Jim Hagen has served as South Dakota’s Secretary of Tourism since 2011. He has a passion for seeing the visitor industry in all corners of our state grow to new heights. Before becoming the Secretary of Tourism, Jim served four and a half years as the National Fundraising Campaign Director and Public Relations Director for the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation. From 2004-2006, he served as South Dakota’s Secretary of Tourism and State Development. From 1995-2002, he served as Chief of Staff and Special Advisor to Governor Bill Janklow.
Jim was honored to be named the National State Tourism Director of the Year in August 2014. He was chosen by his peers in the National Council of State Tourism Directors and the U.S. Travel Association. Under his leadership, and in close partnership with the tourism industry in South Dakota, the state has set new economic impact records every year over the past seven years, including all-time spending and visitation records. During his tenure as Secretary, the Department of Tourism has been the recipient of numerous regional and national marketing and public relations awards.
In March 2014, Jim was appointed to the 32-member National Travel and Tourism Advisory Board (TTAB) by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. The board is charged with advising the United States Secretary of Commerce on travel and tourism issues affecting our country. In March 2016, he was reappointed by Secretary Pritzker to another two year term on the TTAB. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross reappointed Jim to another two year term in September 2018. Jim also serves on the Executive Board of the U.S. Travel Association and chairs the Membership Governance Committee. In January 2017, he was elected Chairman of the National Council of State Tourism Directors.
Jim grew up in the northeastern region of The Mount Rushmore State. He is a graduate of Aberdeen Central High School and the University of Southern California. He loves South Dakota and its hidden gems. He is always up for a good adventure, so be sure and invite him to explore your business or attraction in your corner of the state.
Rohit Bhargava is an innovation and marketing expert, skilled facilitator, and keynote speaker. After a successful 15-year career as a brand and marketing strategist at two of the largest agencies in the world (Ogilvy and Leo Burnett), Rohit became an entrepreneur and has since started three companies.
He is the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of five books on topics as wide ranging as the future of business and building a brand with personality and has delivered sold out keynote presentations and workshops to business leaders in 32 countries. His signature book Non-Obvious is updated annually with 15 new trend predictions, has been read and shared by more than 1 million readers and is translated in ten languages. Rohit has been invited to share his insights at some of the most forward-looking organizations in the world including Intel, NASA, Disney, JP Morgan Chase, LinkedIn, Microsoft, American Express, BP, the World Bank, Coca-Cola and hundreds of others.
Outside of his consulting work, Rohit also teaches his popular signature course on storytelling and marketing at Georgetown University in Washington DC and has been invited to deliver guest lectures at many other prestigious schools including Stanford and Wharton. For the past 14 years Rohit has also been writing his personal “Influential Marketing Blog” which has been featured in global media and named one of the top 25 marketing blogs in the world by AdAge magazine. He is regularly interviewed and featured as an expert commentator in global media including Harvard Business Review, The Guardian, and NPR. Rohit also writes a monthly column for GQ magazine in Brazil on technology and trends.
Thanks to his many years of sharing insights, Rohit has been recognized alongside visionary business leaders like Sir Richard Branson and Tom Peters as a “Top 100 Thought Leader In Trustworthy Business Behavior” and was named by global recruiting firm Korn Ferry as one of the “Most Influential South Asians In Media and Entertainment.”
On a personal level, Rohit is married and lives with his wife and two young boys in the Washington DC area. He is a lifelong fan of anything having to do with the Olympics (he’s been to five so far!), actively avoids anything having to do with cauliflower (yuck!) and believes that the most entertaining and impactful job he will ever have is being a great dad and teaching his sons to be kind when no one expects it, curious about the things others take for granted, and confident enough to change the world.
Libby Gill knows change. She grew up on two continents and went to eight different schools before putting herself through college waiting tables. She started her first job in entertainment only to go through three mergers in five years, where she went from assistant in a small production company to vice president of publicity, advertising and promotion for Sony’s worldwide television group.
