The second bi-annual award series for women, by women in travel and tourism
WASHINGTON, DC – February 19, 2020 - Women have long been the backbone of the travel and tourism industry. From front desk clerks to sales executives to the presidents of cruise lines, the industry depends on women. The Pearson study, renowned for its conclusive findings that 30% representation of women in the corporate C Suite results in 15% increase in profitability is one of the data points that Women in Travel and Tourism International (witti) founder Laura Mandala and her Advisory Board point to as evidence of need to shine a light on the industry’s top women.

On February 20, the light will shine on the Women in Travel and Tourism International Awards honoring the talent, accomplishments and worthiness of what peers have voted The Top Women in Travel and Tourism.

Mandala, who also heads travel market research company Mandala Research, said, “Go to any conference, hotel desk, or airline counter and you’ll find the women on the front lines of this industry. Yet they are strikingly underrepresented in the roles where the most critical decisions are made about running the businesses. They are nearly non-existent at the very highest levels of leadership. We started this awards recognition program to highlight the talent, accomplishments, and worthiness of so many women for continued advancement to those most coveted and impactful roles in travel and tourism management.”

More than 80 women and organizations have been nominated for the witti awards. Winners will be presented at the Connect Travel Marketplace on February 20 in Kissimmee, Florida.

This will certainly be a very memorable year for the Top Women in Travel Awards presented in concert with the Connect Travel Marketplace and is honored to have Kelly Craighead, President and CEO of Cruise Lines International Association as its Master of Ceremonies.

“It is an incredible honor to join WITTI in celebrating the contributions and leadership of women throughout the travel and tourism industry,” said Craighead. “I especially want to thank this year’s award-winners for continuing to chart the path for future generations of female leaders.”

Shari Bailey, Vice President, Connect Travel who is one of the hosts of the event commented, “We’re thrilled that witti is honoring some of the brightest and most innovative women in the travel and tourism industry at this year’s Top Women in Travel Awards Dinner at Connect Travel Marketplace. The year's theme of "Powered by Passion" and with speakers like President Obama, witti’s efforts to recognize trailblazers is very much in line with what we’re promoting."

The witti Top Women in Travel Awards, in their second bi-annual year, was the first, and remains the leading global awards for women of its kind.
The awards are part of witti’s ongoing commitment to supporting, educating, and advocating for women who work in the travel industry. This year’s awards are awarded to the following women exemplifying excellence and achievement in these categories:

Outstanding Women in Destination Management and Marketing
• Carla Campos Vidal, Executive Director, The Puerto Rico Tourism Company
• Patti Culp, Executive Director, Alabama Travel Council
• Karyn Gruenberg, Senior VP, Brand USA, Partner Marketing and Strategic Alliances
• Anne Madison, CEO, 357 Communications

Outstanding Women in Hospitality
• Brandy Evans, VP Communications, Shreveport-Bossier Convention & Tourist Bureau
• Kelley Louise, Founder, Executive Director, Impact Travel Alliance

Outstanding Woman in Shopping Tourism
• Kathy Anderson, USA Luxury Shopping Consortium, Immediate Past President

Outstanding Women in Travel and Transportation
• Julie Dabaly Scott, Managing Director, Bunson Travel
• Haybina Hao, Regional Director for Greater China, World Travel and Tourism Council
• Claudia Menezes, Vice President, Go Pegasus
• Iris Salazar, Comptroller, Micato Safaris

Rising Stars in Travel and Tourism
• Tabatha Glass, Travel Manager, Hope for the Warriors
• Morgan Maravich, Director, Supplier Strategy, Global Business Travel Association
• Chiamaka Obuegbe, Founder and CEO, Juvenile Development Hub (a division of Amarinda Pastr's)

Outstanding Woman in Tourism Marketing
• Jennifer Ackerson, President, ALON Marketing Group

Outstanding Woman in Travel Blogging
• Phyllis Stoller, President, The Women’s Travel Group

Outstanding Woman in Travel/Tourism Media
• Dawn Drew, Founder and CEO, MOSTE, subsidiary of Dawn Drew Independent Productions

Outstanding Woman in Travel Research
• Carol Kline, Associate Professor, Appalachian State University,
• Marlise Taylor, Director, Tourism Research, Visit NC, Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina
• Monique Wells, Co-Owner, Entrée to Black Paris

Outstanding Mentor in Travel and Tourism
• Supriya Sharma, CEO, SAS Business Solutions
• Lavonne Wittman, Principal, Lavonne Wittmann Consulting

Lifetime Achievement in Travel and Tourism Award
• Gloria Bohan, President & CEO, Omega World Travel
• Bonnie Carlson, President and CEO, Bloomington Visitors Bureau
• Elke Dens, Chairman, Marketing Group, European Travel Commission
• Helen Marano, Founder & President, Marano Perspectives
• Diane Moore, CEO, Paul Gauguin Cruises
• Tammy Potts-O’Kelley, CEO, Randolph County Tourism Development Authority
• Holly Powers, President, Powers Travel and Event Management

The awards were judged by Barbra Anderson, Founding Partner, Destination Better, Anne Madison, CEO, 357 Communications, LLC, Davonne Reaves, President, The Vonne Group Beth Offenbacker, Executive/Leadership and Career Coach, Consultant, and Strategic Advisor with Waterford, Inc.

About Witti
Witti’s mission is to enhance the success of women in the travel and tourism industry through peer-to-peer networking, advocacy, awards recognition, and professional development opportunities. The specific benefits witti offers its members include: networking through meetings, conferences and social networking platforms;
recognition through the Top Women in Travel Awards; lead sharing; education and professional development; advocacy in promoting the visibility of women in the senior ranks of the travel industry; research on the status of women in industry.

For more information about Witti, contact, visit and follow on Twitter.

Connect Travel creates efficient and effective environments to expedite the sales process by connecting tourism professionals with the products, services, people and ideas that allow them to thrive in a rapidly evolving and highly competitive global marketplace.

For more information, visit

Media contact:
Paul Wilke
Upright Position Communications
Tel: +1-415-881-7995