Making the Move: Industry Career Changes in the News

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Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash.

Well, they’re movin’ on up (and out)—the following execs are shaking up the industry landscape with major career moves and transitions. Good luck to all!

Visit Anaheim announced that Mike Waterman will take on the role of president and CEO of the organization, effective April 29.

Waterman’s more than than 30 years of hospitality and leadership experience included serving as chief sales officer at Visit Orlando, president and CEO of Visit Houston, and VP of sales for Mariott International’s western region.

“Mike brings extensive experience and a long history of leadership, innovation and success in the hospitality and tourism industry, making him the ideal candidate to guide our organization into the future,” said Fred Brown, chairman of the Visit Anaheim Board of Directors in a media announcement. “We are very excited to welcome Mike and look forward to working alongside him to benefit the residents and businesses of Anaheim and the surrounding region.”

As president and CEO, Waterman will lead the strategic vision behind Visit Anaheim and will be responsible for developing and overseeing Visit Anaheim’s efforts to draw conventions and visitors to the Anaheim area.

 

Event Leaders Exchange (ELX), an invite-only community for Global Heads of Events from the world’s largest corporations, has announced the appointment of Nicola Kastner as its new CEO.

Kastner was most recently the Founder of The Event Strategist, a boutique event strategy advisory firm. Prior to launching her consulting practice, Nicola held various roles on both the brand and agency sides of the business, including most recently as the Global Vice President of Event Marketing Strategy for SAP, where she was responsible for designing and optimizing event strategies for events ranging from 25 to 25,000 people.

“I am honored to join ELX as CEO and excited to contribute to this vibrant community of event leaders,” Kastner said in a media announcement. “ELX’s commitment to providing a safe space for the industry’s most senior leaders to collaborate and share best practices is unlike anything in the industry. It is a community that I wish had existed when I was with SAP. I look forward to working with our members to foster a vibrant future for our industry, where corporate events not only meet but exceed their strategic potential.”

 

Explora Journeys has announced the appointment of Christopher Austin as President North America, based in Miami. He will assume full ownership of the North American teams and market for Explora Journeys, spanning the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

Austin joined Explora Journeys in November 2020 as the brand’s Chief Sales Officer. Prior to that, he spent nearly three decades in leading hospitality roles, including Sr. VP, Global Marketing & Sales at another luxury cruise line and VP, Global Luxury & Leisure Sales for one of the leading global luxury hotel groups.

“Chris is a highly respected leader in the luxury hospitality industry and was one of the founding members of the Explora Journeys leadership team, joining nearly four years ago,” said Pierfrancesco Vago, Chairman, Cruise Division, MSC Group, in a media statement. “The appointment signifies not only his exceptional talent but also the boundless growth opportunities within our organization. With his extensive expertise, Chris will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in shaping the future of our business as we welcome new luxury ships to our fleet, with EXPLORA II launching this year. We are thrilled to have him as President, North America, confident in his ability to deepen our partner penetration, drive increased demand, grow consumer awareness and brand adoption and continue to build the North America organization, including in early 2025 the move into new offices in downtown Miami.”

CWT Meetings & Events has named Kari Wendel their new VP of Global Customer Strategy & Solutions.

Wendel has more than 25 years within strategic meetings management (SMM), and the overall meetings industry, and brings an exceptional amount of knowledge to her role, CWT says. Based in Bradenton, Florida, she supports a group of tactical and operational leaders who identify and execute innovative approaches for ongoing improvement of clients’ programs. Furthermore, Kari plays a vital role within the consulting practice, with an emphasis on implementation and SMM. As shown by her nomination in 2009 as the chief “change-maker,” developing the industry’s first professional certification within strategic meetings and co-chairing the development of the “Maturity Model.”

The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) announced that William “Chip” Rogers resigned from his position as AHLA president & CEO last Friday to pursue other professional interests. The AHLA Board of Directors is in the process of forming a committee to identify and evaluate potential replacement candidates and will be retaining an executive search firm. Effective immediately, AHLA Senior Executive Vice President & COO Kevin Carey will also serve as AHLA’s interim president & CEO. He will report directly to the Board until a permanent president & CEO is selected and onboarded.

“We have been able to build one of America’s most effective associations over the last five years. As I move on to my next chapter, I am truly thankful for the opportunity I had to lead this incredible team and work alongside the industry’s best leaders,” said Rogers in a media announcement.

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