After heading communications at media giants Universal, Sony and Turner Broadcasting, Libby left the corporate world after nearly twenty years to become an entrepreneur. In her mid-forties when many people are slowing down, Libby founded Libby Gill & Company, an executive coaching and leadership consulting firm based in Los Angeles.
Libby now guides clients - including Avery Dennison, CA Technologies, Cisco, Comcast, Deloitte, Disney, Eli Lilly, First American Insurance, Honda, Intel, Kellogg’s, Microsoft, Oracle, PayPal, Royal Caribbean, Speedo, Sutter Health, Viacom, Warner Bros., and Wells Fargo - to lead their teams through change, challenge, and chaos.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, Libby shows high-performing individuals and organizations why hope IS a strategy - if you have the right mindset, methodology and expertise. She shares the science-based concepts of hope theory to provide the structured business discipline and competitive advantage you need in today’s swiftly changing world. In her executive coaching, leadership consulting, and keynote presentations, Libby guides you to:
- Reframe change as your biggest growth opportunity
- Re-energize your best performers to reach their potential
- Re-invent your company culture to embrace ambiguity
As Libby was reinventing her professional life, her personal life also underwent a major transition. She chronicled her journey of overcoming the self-perceived limitations left behind by a family legacy of alcoholism, divorce, mental illness and suicide in her bestselling book TRAVELING HOPEFULLY: How to Lose Your Family Baggage and Jumpstart Your Life.
Business leaders including Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh and Dr. Ken Blanchard have endorsed Libby’s award-winning book, YOU UNSTUCK: Mastering the New Rules of Risk-taking in Work and Life. Her latest book, Hope IS a Strategy: Leading through Change, Challenge, and Chaos, will be published in April 2018.
A frequent media guest, Libby has shared her success strategies on CNN, NPR, the Today Show, and in BusinessWeek, Time, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and more. A former columnist for the Dallas Morning News, Libby lives in Los Angeles and is the proud mother of two fabulous millennials, one in graduate school and one in college.
Roger Dow is president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, the Washington, D.C.-based organization representing all segments of travel in America—an industry that generates $2.4 trillion in economic output and supports 15.6 million jobs. U.S. Travel’s mission is to increase travel to and within the United States.
U.S. Travel champions a pro-growth, pro-connectivity, pro-traveler agenda, and advocates for policies that reduce barriers to travel and improve America’s travel infrastructure. In addition, the association provides essential research, such as the monthly Travel Trends Index, and engages, connects and informs the travel industry at events year-round.
Dow regularly meets with administration officials and congressional leaders to discuss important travel issues, and his efforts have resulted in major policy victories for travel and travelers. He was instrumental in establishing Brand USA, the highly effective national destination marketing organization. He has engaged in efforts to expand trusted-traveler programs such as Global Entry, TSA Precheck and the Visa Waiver Program, which enhance both security and travel efficiency by thoroughly pre-vetting travelers.
Dow leads a team advocating for policies to increase domestic and international inbound travel, including efforts to elevate domestic leisure as well as business and meetings-related travel. These ventures build on other successes under Dow’s leadership, including the growth of U.S. Travel’s annual IPW international marketplace, each of which generates $4.7 billion in direct bookings to U.S. destinations over the ensuing three years.
In 2018, Dow led the creation of the Visit U.S. Coalition, a multi-industry group of 15 trade associations committed to promoting travel’s sizable downstream economic value and pursuing policies that bolster international inbound travel.
Additionally, Dow and U.S. Travel are leaders of the Meetings Mean Business Coalition, which provides resources to promote and defend the economic and business value of face-to-face meetings. Dow was honored with Meeting Professionals International’s (MPI) 2018 Industry Leader Award for outstanding contribution to the meetings industry.
Prior to joining U.S. Travel in 2005, Dow advanced through the ranks at Marriott International in a tenure spanning 34 years, where he rose to senior vice president of global and field sales. He has held seats on the boards of ASAE, ASAE Foundation, PCMA, MPI Foundation, GWSAE, the Travel Institute, RE/MAX International and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Committee of 100.
