headquarters in St. Louis in 2007.
Since then she has procured more than 30 national meetings, operated over 40 large meetings, and survived the largest of the lineup: the four-day rental branch-manager meeting for 7,300 attendees.
Meeting and Event Manager
Maritz Travel Company
Joann Chmura is a Meeting and Event Manager for Maritz Travel Company, working remotely in Connecticut. Joann has been working in the meetings and events industry for 20 years. She earned her CMM and CMP certifications.
Prior to her arrival at Maritz, Joann worked for American Express managing 130 programs annually. She also worked as Relationship Marketing Manager for ConnectiCare, a division of Emblem Health, for 10 years and as Senior Team Leader at HealthNet Northeast for 7 years.
Throughout her career, she has planned and managed events within the United States and across the Globe. Joann has planned meetings and events from small intimate Advisory Conferences to large conventions and everything in between. She is a past member of FICP (Financial Insurance Planners) and MPI (Meeting Professionals International)
Joann is a member of Maritz’s Human Trafficking Task Force and also on the advisory board for the Center for Family Justice of Eastern Fairfield County, dedicated to strengthening women and families, helping to eliminate violence and abuse through education, intervention, advocacy and community collaboration.
Mike Dominguez, CHSE
Senior Vice President, Global Hotel Sales
MGM Resorts International
Michael has been actively involved in the hospitality industry for the last 25 years. His early career included Hyatt Hotels, Starwood Hotels, Loews Hotels & Resorts, and numerous independent hotel management companies. Michael's early hotel years were spent in hotel operations primarily in the food & beverage area before jumping into the sales and marketing arena.
In 2003, Michael led the efforts of destination sales and marketing for the Palms Springs Desert Resorts CVA where he served as Vice President of Sales. In 2012, Michael joined MGM Resorts International as Senior Vice President of Global Sales. His responsibility includes oversight of the sales operation for 13 Las Vegas–based hotels as well as three regional hotels in Detroit, Mississippi, and Reno.
Michael serves as Chair-Elect for the International Board of Directors for MPI, Industry Issue and Trend Task Force for PCMA, The Industry Partner Alliance for ASAE, as well as numerous Advisory Boards including: Elite Meetings International, Meetings Evolution, and Boundless Networks.
Michael is currently living in Las Vegas and is based at the corporate offices of MGM Resorts International. Michael has been married for 23 years and has three children ages, 26, 25, 21, and a granddaughter, age 6.
Chief Digital & Distribution Officer
Wyndham Hotel Group
Barry Goldstein is an accomplished sales, marketing, brand & technology executive with more than 25 years of successful strategic leadership. In his current role as Chief Digital and Distribution Officer for the Wyndham Hotel Group, he is responsible for managing and optimizing Wyndham Hotel Group’s digital assets and presence, including its web and mobile sites, next generation mobile apps, online media, digital content, third-party distribution, call center operations and hotel marketing services. In addition, Barry is responsible for setting the company’s sales technology strategy.
Most recently, Barry was the Chief Revenue and Information Officer for Dolce. In this role, Barry was responsible for leading the sales, marketing, revenue management, brand and technology organizations.
Prior to joining Dolce, Barry was the Vice President of Global Sales Strategy and Operations for Starwood Hotels & Resorts. Barry also held the position of Managing Director of the Hospitality, Retail and Consumer Product vertical at Cisco Systems as well as Vice President of Information Systems at Panasonic. Barry started his career at Ernst & Young as a management consultant.
Barry holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Columbia University and completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School.
Corporate Director of Groups LATAM
Melia Hotels & Resorts
Carmelina Iannarone, a native of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, graduated from Concordia University with a bachelor of commerce degree. She began her career in the hotel industry in Mexico some 18 years ago, and has held various sales positions with a series of prestigious hotel chains including Camino Real Hotels & Resorts, InterContinental Hotels (Mexico), and Le Meridien.
