50 Most Highly effective Folks of 2023: Tourism & Transportation

Tourism and transportation are the lifeblood of Central Florida, driving financial prosperity and connectivity. Our area’s world-renowned points of interest and leisure venues draw guests from throughout the globe, stimulating job development and enterprise alternatives. Environment friendly transportation networks, together with highways, airports, and public transit, facilitate seamless mobility, enabling residents and vacationers alike to entry our numerous choices simply. 

This synergy between tourism and transportation not solely boosts our financial system but additionally fosters cultural change and neighborhood improvement. Central Florida’s dedication to those very important sectors ensures that our area stays a hub of exercise, a vacation spot of selection, and a spot the place individuals and alternatives converge. Listed below are the Most Highly effective Folks in Tourism and Transportation.

1. Jeff Vahle | President, Walt Disney World Resort 

As one of many largest employers in Central Florida, Walt Disney World Resort has a huge impact on the area and Orlando’s tourism business. For President Jeff Vahle, there are three issues that drive the corporate and make Walt Disney World tick: “visitors, solid and neighborhood.” A 33-year Disney veteran, Vahle turned president of the vacation spot in early 2020 and targeted on these three parts.  

With regards to guests, he says, “Friends love Walt Disney World, and we work arduous to maintain it that means.” The leisure large is at all times including one thing new and upgrading the resort. “TRON Lightcycle / Run launched this yr and have become an immediate favourite,” says Vahle. “In our resorts, we’ve refreshed rooms, added eating places and developed the expertise—all whereas retaining basic parts individuals love. And we proceed to spend money on different elements of the visitor expertise.”

As for the Disney solid, Vahle factors out, “With our individuals, we provide improvement in any respect ranges. We hosted a convention for salaried solid on management, enterprise and wellness, and received an incredible response. Hourly solid and workers have free academic advantages that greater than 3,800 [including Disneyland] have used to earn vocational certificates and school levels. And right here at Walt Disney World greater than 2,500 solid members had been promoted into management in simply the final yr.” 

Efforts to assist the neighborhood are underway. “To date this yr, Walt Disney World has offered greater than $20 million in direct and in-kind donations to wish-granting organizations that help youngsters with important sicknesses and their households,” says Vahle. “It is a trigger that lives very near our hearts.”

Picture Courtesy of Walt Disney World

2. Casandra Matej | President & Ceo, Go to Orlando s

50mostp23 Tourism CassandraSince becoming a member of Go to Orlando in February 2021, Casandra Matej’s focus has been on the restoration of Orlando’s tourism business submit pandemic by creating a stable workforce to tackle the duty. “We’ve deliberately targeted on our individuals, as the muse of the whole lot we do and not too long ago earned recognition as probably the greatest locations to work in Central Florida,” says the president and CEO of Go to Orlando.   

Below Matej’s management, the group is accountable for the branding, advertising and promoting of Orlando on a world scale and represents greater than 1,400 member firms. In Might 2022, Go to Orlando, in collaboration with Orlando Financial Partnership, launched a brand new international model, “Unbelievably Actual” that helped Orlando preserve its management place and powerful visitation numbers. The success will be measured in numbers. In 2022 Go to Orlando’s efforts generated greater than $87.6 billion in financial influence and drew 74 million guests to Central Florida, a 25 % enhance over the variety of guests in 2021. 

Matej factors out, “The influence tourism makes on our financial system is clear in households being taxed much less and income generated to assist pay for essential neighborhood companies akin to schooling, public security, infrastructure and environmental applications.”

The Go to Orlando CEO is very happy with her workforce members who she says, “come to work day-after-day able to roll up their sleeves and champion for the No. 1 vacation spot within the U.S.”  Their unwavering dedication extends past the business and into the neighborhood, with volunteer initiatives that embody serving meals, pupil mentorship and charitable donations. “Finally, our workforce members are the guts of Go to Orlando’s many accomplishments. Their dedication and zeal are the driving pressure behind our shared success,” she says.

