Destination and Travel Foundation and DAMI Announce More than $500,000 Raised o Support Education, Research, Advocacy and Leadership Development

Peter Yesawich and Rossi Ralenkotter Honored at 2017 Spirit of Hospitality Celebration

Destination and Travel Foundation Chairman Joe Marinelli and DMAI President and CEO Don Welsh today announced that more than $500,000 was raised to support education, research, advocacy and leadership development to empower destinations and the global travel industry.  Over 900 guests attended the 2017 Spirit of Hospitality Celebration on March 1 at DAR Constitution Hall.  Two of the industry’s most prolific leaders – Peter Yesawich, Vice Chairman of MMGY Global and Rossi Ralenkotter, President and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority -- were honored for their leadership and vision during the Celebration. 

The 2017 Spirit of Hospitality Celebration, formerly known as the Foundation Dinner, was reimagined to allow for greater networking with a cocktail reception, followed by an awards presentation, concluding with a concert by Grammy-nominated The Fray.

“As the supporting organization for DMAI, the Foundation is focused on empowering destination marketing organizations and the travel profession globally,” said Marinelli. “It was an honor to recognize two of the industry’s greatest leaders at, what I truly believe was a highly successful and impactful celebration.  Together with Don and his team at DMAI, we are on an incredible path forward towards strategic and impactful future initiatives for my fellow DMO leaders and for our industry overall.”

Yesawich received the Destination and Travel Foundation’s annual Spirit of Hospitality Award which is the highest recognition presented annually to individuals and organizations that show exceptional dedication and commitment to the travel and tourism industry.  Marinelli presented the award to Yesawich. 

During his more than forty-year tenure in the hospitality industry, Yesawich has become regarded as one of the most respected and insightful sources on the habits and preferences of American travelers. In his role at MMGY Global, the leading integrated travel and marketing firm in the US., Yesawich leads all of the agency’s consumer insight efforts.

“The Spirit of Hospitality Celebration marked the first in a series of reimagined DMAI events based largely on member feedback,” said Welsh. “We will continue to develop programming that informs, inspires and educates our members who are working hard every day to drive destination economic impact, job creation, community sustainability and quality of life through travel.  On behalf of the association, congratulations to Peter and Rossi on their well-deserved recognition.”  

Ralenkotter received the Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) Leadership Award in recognition of his significant and long-term contributions to the DMO industry.  DMAI Chairman Gary Sherwin, CDME presented the inaugural award to Ralenkotter.

Ralenkotter began his career at the LVCVA more than 40 years ago, as a research analyst.  Under his leadership, the LVCVA launched the most successful branding campaign in tourism history, which is best known for its oft-repeated tagline, “What happens here, stays here.™”  He also launched the Las Vegas Convention Center District, a transformational project that will further establish Las Vegas as a leading business destination in the world by reinventing and expanding the Las Vegas Convention Center and the surrounding area.

The new DMO Leadership Award is open to all DMAI member DMOs and their teams. Criteria includes an individual who has demonstrated a significant and long-term contribution to the DMO industry, specifically, one whom has provided leadership, innovation and credibility among their colleagues and has developed a reputation for excellence through the management of their DMO and the use of best practices, cutting-edge technology and strategy.