In 2003, Iannarone joined the Spanish hotel company, Sol Melia Hotels & Resorts, and currently holds the position of director of group sales for the Latin America market. Sol Melia has over 300 hotels in 30 countries on four continents, and markets seven different individual brands. As part or her responsibilities with the Sol Melia hotel chain, Iannarone and her Latin America-based team look for business in the Latin America group market for Sol Melia's group hotels. Fluent in four languages, she earned her CMP industry certification in 2006 and is very excited to be part of the EMAB.
Manager, Meeting Planner
Alison Javier, CMP is originally from New Jersey and has a Bachelor of Arts and Science from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. After graduation, Alison moved to New York City where she found her passion for meeting planning.
For over 10 years Alison has worked as a meeting planner for Pfizer Animal Health, now known as Zoetis. Alison is responsible for the complete planning of over 20 meetings annually consisting of over 100 people per meeting. She has travelled and planned internationally for both customer and incentive travel.
Alison now resides with her husband and 2 children in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Finance & Resource Management Consultants
Lisa Langford has been with Finance and Resource Management Consultants for over 22 years. Also known simply as Study Groups, FRMC is a highly respected voice in the Petroleum and Retail Convenience Store industries, expanding from two groups and four meetings in 1989, to currently facilitating over thirty groups and seventy meetings annually.
In context of this growth, Lisa discovered a passion for customer service within the art of professional hospitality. The desire to intelligently improve upon the meeting experience for both her company and member clients fuels her ongoing education, of which Elite Meetings has been a part.
"I am thrilled to work with the Elite Meetings Team, as I see the characteristics of creativity, excellence, and strong relationships that contribute to elevating the meetings industry as a whole. Regardless of the experience you currently have or whether you are a planner, supplier, or vendor, there is a vision at EM to create tools and opportunities for us all to become better at what we do. Besides that, they just know how to make the whole experience that much more fun."
Supervisor, Events and Administration
Jennifer Leto serves as senior meeting planner at Hess Corporation, a Fortune 100 company. The midsize New York-based corporation takes a fully integrated approach to the exploration, production, and refining of oil and gas, and maintains operations in 20 countries around the world. Leto strategically plans and executes high-level corporate events and meetings throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia, including board of directors meetings, executive retreats, and senior leadership conferences.
Responsibilities in her position include site search and selection, contract negotiations, budget preparation and management, logistics coordination, vendor negotiation and supervision, participant coordination, and corporate communications coordination. Prior to joining Hess Corporation in 2003, Leto served as an event coordinator with Morgan Stanley for three years, after spending eight years as a wedding planner on Long Island.
"I am excited to have the opportunity to engage with many talented professionals in the industry and collaborate on ways to challenge industry standards in order to reach our maximum potential", Leto says.
Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Perla & La Esmeralda
Daniel Lozano has been involved in the hotel industry since 1980, holding positions in a breadth of departments, as Resident Manager, General Manager, Project Director, Vice President Operations Asia Pacific, Executive Vice President Asia Pacific, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Paradisus in Mexican Riviera Maya.
His career has spanned such companies as Hilton, Westin, Ritz, InterContinental and Melia Hotels International, Worldwide: Republic of Panama, Mexico, Indonesia, China, Thailand and Spain.
His professional memberships include such organizations as Skal, Chaine des Rotisseurs, Rotary Club and Global Hoteler’s Club.
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
Posadas USA, Inc.
A native of Buffalo, New York, David J. Manzella attended the State University College at Buffalo. Shortly after graduation, David moved to Orlando, Florida, to pursue his career in the hospitality industry. After a brief time in the educational field, David moved into a sales role with the Omni Rosen Hotel. From there, David quickly progressed up the industry ladder in senior and leadership roles with The Walt Disney World Resort and Hilton Hotels, both located in Orlando, Florida.