Dow served in the United States Army with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam, where he received the Bronze Star and other citations. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Seton Hall University and was honored as a Most Distinguished Alumnus in 2012. He holds an honorary doctorate for business administration in hospitality management from Johnson & Wales University.
Christopher L. Thompson is President and CEO of Brand USA, the nation's public-private partnership dedicated to increasing international visitation to the United States through marketing and promotional efforts. In this role, Chris is responsible for accelerating the organization’s efforts to build and execute effective marketing strategies to increase U.S. travel exports, create jobs, strengthen the economy, and help enhance the image of the United States with people all over the world. Under Chris’ leadership, Brand USA has nearly tripled its partnership network and more than doubled its partner contributions and program offerings.
Chris has over 30 years of experience in the travel and tourism industry. Prior to joining Brand USA on Nov. 1, 2012, Chris was president and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA. Under his leadership, Florida realized record growth in international visitation.
He began his career in tourism with the Division of Tourism in the former Florida Department of Commerce in April 1983, and he became bureau chief for domestic tourism in April 1986. In November 1988, he joined the Leon County (Florida) Tourist Development Council as the organization’s first executive director, and in April 1991, he took leadership of the Tallahassee (Florida) Area Convention and Visitors Bureau as president and CEO.
In August 1995, Chris founded MarketServe, Inc., a professional management, marketing and planning services company based in Tallahassee, Florida. Two years later, he joined VISIT FLORIDA as senior vice-president, partner development. He was promoted to chief operating officer in May 2003, and named president and CEO in May 2009.
Throughout his career, Chris has been honored with a number of industry awards and recognized for numerous accomplishments, including being named the first recipient of Skål International’s USA National Tourism Leadership Award in 2018 in recognition of his “very meaningful contribution to the growth and success of tourism in the United States.” In 2015, Chris received the NTA National Tour Association's (NTA) Pioneer Award for his accomplishments in producing significant changes in the travel industry. He was named one of the "Top Twenty-Five Most Extraordinary Minds in Sales and Marketing" by the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International in both 2009 and 2013.
Chris is currently on the board of Destinations International, where he is on the organization’s Executive and Global Leadership committees. He is also a member of the Advisory Board for the Eric Friedheim Tourism Institute, an entity within the Department of Tourism, Recreation, and Sport Management at the University of Florida.
A Certified Destination Management Executive (CDME) since May 2010, Chris has also been a member of and served on the leadership boards of numerous other national, regional, state, and local trade associations and organizations. The list includes the U.S. Travel Association; U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board (to the Secretary of Commerce); Travel and Tourism Advisory Council (to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Miami Branch); Association of Travel Marketing Executives; Southeast Tourism Society; and Skål.
Additionally, Chris is a trustee and a member of the Executive Committee for the Federal City Council, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to the improvement of the District of Columbia. Chris earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from the University of Florida in 1980. He and his wife, Susan, have two grown sons, Christopher and James.
As the former owner of three different businesses, including the largest group of Hertz Rent-a-Car franchise locations in the U.S., Mel Kleiman’s expertise is based on both his experience as a hands-on business owner as well as upon his 30+ years serving as president of Humetrics. Founded by Kleiman in 1976, Humetrics has trained thousands of hiring managers and business owners worldwide in the best practice tools and techniques needed to successfully recruit, select, and retain top talent.
In 1999, Kleiman was awarded the National Speakers’ Association Certified Speaking Professional designation. Given to only the top 10 percent of speakers worldwide, this designation is earned through the documentation and evaluation of a speaker’s professional associations, education, performance, and business management standards. Kleiman is also a Certified Consultant to Management under the auspices of the American Association of Professional Consultants.
He has written five books, including the bestselling Hire Tough, Manage Easy, and is a regular contributor to industry publications such as Restaurant Hospitality, MultiUnit Franchise, and Convenience Store Decisions. Mel also serves as a board member for both the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation and the Workforce Institute.