Picture by Roberto Gonzalez

3. Kevin Thibault | Ceo, Higher Orlando Aviation Authority 

50mostp23 Tourism KevinKevin Thibault took over the reigns as chief government officer of Orlando Worldwide Airport and Orlando Govt Airport in March 2022. Previous to assuming the CEO place, he spent 18 years on the Florida Division of Transportation in numerous roles, together with serving as Florida’s Secretary of Transportation. All his expertise, little question, has made him greater than certified to maintain Higher Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA) transferring ahead on a path to turning into a multimodal hub.

As Thibault seems to be again over the previous yr or so, it’s the September 2022 opening of Terminal C, the biggest development mission ever undertaken by GOAA, that’s most noteworthy. Specializing in the longer term, he feedback in regards to the improvement of the group’s new Strategic Plan. “The final Strategic Plan Replace was accomplished in 2013, and with the numerous modifications occurring not solely within the business, however right here in Central Florida over the past 10 years, the implementation of recent aspirational targets for the subsequent 10 years facilities across the evolution of this transportation asset.”

 GOAA’s imaginative and prescient, a blueprint for the subsequent decade, is designed to fulfill new challenges dealing with the transportation sector, with the aim of transferring extra individuals and items than ever earlier than. “From being a multimodal hub, to supporting over 13 million Florida residents inside a two-hour radius, it’s actually thrilling to set a renewed imaginative and prescient for what the area’s mobility wants might be,” Thibault says.

Picture by Beverly Brosius

4. Mark Tester | Govt Director, Orange County Conference Heart

50mostp23 Tourism MarkThought-about one of many largest exhibition-space venues in the US, the Orange County Conference Heart (OCCC) welcomes the whole lot from medical expertise conferences to boat reveals to dinosaur experiences. On the helm of operating this mega facility is Mark Tester. The manager director oversees OCCC’s 2 million sq. ft of exhibition house, plus assembly rooms, ballrooms, a theater, a lecture corridor and out of doors house. Since becoming a member of OCCC in 2020, he’s accountable for the general operations, planning, advertising and all actions on the conference middle.

Among the many new OCCC initiatives debuting within the final yr underneath his steering is the Orlando Well being Digital Care Heart. The well being facility is staffed by Orlando Well being workforce members who can join attendees in have to a medical supplier by way of a digital go to in a personal room. The digital doctor can consider medical circumstances from chilly and flu signs to pores and skin rashes, sprains and different minor well being points, in addition to write prescriptions.

Tester is worked up about OCCC’s first autonomous safety robotic, designed to supply 360-degree video surveillance because it screens crowds. Its video stream connects on to OCCC’s Safety Command Heart. The robotic can also be outfitted with thermal imaging capabilities that may detect hearth, and it has a assist button that attendees can make the most of if wanted. 

Tester says, “We sit up for introducing this unbelievable expertise to The Heart of Hospitality,” including that “we’re desperate to see the improved service the robotic will present to the practically 1.5 million visitors we welcome every year.”

Picture Courtesy Of Orange County Conference Heart

5. Karen Irwin | President & COO, Common Orlando Resort

50mostp23 Tourism KarenSince starting her profession as a member of the opening workforce for Common Studios Florida in 1990, Karen Irwin has been on board in a number of management roles that contributed to the leisure firm’s great development and growth. Now because the president and COO, she’s accountable for oversight of Common Studios and Islands of Journey theme parks, Volcano Bay water park and CityWalk leisure complicated.

This previous summer time, Irwin welcomed visitors to the all-new Minion Land on Illumination Avenue attraction, which she and the Common workforce labored to convey to fruition. “This immersive and fascinating new addition to our vacation spot was delivered to life in a partnership with our colleagues at Illumination and places our visitors into the guts, and villainous minds, of this diabolically enjoyable franchise. This wealthy new atmosphere has a lot for all our visitors to get pleasure from,” she says of the mission.

Trying towards the longer term, Irwin is already engaged in creating the brand new DreamWorks land, scheduled to debut at Common Studios in 2024. It is going to function characters from in style franchises like Shrek, Trolls and Kung Fu Panda.

She’s additionally been targeted on Common’s work pressure and bettering wages and advantages. Earlier this yr, Common elevated the minimal wage and made enhancements to its 401(ok) match, tuition reimbursement applications, and compassion and father or mother go away. And that’s not all. Irwin and her workforce are set to welcome a brand-new theme park to Orlando in the summertime of 2025, Epic Universe. 