After 13 years in Orlando, David accepted a leadership role with the world's largest resort, The Venetian and the Palazzo Resort Hotel Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, as the Regional Director of Sales. Recently, David moved into a new realm as the Vice President of Group Sales with Posadas Hotels and Resorts, a leading Latin America hotel company. In this position, David oversees multiple luxurious hotels and resorts throughout Mexico and South America, featuring the brands of Fiesta Americana, Live Aqua, and Caesar Park and Business Hotels. David still resides in Las Vegas and is active with many industry boards and hospitality initiatives.
Joost de Meyer
Chairman and CEO
First Incentive Travel Inc.
Joost de Meyer, chairman and CEO of First Incentive Travel Inc., was born in the Netherlands. He worked with Holland America Line, then began 25 years within the Dutch travel trade, where he concentrated on sales and marketing, mainly in management positions for various Dutch tour operators. In 1997, he moved to Florida and founded Florint Vacations, a property management company for vacation homes in the Orlando area. Later he became a partner in First Incentive Travel, and, at the beginning of 2000, he and his wife Iris bought the company. In September 2009, they added First Incentive Travel International to their portfolio, so that along with working with international groups visiting the US, they now offer outgoing travel services for American groups that want to hold incentives and meetings abroad.
Joost was named Member of the Year at the Site International Conference 2005 held in Toronto. He is an active participant on the Site Florida board, and a member of the International Board of Directors of Site since January 2007. He achieved his CITE (Certified Incentive Travel Executives) Certification in 2007. He is also an MPI member and received his CMM (Certified Meeting Manager) Certification in 2005.
Firmwide Events & Sustainability Manager
Dentons US LLP
Laura Miller, CMP is the Firmwide Events & Sustainability Manager at Dentons US LLP. The international law firm has more than 575 attorneys and public policy advisors in 13 offices and 11 markets. The firm is uniquely positioned at the intersection of law, business, and government, representing clients in the areas of complex litigation, corporate law, energy, environment, family wealth, finance, government contracts, health care, infrastructure, insurance, intellectual property, public policy, real estate, and technology.
In her position, Laura has overall responsibility for planning, contracting, and executing the logistical details for the annual partners retreat and quarterly board meetings. She also plans, negotiates contracts, and executes practice area special events, including government contracts briefings, department retreats and other practice-specific events, and internal executive management meetings. She is also developing sustainability best practices, implementation, and maintenance of continuity between the offices.
She is active in a number of volunteer organizations, including Jack Russell Rescue, Ahimsa House (dedicated to helping victims of domestic violence seek shelter with their pets), Therapy Dogs Incorporated (TDInc) and Reading Paws (volunteering with her registered therapy dog in inner-city after school programs and libraries). She and her husband, a Boeing 777 Captain at Emirates Airlines, love to travel whenever their schedules permit.
Kimberly Montoya is president and founder of Twenty156 Events, based in Orange County, California. Montoya founded the firm to provide consultation and creative event design to corporate clients who aren’t satisfied with the status quo for their meetings.
“There is never a reason to host an event that people will forget the minute they leave the building. Current technology, combined with thoughtful design and production allows us to create moments that our guests have never even considered, and deliver messages in ways that will stay with them for a lifetime”, says Montoya of her event philosophy.
Prior to founding Twenty156 Events, Montoya spent more than 20 years with corporate planning teams for Experian North America, Prudential Real Estate and Ingram Micro with programs operating across the globe. In her tenure she has hosted dinner in an Italian palace, led a sunrise hike in the Grand Tetons and organized a sailing regatta aboard America’s Cup yachts.
Montoya is a Chairperson for both the Martine Cotillions and Monarch Ambassador Program at The Parish School. She and her husband live in San Clemente, California with their two children, two dogs, two fish and a hamster. When not cheering for or coaching youth sports, Montoya and her family enjoy weekend getaways and casual dinners at the beach.
Kelly Morris, VP of marketing at Solutionreach, began her career in New York ad agencies working on Reebok, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, and the new business team. She moved to the client side and has managed marketing and events for the past 18 years.
