Destinations International Hall of Fame

Pioneers. Champions. Influencers. Industry leaders. These are the men and women who have advanced and improved the destination industry through their leadership, innovation and creativity. 

Launched in 2014, the Hall of Fame Award was created to recognize individuals who have changed the future of the destination industry for the better. It is the highest honor that Destinations International can bestow.

Our goal is to shine a spotlight on these pioneers, champions and influencers, and allow our members around the globe an opportunity to get to know them and their work. The selection process is based on how each inductee shaped or influenced the destination marketing and management industry, created positive change, and how their contributions created long lasting impact on travel promotion today.

This prestigious award provides a historical narrative of the leaders who have helped grow and nurture the destination marketing industry through the years.

Nominations Open for 2021

Nominate an industry leader for the 2021 Hall of Fame.

2020 Honorees

Bonnie Carlson headshot

Bonnie Carlson

President & CEO, Bloomington CVB (MN)
Bonnie Carlson has been the president and CEO of the Bloomington, Minnesota Convention and Visitors Bureau for the past 35 years. During her 45-year career in hospitality and travel, Bonnie has been very active with local, national, and international organizations that promote the industry.

Bonnie currently serves on the board of directors of the U.S. Travel Association, and Meeting Professionals International where she is currently serving as the Chair of the Finance Committee. She is also actively involved with the American Society of Association Executives, Professional Convention Management Association, and Destinations International.
Previously, Bonnie held leadership roles in the following groups:
  • International Association of Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Board of Directors (Past Chair 2001 & 2002)
  • U.S. Travel Association Foundation Board of Directors
  • Meeting Professionals International Foundation Board of Directors
  • Destinations International Foundation Board of Directors
  • U.S. Travel Governance and Rebranding Committees
  • International Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus’ CDME Implementation Committee (part of first 11-member graduating class)
  • United States National Organization Board (derived from the White House Conference on Tourism)
  • Explore Minnesota Tourism Council

Throughout her long career, Bonnie has been the recipient of many industry awards, including:

  • Minnesota Meetings + Events Hall of Fame and Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Explore Minnesota Tourism’s Excellence in Tourism Award and Outstanding Individual in Tourism
  • Hospitality Minnesota Association Hall of Fame
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal’s 25 Women in Business Industry Leaders
  • Bloomington Diamond Service Awards Spirit of Hospitality Award
  • Sales and Marketing Executives’ Woman of the Year Award
  • Upper Midwest Convention and Visitors Bureaus’ Career Achievement Award and Lifetime Achievement Award

Solomon & Gloria Herbert headshot

Solomon & Gloria Herbert

Publishers of Black Meetings and Tourism Magazine
In the early 1960s, working with the legendary icon for Human Rights, James Farmer, as national second vice chairman of one of the  nation's  preeminent  Civil  Rights  organizations, The Congress For Racial Equality (CORE), Solomon J. Herbert distinguished  himself  as  a  documented  "History  Maker."  He  was  officially  inducted  into the Nation's Largest Society and Archives of Historically Significant African Americana in 2013.

In 1994 Hebert launched Black Meetings & Tourism Media in partnership with his wife Gloria, who having received a M.S. degree from the University of Southern California had begun a career as an educational consultant for neurologically impaired children. Gloria was a member of the first graduating class of the Burklyn Accelerated Business School  in  Vermont;  an  innovative  school  with  a  high-speed,  experiential  entrepreneurship program that emphasized a noncompetitive, "win-win" approach to doing business.

With their somewhat unique backgrounds, together they became a team known as Sol & Glo, who created Black Meetings & Tourism (BM&T), the Travel Industry’s exclusive, international,  awarding  winning  trade  publication  for  and  about  the  estimated  $72+  billion African-American segment of the Travel-Tourism-Hospitality-Lodging Industry.

Often referred to as “the Bible of African American Travel,” BM&T continues to serve as a positive platform and advocate for inclusion and diversity. Among BM&T Media projects in development are: The NEW Green Book, a digital directory & Mobile app African American Travel Guide, Today’s BLACK Traveler TV Travel series and Traveling in OUR World Podcast program. 

BM&T is the recipient of numerous awards including, the National Coalition of Black  Meeting  Planner's  Pioneer  Award,  the  African  Diaspora  World  Tourism  Flame  Keepers in Media Award for Print Publications, the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers’ Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2018 Caribbean Tourism Organization Award of Excellence, and most recently, the National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals 2018 Pioneer Award. 