Picture by Kevin Kolczynski

6. Harris Rosen | President & COO, Rosen Motels & Resorts

50mostp23 Tourism HarrisHarris Rosen is an icon within the Orlando neighborhood. Described as a visionary chief within the hospitality, philanthropy and healthcare industries, Rosen has impacted Orlando in a optimistic means for nearly 5 a long time. What started with the acquisition of a small 256-room High quality Inn turned—with time and arduous work—Rosen Motels & Resorts, a set of seven Orlando-area accommodations with 6,500 guestrooms and suites.  

His philanthropic endeavors are quite a few. “Within the context of our firms’ success spanning practically 50 years, now we have been blessed past my wildest desires.” Rosen says, noting the corporate will mark its fiftieth anniversary on June 24, 2024. “Our success in enterprise supplies me with a chance to offer again and I stay targeted on doing so in perpetuity.” 

Rosen supported the College of Florida’s work with the ReMission Alliance In opposition to Mind Tumors with a $12 million reward. He additionally established the Rosen Medical Heart, A Place for Therapeutic and Wellness.

Picture by Roberto Gonzalez

7. Patrick Goddard | President, Brightline 

50mostp23 Tourism PatrickFor years, the inter-city high-speed passenger rail that may hyperlink Central Florida with South Florida appeared like a dream but to grow to be actuality. Nonetheless, this fall Patrick Goddard and his workforce welcomed the practice to its spanking-new Brightline station at Orlando Worldwide Airport. An accomplishment worthy of a standing ovation.

Since October 2016 when Goddard joined Brightline as COO, and the next yr when he turned president, his goal has been to attach the 2 areas, with a aim of getting vehicles off the highway and offering individuals with a quicker, safer and extra handy strategy to get from Central Florida to South Florida.

Goddard has nothing however reward for the 50-member workforce led by Michael Cegelis and Scott Gammon. “First let me say, it’s by no means about a person, it’s at all times in regards to the workforce,” persevering with, he provides, “And I simply assume that that workforce demonstrated a rare degree of resilience in getting this herculean job completed on time and on finances. Rides start Sept. 22.

Picture by Roberto Gonzalez

8. Nicole Martz |President & CEO, Sanford Airport Authority

50mostp23 Tourism NicoleWith a imaginative and prescient that goes past simply serving air vacationers to the Orlando Sanford Worldwide Airport, Nicole Martz has made an influence on Seminole County.

“I’m extraordinarily happy with our airport workforce as we proceed to capitalize on the success of a $72 million growth and redefine ourselves as an financial driver for the complete area,” she says. Elaborating on the airport’s function within the county, she continues, “It’s not only a main transportation hub, however a middle of commerce with a $3.5 billion influence on Florida’s financial system. With 530 acres obtainable for improvement, it’s my job to hunt out companions who wish to make the most of the final sizable greenfield improvement websites in Seminole County.”

The airport has grow to be the primary selection for tens of millions of vacationers who get pleasure from continuous entry to greater than 70 locations within the United State and Canada, a lot of these cities not served by different airports. 

Picture by Courtesy Sanford Airport Authority

9. Maria Triscari |President & CEO, Worldwide Drive Resort Space Chamber Of Commerce 

50mostp23 Tourism MariaA powerhouse on I-Drive, Maria Triscari has been on the helm of the Worldwide Drive Resort Space Chamber of Commerce because it was established in 1989. Her largest accomplishments over the past yr is transferring ahead the proposed Sunshine Hall program, which is able to create an east-west mass transit route from OIA to I-Drive and supply an I-Drive station for each SunRail and Brightline to service the I-Drive hall.

“In 2020, when Brightline was planning to bypass the I-Drive hall, I led a really profitable marketing campaign to oppose this route that didn’t embody service to I-Drive. By way of my relationship with Common Orlando, we had been in a position to be a part of forces, and the Chamber and Common created and lobbied for the proposed Sunshine Hall program,” she says. Triscari’s held quite a few conferences with I-Drive stakeholders and elected officers, efficiently uniting Brightline, SunRail and officers on this game-changing initiative.

Picture by Courtesy Drive Resort Space Chamber Of Commerce

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