Following positions with high-tech companies in various global marketing and event positions, she joined Burton Group in 2006 as director of marcom/events. In this position, she implemented a global marcom and event plan in addition to managing all design and marketing for corporate and event initiatives. She led her team of event managers as they produced NA & EU events.
In her current role, she manages an events/marketing team focused on patient engagement in the healthcare industry. She has a keen interest in technologies and best practices for digital marketing and social media, and integrates them into marketing and events whenever possible.
Senior Manager Global Events Business Operations
Cisco Systems Inc.
Before joining Cisco Systems Inc. as the senior global meetings & events manager, Carolyn Pund worked at several high-tech telecom and networking companies in Silicon Valley throughout the past 25 years. Her roles touched everything from travel and procurement to facilitating corporate meetings and marketing events.
Pund holds two leading industry certifications. She earned her CMP in 1996, and was part of the inaugural CMM class of 1998. In 1999, she cofounded MCAF (Meetings Competitive Advantage Forum), a corporate best-practices sharing team comprised of 20 Fortune 50 companies.
Pund has served on several advisory boards over the years encompassing event technology, meeting management, hospitality, economic development, client boards, and cause-based charities.
Senior Vice President, Hotel Sales
The Americas at Hilton Worldwide
Rob is a 38-year veteran of the hotel industry. He started out in operations at Holiday Inns and now currently with Hilton Worldwide. He is an experienced leader in sales, marketing, catering and event teams at both the property level and corporate level as VP of Sales and Marketing for owned and managed assets within the Americas overseeing 335 hotels in 22 countries. His current role as SVP of Industry Relations, Events and oversees projects related to sales strategies and effectiveness including a unique campaign with Stop Hunger Now.
He has been a long time member of the hospitality industry’s professional organizations including PCMA, MPI and Meetings Means Business Coalition serving on their boards and foundations and currently is on a second term for MPI Foundation.
Vice President Global Sales, Americas
Hyatt Hotels and Resorts
With nearly 30 years of hotel experience, Gus Vonderheide has worked in both operations and sales. From his beginnings as a convention service houseman to his current position as vice president of group sales, he has had exposure to numerous departments.
Vonderheide's first director of sales position took place at the Frontenac Hilton in St. Louis, Missouri. He joined Hyatt Hotels in 1994 as a director of sales in Louisville, Kentucky; followed by positions in Dearborn, Michigan; and Washington, DC. In 2000 he joined the corporate sales division and became director of Hyatt's western worldwide sales force.
In June of 2007, he was promoted to vice president sales-group. He now has complete responsibility for Hyatt's worldwide and national sales forces, as well as client events. He also serves as liaison between the sales division and the full-service franchise hotels.
Vonderheide resides in the Chicago-land area with his wife and two children.
Vice President, Group Marketing & Sales
Atlantis, Paradise Island
John Washko leads the group marketing & sales effort at the 3,400 room Atlantis, Paradise Island Resort.
A veteran in luxury hospitality sales and marketing with over 24 years of experience, Washko first joined Atlantis in 1995 as the Director of National Sales and later was promoted to Executive Director of Group Sales, a position he held until departing the company in 2002. Most recently, Washko was the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Elite Meetings International. Prior to that role, Washko was the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the historic Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Washko hospitality career include national sales roles at the Sheraton Carlton (now a St. Regis property) in Washington, D.C. and the PGA National Resort & Spa in Florida.
Washko sits on HSMAI's Americas Board and the HSMAI Resort Marketing Special Interest Group.
John resides In Boca Raton, Florida with his wife & 2 boys.
Vice President, North American Divisional Sales
Starwood Hotels & Resorts
Betty Wilson is Vice President, North American Divisional Sales, Starwood Hotels & Resorts. In this role, she leads a team of 140 sales professionals based in the US and Canada and has responsibility for sales strategies across the group, business travel, leisure, luxury, and airline segments. Prior to this role she led Starwood’s North America business travel and total account management global sales teams, and had personal responsibility for some of the company’s largest global accounts in both the group and transient segments.
