Art Sackler


Art, a principal in the law and policy firm of Sackler Brinkmann & Hughes LLC, has spent thirty years in legislative and regulatory practice based in Washington, DC, but also encompassing various international and state level issues. He has successfully handled travel, postal affairs, intellectual property, privacy and other information and digital matters critical to operations or bottom lines for corporations, trade associations and coalitions, including magazines, newspapers, entertainment, and travel companies. He has also negotiated contracts, in the United States and abroad, with postal authorities. Whether founding or running groups with heavy FORTUNE 100 participation, such as the National Postal Policy Council, the Interactive Travel Services Association, or the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service, as VP/Law and Policy for Time Warner or General Counsel to the National Newspaper Association, he has consistently played a leadership role in resolving issues routinely worth billions of dollars in the aggregate. He has paralleled this success in other areas of expertise, running associations and coalitions, such as the Coalition to Preserve the American Copyright Tradition, Open Allies for Airfare Transparency, the Digital Honesty Campaign and more. He feels privileged to have been asked to serve on several federal advisory bodies.

Laura Mandala


As the head of Mandala Research, Laura has pioneered the “firsts” of many niche studies in the travel industry. She also monitors and studies evolving travel trends and demographics, including cultural and heritage tourism, medical tourism, wine and culinary tourism, emerging international markets, and African American and Hispanic travelers.

She previously served as Vice President of Research at the U.S. Travel Association and as a member of the U.S. Department of Commerce Travel and Tourism Advisory Board where she provided input on the country’s National Travel and Tourism Strategy.

Her firm’s research has been featured in the New York Times, L.A. Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and on NPR. Laura has held teaching appointments at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, the George Washington School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, and Northwestern University.

Laura is completing her doctoral work in Sociology from Northwestern University.

Gail Adams


Gail Adams is the Communications Director for the International Association of Geophysical Contractors, an international upstream oil and gas association. She is the former Director of the Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior where she managed the relationships of the Department’s stakeholders and state and local governments as well as assisting with the U.S. territories. Gail helped to craft the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Strategy.

Gail also worked as the Intergovernmental Affairs Director for the Federal Emergency Management Agency for Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike disaster response and recovery. During that time, she served as the Governmental Affairs Officer for the response of the Macondo Oil Spill in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and received the U.S. Coast Guard’s “Distinguished Public Service Award,” the highest award given to civilians for her service.

Gail is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and worked for a 16 years in the print and broadcast industry. She is currently pursuing her Masters of Public Administration.

Steve Richer


Steve Richer has made his career in marketing, public policy, destination marketing, and international relations into the fulfillment of his aspirations going back to his years at Princeton University.

During this career, he has led destination marketing efforts in New Jersey, Nevada, Atlantic City, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast; served as the public affairs advocate for the National Tour Association; and worked with tourism leaders internationally to increase visitation between North America and the rest of the world.

He has served as a public official on the local, county, or state level in three different states, including a term as Mayor of Randolph Township, New Jersey, where he grew up. As a Cabinet member in Nevada, he testified before the United States Senate and helped to open the first state run tourism office in Japan.

His achievements have earned him recognition as one of the outstanding tourism leaders in both New Jersey and Mississippi by those state tourism associations; both a lifetime achievement award and top destination marketing award from the National Tour Association, and membership in “Marketing 100” class of 2001 from Advertising Age for his work in Mississippi (the only tourism awardee in that class).

Roger Rickard


Roger has been an advocate for citizen involvement since the age of 13. He was elected to public office as a young man, later served as a legislative staffer for the Pennsylvania State Legislature, and has worked on many local, regional and state campaigns as well as numerous Presidential campaigns.

His work spans a cross-section of local, regional, national and international organizations. In 2011, Roger authored The DMO Advocacy Toolkit for Destination Marketing Association International. In 2013, Voices in Advocacy® built a grassroots meetings industry advocacy platform for the Convention Industry Council called the CIC AdvocacyHub™.

In 2013, Smart Meetings Magazine did a cover story on Roger, entitled Passion & Purpose, Roger Rickard’s Call to Action. Also in 2013, Successful Meetings Magazine named Roger one of the Six People Worth Watching in the Meetings Industry. In 2014, Meetings Focus Magazine named him to their inaugural list of Meetings Trendsetters.

Roger majored in Political Science at Pennsylvania State University and is still a proud Nittany Lion. His education, experience and enthusiasm enlighten audiences on key issues and relationships that turn passion into action.

Cathleen Johnson


Cathleen is one of the foremost authorities on travel and tourism marketing and communications. She created the travel and hospitality practice at Edelman, the world’s largest PR firm, and throughout a 25+ year career there, grew the specialty area to the #1 tourism practice among independent PR agencies. She has developed marketing campaigns for countries including the United States, Mexico and Brazil, and for a wide variety of airlines, hotels, tour and transportation companies and associations.

Cathleen also served as Senior Vice President of Marketing for the Hawaii Visitors Bureau. In that position she managed all of the bureau’s marketing functions worldwide.

