Southeast Tourism Society Celebrates 40 Years of Educating, Advocating for Tourism

ATLANTA – Four decades ago, a small group of industry leaders within the Southeast gathered in Georgia to organize Southeast Tourism Society (STS). Throughout 2023, the organization is celebrating 40 years of championing, promoting, and innovating one of the region’s most critical economic drivers.

“For four decades, Southeast Tourism Society has helped advance careers in the tourism industry and has contributed to the Southeast’s standing as one of the busiest travel regions in America,” said Monica Smith, President & CEO. “After 40 years of accomplishments, we know that even more achievements are ahead of us. STS will continue to grow and evolve our efforts to develop and support tourism leaders throughout the region, as we work collectively to improve the lives of residents and visitors through travel and tourism.”

Seven member states – Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee – established STS on Sept. 14, 1983. The Society’s membership now includes 13 member states and the District of Columbia, more than 500 member organizations, and 15 industry partners.

The celebration begins with the launch of the brand new and enhanced STS website – – sponsored this year by North Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau. Throughout the year, activities via social media, e-news, and branding at all STS events will commemorate four decades of achievement. The official anniversary celebration will take place September 25-28, 2023, in Jackson, Mississippi during the annual Connections Conference.

About Southeast Tourism Society

The Southeast Tourism Society is a not-for-profit membership association dedicated to the development of travel and tourism professionals and organizations within the southeast region. STS’ mission is to empower a diverse network of tourism professionals through Education, Advocacy, Recognition, and Networking. Member states include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, plus the District of Columbia.

Hospitality Asset Managers Association Announces 2023 Board of Directors

Officials of the Hospitality Asset Managers Association (“HAMA”) today announced the 2023 board of directors of the organization. The diverse members of the board include a wide range of hospitality industry professionals with decades of experience under their belt.

Appointed at the group’s semi-annual conference, the new members include:
Derrick Yee, Placemakr, CHAM – President
Sarah Gulla, Pebblebrook Hotel Trust, CHAM – Vice-President
Chad Sorensen, CHMWarnick, CHAM – Membership Chair
Kerry Gaber, Host Hotels & Resorts – Treasurer
Justin Epps, BARINGS – Marketing Chair
Dina Winder, Highgate, CHAM – Industry Chair
David Danieli, Pebblebrook Hotel Trust – International Chair
Adam Tegge, Ashford, CHAM – Education Chair
Matthew Arrants, The Arrants Company, CHAM – 2022 President
Carly Thorp, McWhinney – Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Chair
Emily Miller, Atrium Holding Company – At-Large Board Member

“As the new HAMA president for 2023, I look forward to furthering several of the initiatives started in 2022, including expanding our outreach programs to groups underrepresented in our industry, as well as to our university partners to continue to mentor students who are interested in a career in asset management,” said Derrick Yee, HAMA’s newly appointed president. “Additionally, I will work with our board to expand the education and networking opportunities we provide for our members to ensure they have access to valuable opportunities to increase on their knowledge base.”

A veteran hospitality investment and asset management specialist with more than 15 years of experience in hotel asset management, acquisitions development and hotel operations, Yee currently serves as vice president of asset management for Placemakr, an innovator in the hospitality living sector that seeks to maximize real estate value by creating the ability to flexibly use inventory for either multi-family or hospitality stays. Prior to Placemakr, Yee served in senior asset management roles at Watermark Lodging Trust, Istithmar World/Dubai World and the Chartres Lodging Group. His portfolio experience has included a wide range of hospitality products, ranging from select-service to luxury and gaming resorts and ranging in size from 120 to over 4,000 rooms. He has maintained direct oversight on more than $3.0B in assets, with yearly revenues ranging from $10 – $200M. He also has overseen more than $75M in renovations and repositionings, as well as assisted in the underwriting more than $300M in acquisitions. Yee earned both his Certified Hotel Asset Manager (CHAM) and Certified Hotel Administrator (CHA) designations. Yee attended Cornell University, where he received both a Masters in Management in Hospitality (MMH) and his Masters in Business Administration (MBA).

“The new board will continue to work diligently to make sure we represent the interest of our members within the industry and the many organizations with whom we partner,” Yee added.

About HAMA

HAMA members are involved in asset management, acquisition, financing and disposition of hotels and resorts and are directly responsible for making decisions concerning capital investments, renovations, asset repositioning, operational policies and management selection. Its U.S. members represent more than 3,500 hotels and resorts across every major brand, accounting for 775,000 hotel rooms, 250,000 employees, $40 billion in annual revenue and $3 billion in capital expenditures. The organization boasts an additional 245 international affiliate members, as well.

Record Night at 5th Annual AHLA Gala with $1.2 Million Raised

LOS ANGELES – The AHLA Foundation raised a record $1.2 million at its 5th annual gala to celebrate winners and up and coming hospitality super stars, while raising funds to support the AHLA Foundation programs that are helping the industry recruit and retain the stars of tomorrow.