Humetrics’ clients comprise leading restaurant, retail, and franchise concerns as well as over 100 trade and professional associations including Coca-Cola, Comfort Keepers, Continental Airlines, Domino's Pizza, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Exxon Mobil, Harley Davidson, the Food Marketing Institute, Massage Envy, National Association of Convenience Stores, Regis Salons, Sheetz, Supercuts, Sysco Foods, Time Warner, and United Van Lines.
When it comes to hospitality and guest service excellence, Larry Stuart literally wrote the book on the subject “The Spirit of Hospitality”, with 40+ years of experience in hospitality management, food and beverage solution innovation, guest service systems and marketing strategies.
Larry is the Managing Partner and VP of Food & Beverage for LS Hospitality, a leading consulting firm that provides high profile hospitality brands with services that include operational assessments, financial forecasting, business planning, restaurant design / startup, key management identification, staff training, and vendor partnerships, with a focus on people-to-people relationships.
Larry’s success in the design, development, start-up and management of hotel and food service operations is unparalleled, leading restaurant and hotel entities to superior ratings from leading hotel and restaurant rating services such as Zagat and Trip Advisor. Most notably, his leadership and contagious passion for guest service excellence was a key driver in the Walt Disney World Dolphin receiving several prestigious industry awards from sources such as Conde Nast, Mobil and the Orlando Sentinel.
After his tenure with the Walt Disney World Dolphin, Larry launched Larry Stuart Hospitality, where he helped orchestrate the launch of KIWI Airlines and led major repositioning and turnaround projects for the Food & Beverage divisions of the Hilton at Walt Disney World Village and Motor City Casino Hotel, with resounding success in increasing revenue, slashing employee turnover, and building training programs. Most recently, Larry launched Stuart Hospitality, where he partnered with HEI Hotels Partnership to take over the $5 million F&B operation of the Embassy Suites Downton Orlando, saving the property from losing its multi-million-dollar investment in the Hilton brand flag.
Larry has positively impacted brands that include the Hilton Worldwide, Wyland Galleries at Disney’s BoardWalk, Embassy Suites Orlando, NASCAR Café, Loews Hotels at Universal Studios FL, The Peabody Hotel, Universal Studios Florida, Southwest Airlines, Cornell University, and other related world-class brands. He also served on the Board of Trustees for the FRLA, contributes as a Hospitality Expert for Fox News, and presides as President of the Cornell Hotel Society Florida. He has also contributed as adjunct professor from Cornell University and Valencia Community College, providing instruction on innovative business and programing strategies, marketing solutions, guest service deliverables, and hospitality management.
When Larry isn’t inspiring teams in hospitality excellence, he donates his time and energy to charitable organizations such as Samaritans Purse International Relief, Ronald McDonald House, Orlando Union Rescue Mission, Give Kids the World, the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, and others. Larry holds a Bachelor of Science in Hotel & Restaurant Administration from Cornell University, and is currently authoring a book titled “The Spirit of Hospitality”, the fulfillment of a lifelong dream to encourage others through his passion for hospitality driven servant leadership.
A dedicated family man, Larry enjoys spending time with his wonderful wife, his 4 children, and his 2 grandchildren.
Trevor Meers is Editorial Content Director of Meredith’s Midwest Living, leading both the brand’s 950,000-circulation lifestyle magazine and its custom content studio. Midwest Living has been recognized three times by the Society of American Travel Writers for best general-interest travel content. The Great Plains Journalism Awards named Midwest Living 2016 Magazine of the Year, and Meers was a finalist for Folio’s 2017 National Editor of the Year. He graduated from the University of Nebraska journalism school and Drake University’s MBA program.
Trever Cartwright’s work focuses primarily on helping client organizations and their leaders get clear, get focused and get moving on their most important strategic, organizational and operational challenges. He also facilitates high-stakes, issue-based discussions with diverse stakeholder groups where reaching a common ground is imperative in order to move forward.