Wendy Perks Fisher headshot

Wendy Perks Fisher

Retired President and CEO, Rockford Area CVB
Tourism pioneer. Champion. Influencer. Industry leader. Visionary. Mentor. Wendy Perks Fisher embodied each of these terms during the 20 years she led the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (1986-2006). In the mid 1980s, she joined a handful of community leaders who envisioned harnessing the power of travel and tourism as a means to grow and transform the region’s troubled economy and to positively impact the lives of its residents.

For Wendy, tourism was always a means to an end – the end being community health and quality of life enhancement. Her focus was always on the resident, years ahead of her colleagues and the industry. That same philosophy is today embedded in the DNA of the Rockford region’s tourism industry and the agency she helped form and lead.

Assuming leadership of the new organization in 1986, Wendy became the chief architect of a highly effective agency that now serves as the region’s destination marketing and management organization and the leader of an industry which generates nearly $400 million annually for the local economy. Her impact continues to be felt locally, statewide and nationally due to the many leadership roles she held through the years at every level, and the expertise and wisdom she shared widely and generously with organizations and individuals.

During her tenure at RACVB, she served as founder, president or chair for many boards, committees and councils, including Visit Illinois; Illinois Council of Convention & Visitors Bureaus; Northern Illinois Tourism Council; Rockford Area Arts Council; Downtown Visions Committee; Northwest Passage Regional Tourism Development Marketing Team; Sister Cities Committee for Rockford; Mayor’s Blueprint Plan; Mayor’s River Center Plan; City Shores Plan; and Rock River Regional Plan.

The depth and staying power of her influence is further evidenced by the key role she played in establishing CVBs in area counties and regional tourism corridors. She also helped to establish the State of Illinois International Marketing Fund, which continues to help position Rockford and Illinois in global markets. Understanding a bureau’s role in destination development long before others, she served on committees or led the planning bodies for every major regional tourism-related initiative during her tenure, including the development of many cultural venues as well as sports venues that prompted Sports Illustrated to name Rockford “SportsTown USA” for Illinois. Due in large part to Wendy’s vision and efforts to develop local sports venues and a marketing program to match, the region has become a national award-winning destination for amateur sports competitions and a model many communities seek to emulate.

Beyond the tourism industry, she served on the corporate and foundation boards of Eclipse (a family-owned corporation), and chaired the Eclipse 100 year global anniversary project. Since retirement, she has been an organizational development consultant for various nonprofit and corporate organizations. She also has served on the Geneva Lake (Wisconsin) Conservancy Board.

During her career, she received widespread recognition for her service in the tourism industry, including the Bruce Riley McDaniel Lifetime Achievement Award, Forward Rockford Award, Blanche Ellis Starr Award for Leadership in the Arts, Government Leadership and Lifetime Achievement Heart of Rockford awards, as well as the Illinois NAACP Meritorious Commitment & Support Award.

Prior to working in tourism, Wendy spent two decades in arts education, specializing in drama and theater arts. She served as Executive Director/President of the National Committee, Arts for the Handicapped in Washington, DC; Associate Director of the World Festival of Theater for Young Audiences, Louisiana’s World Fair; and was Director of Development, ASSITEJ/USA, the International Association of Theater for Children and Young People in New York.

Wendy and her husband, Roger, have a daughter, Lily Jo.

Karolyn Kirchgesler headshot

Karolyn Kirchgesler

Retired President and CEO, Team San Jose

Karolyn Kirchgesler served as President and CEO of Team San Jose since September 2013. Team San Jose is the parent organization overseeing several key tourism and travel brands in Silicon Valley – the San Jose McEnery Convention Center, South Hall, the family of four historical cultural venues known as the San Jose Sister Theaters, and the city’s official DMO, Visit San Jose.

Under Kirchgesler’s leadership, Team San Jose’s gross operating revenues for the organization grew 165%, from $23.8M in FY 2012/13 to $63.1M in FY 2018/19 and the gross operating results grew by 194%, from $4.8M to 14.1M. Through a concentrated sales strategy, San Jose was able to attract events by such iconic brands as Apple, Google, Facebook, Intuit, NVIDIA, NetSuite, Adobe, Oculus, Twitch, and Atlassian. Embracing the importance of destination management and marketing, Kirchgesler launched the Visit San Jose leisure travel destination brand in 2016 which partially contributed to a 77% growth of citywide hotel revenue over a 5-year period. 