Betty’s 23 years of experience with Sheraton, Westin, and Starwood includes assignments in sales leadership at both the hotel and above property sales level, corporate and association account management where customers spanned numerous vertical and specialty sectors, and talent management at the corporate level.
She is active in many hospitality industry organizations and has held national board or committee level roles with HSMAI and GBTA.
Throughout her career, she’s lived in all regions of the United States and has called her favorite city, New York, home for the last 18 years.
Senior Vice President
Tom Wilson is division vice president for Maritz Travel Company. In his current role, he leads the New Business Development and Growth Initiative for the company. He and his team provide strategic direction and consultation to clients who are looking to optimize their business results through the strategic use of meetings, events, and incentive travel.
Wilson's 21-year career with Maritz includes serving as group vice president-sector leader for the company's largest vertical market financial services. During his time as sector leader, Wilson was responsible for overseeing the retention, growth, and expansion for 80-plus finance and insurance clients through the development and implementation of services and solutions that included: meetings, events, and incentive travel; customer satisfaction and brand research; employee recognition; channel sales incentives; and consumer loyalty programs.
Wilson is also very active in the meetings, events, and incentive travel industry through several hotel advisory board positions and participation in MPI, SITE, EIBTM and GBTA. Wilson also has extensive destination knowledge both domestically and internationally.
During his career at Maritz, Wilson has earned numerous awards for his sales and management contributions, including: nine Maritz Master's Awards, two William E. Maritz Chairman's Awards; Rookie of the Year Award for First Year Leadership; Sales Leader of the Year Award; and Winner of the inaugural President's Choice award in 2010.
Wilson and his wife, Dianna, have two children, John and Katherine, and reside in Scottsdale, Arizona. In his spare time, he helps his wife manage a private school that they have owned for just under a year. He also enjoys coaching youth sports, golf, and traveling with his family.
The Kliman Group
David Kliman, CMP, CMM, is founder and president of The Kliman Group, a market research and communications consulting practice based in Sausalito, California, which specializes in facilitating customer advisory boards, focus groups, and strategic planning meetings for hospitality industry organizations. Kliman helps his clients understand customer trends and converts those trends into sales, service, and marketing best practices.
Kliman is a widely respected hospitality industry leader with 30 years experience in business development, global sales, and marketing and operations management in both the hotel and financial services industries.
He has served as international chairman of MPI (Meeting Professionals International), and as a delegate on the White House Conference on Travel and Tourism. He co-chaired the MPI PCMA (Professional Convention Management Association) Tomorrow's Summit Conference and has served on MPI's Multi-Cultural Initiative committee. Kliman was awarded one of the industry's highest accolades, MPI's International Meeting Planner of the Year, in 1999.
Meetings, Events & Tradeshows Manager
Cardiovascular Systems Inc.
Monique Rochard-Marine is currently a Meetings, Events & Tradeshows Manager for a medical device company whose mission is to save limbs and lives - Cardiovascular Systems, Inc. (CSI). Monique works from CSI's St. Paul, MN HQ Office and has been working in the meetings and events industry for over 12 years.
In her previous role she directed a team of six Event Managers at UnitedHealthGroup and has earned quite a few certifications that bolster her expertise in meeting and event planning: CMM, CMP, CTSM and an MBA.
Throughout her career, Monique has planned and managed events across the US and abroad. She provides strategic leadership and functional guidance to a Meetings, Events & Tradeshows team responsible for directing, planning and organizing strategic internal and external business-related meetings in support of product marketing and sales goals. These meetings range from intimate internal Executive Meetings to larger Physician Meetings to even larger National Sales Meetings.
She enjoys every moment of it and can't imagine herself doing anything outside of the meetings and events industry.
Monique is currently a member of MPI and PCMA and resides in a quiet suburb south of the Twin Cities with her husband and two sons.