Trever works across multiple industry categories, including Travel & Tourism, Consumer, Healthcare, Energy, Education and Government. His Travel & Tourism clients have included South Dakota Department of Tourism, Visit California, Travel Oregon, Colorado Tourism Office, Explore Minnesota, Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, San Francisco Travel, Visit West Hollywood, and Travel Portland.
The founding partner of Coraggio Group, Trever’s diverse background includes nearly 10 years as co-owner of an advertising agency, and the leader of the national sales force for a Fortune 50 company. He is a published author and has been a guest lecturer at Harvard and Stanford Law schools, University of Oregon, Portland State University and for numerous professional associations, including the Association of Legal Administrators, Society for Human Resource Management, and the International Quality and Productivity Center.
Trever is certified in Prosci® change management methodology.
Matthew Landkamer helps clients think through, better understand and then take action on their most important strategy, organizational change, and brand challenges. His art and design background, combined with hands-on business experience, allows him to bring a unique balance of creative design thinking and strategic rigor to each of his client engagements. He is a skilled facilitator and problem solver with an impressive ability to start the conversations that need to be had inside organizations, and among organizational leaders—the kind of conversations that lead to valuable insights, bold thinking and needed results.
Matthew has spent 18 years leading marketing and strategy initiatives for organizations of all sizes from large companies to small, entrepreneurial ventures. He has worked with a wide range of Travel & Tourism organizations such as Visit San Luis Obispo County, Travel Portland, Visit West Hollywood, Ontario Convention & Visitors Bureau, and NBC Universal Studios Hollywood.
Matthew holds a B.A. from Nebraska Wesleyan University. He is certified in the Prosci® Change Management methodology, and has completed training in Public Interest Design through the Social, Economic, and Environmental Design (SEED) Network.
Andy Gerlach was appointed Secretary of the South Dakota Department of Revenue in December of 2010. Prior to becoming Secretary of Revenue, he served with the South Dakota Department of Military and Veteran's Affairs, first as Finance Officer and later as Deputy Secretary. He started his service to the state in 1993 as a Budget Analyst with the Bureau of Finance and Management.
Gerlach has served on the Pierre/Fort Pierre United Way Advisory Board, South Dakota National Guard Museum Board of Directors, and Lutheran Memorial Church of Pierre Board of Trustees. His affiliations include the Federation of Tax Administrators and the American Legion.
A native of Armour, Gerlach earned his Bachelor's degree from Northern State University, Aberdeen. He continued his education and earned his Masters of Business Administration from The University of South Dakota and a Master of Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College. In 2013 he graduated from the Council of State Governments Henry Toll Fellowship Program. Gerlach is a Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and has served in Afghanistan.
A lifelong entrepreneur, Ryan Thompson began working at age 11 with a paper route in Ada, Oklahoma and by age 18, he was managing a multimillion-dollar event budget and traveling the world to produce conferences and tradeshows. By 21, Ryan had visited more than 30 countries and logged 1,300,000 airline miles – earning lifetime status on American Airlines among others.
In 2000, Ryan decided to combine his love of marketing, technology and experience design with his passion for travel and Aria was born. Over 15 years, Aria became nationally known for destination-focused branding and technology-enabled marketing solutions that engaged consumers in ways that paid advertising could not. Aria evolved through mergers and acquisitions into Odyssey, a digital agency built for tourism, entertainment and lifestyle brands. In 2018, Odyssey was acquired by Miles Partnership to expand the organization’s story and experiential marketing capabilities. Today, Ryan is a Senior Vice President at Miles Partnership and operates a portfolio of business including Odyssey.
Ryan is a nationally recognized public speaker on topics relating to tourism, strategy, consumer behavior, destination marketing and digital advertising. In 2013, Outskirts Press published Ryan’s first book Disruption – Destination Marketing in the Post-Advertising Age available at booksellers nationwide.
Matt Clement's passion for data-driven, innovative marketing solutions has contributed to 10+ years of success in the tourism and gaming industries. His work has been covered in multiple industry publications and he regularly presents thought leadership topics in digital media and marketing strategy at major travel and tourism industry events.