Each year, the Night of a Thousand Stars gala celebrates the hotel industry’s most important VIPs – the property-level talent that makes the industry so unique. Throughout the evening, industry leaders commemorated the 2023 Stars of the Industry Award winners and the individuals that embody the spirit of hospitality, while raising critical funds to support Foundation programs.

“The Night of a Thousand Stars Gala showcases the amazing and passionate women and men who make hotels feel like home and move our industry forward. So much of their work is behind the scenes, and this is a wonderful opportunity to give them the praise and recognition they deserve,” said Anna Blue, President of the AHLA Foundation. “The overwhelming support the hotel industry’s philanthropic arm received at this event will directly impact lives and the future of our industry for the better.”

As part of the celebration, President & CEO of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts Geoff Ballotti became the second ever recipient of the Arne Sorenson Social Impact Leadership Award for his extraordinary efforts to advance positive societal change.

“Geoff – much like Arne – is a true embodiment of all the good that hospitality represents. His empathy, his accessibility and his commitment to doing the right thing is what makes him one of our industry’s greatest leaders,” said AHLA President and CEO Chip Rogers. “The story of his success, from dishwasher to CEO of the world’s largest hotel franchisor, is inspirational – as is his dedication to ensuring the success of future hotel leaders. I am lucky to call Geoff a colleague and friend, and it fills me with pride to honor him with this award.”

The vital funds raised help Foundation beneficiaries such as Asia Magee, a graduate of the Empowering Youth Program in collaboration with Café Reconcile. Asia worked with Kimberly Chavis, a curriculum and training specialist at Café Reconcile, who helped Asia with her skills training that she now applies to her hotel job. See her story here.

Several industry organizations were also central to the evening’s success including two presenting sponsors, Hilton and Qwick, who sponsored the event at the highest levels.

“Hilton is proud to support the work the AHLA Foundation does to build careers, improve lives, and strengthen the lodging industry. Tonight’s distinguished winners and finalists, including our very own Katie Ward, bring their passion for what they do to work each day and create unforgettable experiences for guests across the country. We are honored to be here tonight to celebrate these incredibly talented leaders,” said Kevin Jacobs, CFO & President of Global Development at Hilton and Presenting Sponsor.

“Qwick and the AHLA Foundation have a shared vision to create a stronger industry workforce, which is why we are honored to again sponsor Night of a Thousand Stars. This important event not only provides the industry an opportunity to acknowledge those that make it great, but the funds raised help all of us to empower more people to work in hospitality,” said Jamie Baxter, Co-Founder & CEO of Qwick and Presenting Sponsor.

The foundation also announced the return of The Shining Star Award – it honors a person or organization that has gone above and beyond to advance the Foundation’s mission of helping people build careers, improve their lives, and strengthen the lodging industry. The heroic staff of the Hyatt Regency DFW International Airport received this award for their anti-human trafficking work.

AHLA’s 2023 Stars of the Industry winners were honored for their service to the industry:

North Star Award Winner:
Sandra Hudgins, Laundry Attendant, Sonesta Select Chattanooga at Hamilton Place, Chattanooga, TN

North Star Award Finalists:
Sandra Hudgins, Laundry Attendant, Sonesta Select Chattanooga at Hamilton Place, Chattanooga, TN
Azhar Mushtaq, Task Force Manager, Extended Stay America, Charlotte, NC
Oreste (Rusty) Pinera, Overnight Operations Manager, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, Orlando, FL

Outstanding General Manager of the Year (Full Service):
Katie Ward, Embassy Suites Minneapolis Airport, Bloomington, MN

Outstanding General Manager of the Year (Select Service):
Harold Daniels, Travelodge by WH, Memphis, TN

Paving The Way Award:
Rachel Moniz, Principal & Chief Operating Officer, HEI Hotels & Resorts, Norwalk, CO

Stevan Porter Emerging Hospitality Leader of the Year:
Madelyn Dingam, Marketing Manager, Cliff House Maine, Cape Neddick, ME

About AHLA

The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) is the sole national association representing all segments of the U.S. lodging industry. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., AHLA focuses on strategic advocacy, communications support and workforce development programs to move the industry forward. Learn more at

About AHLA Foundation

The AHLA Foundation, the charitable giving arm of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, is dedicated to helping people build careers, improve their lives and strengthen the lodging industry. We provide impactful solutions that drive the recruitment, retention and development of individuals for life-long careers in hospitality. To transform the industry and change lives, we connect the unemployed and underemployed with new career pathways and provide educational programs and resources to support their professional advancement. The Foundation is funded by grants and charitable contributions from generous individuals and organizations who want to support individuals seeking opportunities to thrive in the hotel and lodging industry. Learn more at