Kirchgesler became an important leader in the local community, raising San Jose’s profile as a destination not only externally but internally. She has served as a board member of the Silicon Valley Organization (the region’s chamber of commerce), Joint Venture Silicon Valley, San Jose Sports Authority, and was Vice Chair of the San Jose Police Foundation. She has also partnered with the City of San Jose, the San Jose Sports Authority, the San Francisco 49ers, the San Jose Sharks and the San Jose Earthquakes to help San Jose be recognized as a true sports destination,  hosting WrestleMania 31, Super Bowl 50, the 2016 MLS All-Star Game, the 2019 CFP Championship Game and the 2019 NHL All-Star Weekend. Her efforts were recognized by being honored as the 2019 Businesswoman of the Year by the SVO and a 2014 Woman of Influence by the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

Kirchgesler has dedicated her entire career to the travel and tourism industry and has been on the board of the U.S. Travel Association, Cal Travel and Destinations International. She credits much of her early success to knowledge she gained by being a member of Destinations International, (formerly IACVB).

“The greatest benefit of being in Destinations International is the support and camaraderie you receive from the industry, no matter where you are in your career. The amazing resources, research, and education you have access to as a member is extremely valuable,” said Kirchgesler. “That’s what makes travel such a special industry to be in and I’m thankful to my tourism family for being there with me every step of the way.”

Kirchgesler is a native of Aberdeen, South Dakota. She graduated from Moorhead State University (now Minnesota State University Moorhead) with a B.A. in Political Science. Her first tourism role was with the Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce, which was forming a CVB arm. In a few short years, Kirchgesler took over as the Executive Director and established the CVB as an organization completely independent from the chamber of commerce.

She then went on to serve as the Director of Sales & Marketing at the newly opened Sioux Falls Convention Center where she brought national convention business to Sioux Falls and established partnerships with hotels and the regional CVB. Three years later, she took over the helm of the Greater New Haven Convention & Visitors Bureau and served as their Executive Director for seven years. She restructured the organization to include representation of more municipalities, increased sales, and changed the culture of the organization. She then was recruited to Minnesota to serve as President & CEO of what is now Visit Saint Paul for nine years. During her tenure, she established the important merger of the Saint Paul CVB and Convention Center Authority into the current structure. Through that, she navigated the union of two oversight boards, streamlined operational practices, and shifted organizational cultures. Her experience in navigating a DMO and convention center hybrid led her to San Jose.

Kirchgesler will be missed for bringing recognition to the city as a corporate meeting and travel destination as well as her trademark leadership style rooted in integrity and professionalism.

Past Honorees

2019 Destinations International Hall of Fame Inductees:

  • Cole Carley, Former President & CEO, Fargo, Moorhead CVB
  • Kathleen (Kitty) Ratcliffe, President of Explore St. Louis
  • Shelley Johnson, CDME, LCTP, Former Executive Director/CEO of Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana CVB
  • W. Bill Williams, Former VP of Diversity Sales at Choose Chicago

2018 Destinations International Hall of Fame Inductees:

  • Anja Loetscher, Former Director, Geneva Tourism & Conventions Foundation
  • Marian Holt McLain, Former President & CEO, San Jose CVB
  • William (Bill) Peeper, Former President & CEO, Orlando CVB
  • Deborah Sexton, Former President & CEO, PCMA

2017 Destinations International Hall of Fame Inductees:

  • Charles Ahlers, Former President, Anaheim/Orange Co. Visitor & Convention Bureau
  • Rick Antonson, Former President & CEO, Tourism Vancouver
  • Robert Cumings, Former President, Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • Charles Gillett, Former President & CEO, New York Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • John Marks, Former President & CEO, San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • Tom Muldoon, Former President, Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • Dave Radcliffe, Former President & CEO, Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • Spurgeon Richardson, Former President & CEO, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • Charlotte St. Martin, Former Executive Vice President of Operations and Marketing, Loews Hotel
  • Chester “Chet” Wilkins, Former CEO, Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau

2016 Destinations International Hall of Fame Inductees:

  • Ray Bloom, Chairman and Founder, IMEX Group
  • Brad Burlingame, Former President & CEO, Visit West Hollywood
  • Nicki Grossman, Former President, Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • Gary Sain, Former President & CEO, Visit Orlando

2015 Destinations International Hall of Fame Inductees:

  • Don Anderson, Executive Partner/Founder, Destination Consultancy Group
  • George Fenich, Ph.D., Professor of Meetings/Events/Conventions, School of Hospitality Leadership, East Carolina University
  • Bobbie Patterson, Former Executive Director, Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • William F. Snyder, Former President, Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau
  • Edward J. McNeill, Former President, New Orleans Metropolitan CVB

2014 Destinations International Hall of Fame Inductees

  • Milton J. Carmichael, Former President/CEO/Founder, Detroit Convention and Tourists' Bureau (Founded 1896)
  • Peggy Flower, Former Executive Director of Convention Sales, Greater Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • Rossi Ralenkotter, Former President/CEO, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority
  • Leonard E. Rolston, Former President, Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • George D. Kirkland, CAE, Former President, Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • Gary Grimmer, CEO, Gaining Edge