She has a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Northern Illinois University and Masters degree from University of Chicago, where she completed her thesis on “The Effects of Travel on Self Actualization in Youth.” That experience led to a passion for helping kids experience travel, and to that end, she serves on the board of the Juvenile Protective Association (Chicago) and on the Board of Trustees of the SYTA Youth Foundation.

She has taught Tourism Public Relations at De Paul University in Chicago, and has been a guest lecturer at the NYU and Roosevelt University hospitality schools. She is Is currently a visiting professor in Tourism Communications at the American University of Paris.

Carlos Alcazar


Carlos Alcazar is Executive Creative Director of Culture ONE World and managing director multicultural of The Tombras Group. He works with corporations, federal government agencies, and NGO’s to create award-winning marketing and advertising campaigns that reach millennial and multicultural markets. His background in media is used to integrate native advertising and multimedia storytelling into campaign work.

He has developed brand strategies for clients in a variety of sectors. Clients include government agencies such as the Departments of Justice, Transportation, Energy, Agriculture, Health and Human Services as well as NGO’s and corporations like LIVESTRONG, AT&T, American Heart Association, Boy Scouts of America, NCLR, Kraft Foods, Epilepsy Foundation, and Catholic Charities amongst others.

Carlos has successfully guided education and media companies to achieve growth through corporate strategy, global expansion and business development. As president and Chief Creative Officer of HCN, he built the largest cause marketing and educational media firm targeting U.S. Hispanics. Prior to that, as Vice President at companies like Pearson plc and Viacom he produced programming through television, publishing and online platforms to millions of people around the world.

He is a regular speaker at industry trade shows, conferences, and special events related to cross cultural marketing and communications. He is a board trustee of St. Mary’s College of Maryland and chairman of the congressional chartered National Environmental Education Foundation.

Former Senator Mark Begich


Mark Begich is the President and CEO of Northern Compass Group, LLC. A businessman since age 14 and a public servant with decades of experience, Begich has built an impressive record of accomplishments on issues such as fisheries, resource development, arctic policy, education, veterans, housing and more.

During his tenure as U.S. Senator for Alaska, Begich earned the reputation of a hard-working, pragmatic problem-solver who was willing to work across party lines to get things done. Known for his tireless resolve, The Alaska Dispatch News said of him:

“He doesn’t blink at reality and knows how to deal. He may be the savviest politician in Alaska. No one will outwork him.”

Quickly rising to leadership positions, Begich was Chairman of both the Steering and Outreach Committee and the Oceans Subcommittee. He also served on influential committees including Appropriations, Commerce, Veterans, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Armed Services, and Indian Affairs.

In addition, Begich was appointed to the President’s Export Council, the national advisory board to the White House on important export and trade policy. Begich was also named Chair of the bipartisan U.S.-China Inter-parliamentary Group aimed at improving trade relations between the U.S. and China.

Begich also founded and was a Co-Chair of the U.S. Senate Travel and Tourism Caucus. He also co-chaired the General Aviation Caucus. Begich was an original co-sponsor of the Travel Promotion Act which launched the first ever public-private partnership and global marketing effort to promote the United States. His efforts on travel & tourism earned him several rewards including the Distinguished Travel Champion Award from the U.S. Travel Association, the 2014 Champion of Industry Award from the American Hotel and Lodging Association, and the Pioneer’s Award from the National Tour Association.

Outside of public service, Mark has earned recognition not only as a successful businessman, but also as an engaged member of the community. From serving on the University of Alaska Anchorage Board of Regents, as the chair of the Alaska Student Loan Corporation and with the Alaska Commission on Post Secondary Education, he has sought out opportunities to enrich the future of Alaska wherever and however he can.

Prior to serving in the Senate, Begich was the Mayor of Anchorage for six years and served on the Anchorage Assembly for ten years.

Outside of public service, Begich has earned recognition not only as a successful businessman, but also as an engaged member of the community. From serving on the University of Alaska Anchorage Board of Regents, as the chair of the Alaska Student Loan Corporation and with the Alaska Commission on Post Secondary Education, he has sought out opportunities to enrich the future of Alaska wherever and however he can.

Begich looks forward to continuing to seek out opportunities to bring the time-honored Alaskan values of working together and finding common ground to solve problems.

Begich is married to Anchorage businesswoman Deborah Bonito and they have a young son, Jacob.

Andres Hayes


Andres Hayes has 25 years of experience in banking and marketing, most of them in the credit card business, where he worked for Visa International for eleven years, seven years in Miami and four in London, England. One of the youngest regional managers, he was selected as one of the key staff members to open a new operations center for Central Europe, the Middle East and Africa in 1994. After Visa International, he managed two major card operations centers in the Americas and Europe as Senior Vice President. He was the Restaurant Manager for B. Smith’s in Washington DC for four years. Currently, he is the General Manager for The Mansion on O Street. He is fluent in Spanish, English and Portuguese.

Andres is a Board Member of both the DC Chamber of Commerce and Skal Club of Washington, DC. Extremely passionate about the hospitality industry and always focused on providing the highest level of service, Andres has the vision and experience to work internationally on major projects.