Destination Organization Leadership Award

The Destination Organization Leadership Award was created in 2017 and is amongst the association's most prestigious honors, recognizing those outstanding individuals who, through their exceptional work and achievements, have made a significant contribution to the destination marketing industry and a profound difference in the communities they serve.

Any destination organization leader who has demonstrated a significant and long-term contribution to the destination marketing industry may be nominated. Specifically, one whom has provided leadership, innovation and credibility among their colleagues and has developed a reputation for excellence through the management of their organization and the use of best practices, cutting-edge technology and strategy.

2021 Honoree

Elliott Ferguson headshot

Elliott Ferguson

President and CEO, Destination DC

Elliott Ferguson serves as President and CEO of Destination DC (DDC), the official destination marketing organization for Washington, DC.

A 30-year veteran of the travel and hospitality industry, Ferguson leads DDC’s efforts to generate economic opportunity for the District through meetings and tourism, overseeing the organization’s convention and tourism sales, marketing, finance and business development operations.

Ferguson began his tenure with DDC in December 2001 as the Vice President of Convention Sales, became Senior Vice President of Convention Sales and Services in 2005 and has served as President and CEO since 2009.  Prior to DDC, he was Director of Sales and Vice President of Sales at the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau and Director of Sales at the Savannah CVB.

Ferguson was National Chair of the board of directors for the U.S. Travel Association from February 2019 to  February 2021, where he guided the board and association’s efforts to advance policies that facilitate more  international and domestic travel. He is currently chair of the compensation committee.

In January 2021, he was named Board Chair of Tourism Diversity Matters, an organization focused on creating diversity, equity and inclusion opportunities at all levels of the workforce. He has been instrumental in advancing conversations about race and racism throughout the hospitality industry.

As the tourism industry grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, Ferguson is focused on strategic recovery with many organizations including DDC’s Recovery Advisory Committee, Connected DMV and the Downtown  Recovery Work Group.

He also serves on the board of directors of the following organizations: Advisory Board of the Smithsonian National Zoo; DC Jazz Festival; Ryan Kerrigan “Blitz for the Better” Foundation and the United Way of the National Capital Area. He represents DDC as part of the Hospitality Alliance of Washington, D.C.

Ferguson received a Bachelor of Arts in Marketing and Business Administration from Savannah State University. His many industry memberships include Professional Conference Management Association, International  Association of Exhibition Executives, Destinations International, National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners,  Meeting Professionals International and American Society of Association Executives.

Ferguson and his wife, Telesa Via, also a hospitality industry veteran, are longtime residents of Capitol Hill. He is active with Capital Partners for Education, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and Delta Sigma Pi.

Past Honorees

2020 Destination Organization Leadership Awardee: 

Joe D'Alessandro, President & CEO of San Francisco Travel Association

2019 Destination Organization Leadership Awardee: 

Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico

2018 Destination Organization Leadership Awardee: 

Caroline Beteta, President & CEO, Visit California

2017 Destination Organization Leadership Awardee:

Rossi Ralenkotter, President & CEO, Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority