We are pleased to introduce to you our speakers for the 2020 ART Virtual Convention, additional profiles will be added over the coming weeks so please keep checking in with us!
Convention Speakers 2020
Introduced to the world of destination organizations by a random internship application to Visit Baltimore (then known as Baltimore Area Convention & Visitors Association), Andreas Weissenborn began an unexpected career into hospitality that left him with a continued passion towards the tourism industry.
Weissenborn spent just short of 11 years with Visit Baltimore helping with its Research, Technology, and Information Systems across the organization. In 2017, he joined the Association on behalf of a Destinations International Foundation initiative to be a dedicated research source for Destinations International.
After graduating from La Trobe University with a Bachelor of Business in Tourism & Hospitality, Andrew entered the business events arena managing events and operations at the Albury Convention & Performing Arts Centre (now Albury Entertainment Centre).
With five years of venue-based event management skills under his belt, the world of destination marketing through “convention bureaux” called and Andrew took on the challenge of heading up the Albury Wodonga Convention Bureau for Destination Albury Wodonga in 2005.
In 2008, Andrew was lured to the calls of the Great Ocean Road where he established the Convention Bureau, Business Events Geelong, for the award-winning regional tourism organisation, Geelong Otway Tourism (now Tourism Greater Geelong & The Bellarine). With a vision of improving Regional Victoria’s reach into the business events market, he was appointed Chair of the Regional Victoria Conference Group the following year, we he led the rebrand to Business Events Victoria and the successful campaign calling on the Victorian Government to invest in the Regional Victoria Business Events Program.
After securing “Hall of Fame” status for Business Events Geelong at the National Meetings & Events Industry Awards in 2012, Andrew reconfirmed his commitment to the industry by taking on the role of Chief Executive Officer for the Association of Australian Convention Bureaux where he holds a position on the Business Events Council of Australia board. Andrew also represent the business events industry on the long-standing Tourism Visa Advisory Group, convened by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
CEO, Mudgee Region Tourism
A serious lover of all things tourism, Cara is passionate about the visitor journey, and it is with this passion and the ability to get the best out of stakeholder engagement that Cara’s own journey has led to outstanding collaborative success for the Mudgee Region. Cara’s previous role as Director of Guest Experiences, at Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia, prepared her for the challenge and opportunity to re-awaken awareness of the stunning Mudgee Region in NSW.
Now, not only is the region multi-award winning – most notably taking out Gold for Destination Marketing at the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards; Gold for both Destination Marketing and Visitor Information Services at the NSW Tourism Awards; and being inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Regional Tourism Awards – in 2020 it was recognised as one of the nation’s top search destinations.
Not one to let any unique opportunity pass her by, and with effervescent energy, since relocating from Sydney to the small heritage village of Hill End six years ago, Cara has established a popular ‘escape from the city’ country retreat, The Guesthouse – Hill End; sits on the National Parks + Wildlife Service Regional Advisory Committee for the Blue Mountains area; and is a mum to twin 4-year old boys.
CMRS, CEO, Futurist, Strategist
MyTravelResearch.com founder Carolyn Childs’ passion is empowering travel organisations to succeed. Her career spans 30+ years & 35+ countries including with Travel Research Centre, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) & heading research giant TNS’ Australian travel vertical (now Kantar).
She is a top-rated speaker; has published an e-book on emerging markets and white papers on Key Trends, Markets (e.g. India) and Tourism Sectors (Culture & Heritage, Luxury Travel) & Policy (Taxes).
She is Immediate Past President TTRA Asia-Pacific Chapter, a Certified Member of the Market Research Society, a member of WTACH’s (World Tourism Association for Culture and Heritage) Advisory Panel and was on the UNWTO Panel of World Tourism Experts.
With more than 17 years’ experience in the tourism industry, Catrin is the Chief Executive Officer of Australia’s South West, one of Western Australia’s five Regional Tourism Organisations. Catrin brings strong leadership, proven strategic implementation and effective stakeholder engagement skills to the organisation and region. Catrin’s industry representation includes Board Director of the Tourism Council, Board Member of the South West Development Commission, and significant involvement in key industry project areas such as product development, aviation and wine tourism as well as various collaborations with industry stakeholders in developing Memorandums of Understanding to increase co-operation and reduce duplication in destination marketing. Catrin holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in International Management and Business Administration and is currently undertaking a Master of Business Administration.
Dr Claire Ellis
Dr Claire Ellis is the current Chair of Ecotourism Australia. She has worked for much of her career in tourism, enjoying its challenges and opportunities. Her varied tourism work includes being a operator (running her own business in Indonesia), working for other operators, undertaking research and working as a University lecturer, working in State Government around policy and strategy and now working as a consultant. During her time as a Director in Tourism Tasmania she oversaw a number of exciting new projects including growing the capacity of Tasmania’s tourism industry in the digital environment and the selection and development of the Three Capes Track. Claire was also Chair of the National Long Term Tourism Strategy’s Destination Management Planning Working Group. Her consultancy work now takes her across Australia as well as overseas. She has built a reputation for creating long term positive outcomes, particularly in regional areas, and works closely with clients and stakeholders supporting strategic improvements.
Claire is also a Board member of Volunteering Tasmania, NRM Southern Tasmania and the Asian Ecotourism Network and the Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute.
Colin is the founder of Causeway Innovation and was previously the founding CEO of the Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast. He has worked with over 300 startups, small and mid-sized firms and large corporates with a focus on business development through innovation. Colin is also Course Facilitator for the New Venture Planning course in the Executive MBA program at the University of the Sunshine Coast.
Colin’s business career started in London where he became International Product Manager for Dulux before moving on to be the co-founder and CEO of Yellowbrick Training & Development with SME and corporate clients such as IBM, Unilever, Marriott International and Deloitte in the UK, Canada and USA. In recent years, Colin has worked with owner managers of small and mid-sized businesses across regional Australia in a wide range of sectors including food and agribusiness, tourism, health and wellbeing, ICT, environment, creative and professional services.
Bringing a fresh perspective to tourism, Coralie Bell is a business and creative marketing professional. With a diverse career in a variety of roles and industries, Coralie has worked in and around tourism for over 20 years. From business strategy, networking, report writing and stakeholder engagement to press advertising, public relations and marketing, you name it, she’s done it. Known for being extremely motivated, organised and disciplined she’s not only used to wearing many hats, but thrives in an environment where no two work days are exactly the same.
Having started life as a child in a front line tourism business on the beautiful South Coast, she has a direct insight into understanding the demands on small seasonal business. Looking forward to today, Coralie is the Tourism Manager for Shoalhaven City Council (quick brag – the most visited regional destination in NSW). Whether running board meetings, coordinating marketing campaigns, presenting at conferences or stacking shelves at the local visitors centre – people and relationships are at the heart of what keeps her smiling.
Passionate about motivating teams and fostering relationships with everyone from Mum and Dad business owners to State Government organisations, Coralie is experienced in stakeholder communication and management. Importantly, she has been able to develop a detailed understanding of regional tourism and the local, state and national environment.
Appointed to ART Chair in October 2018, Coralie is passionate about regional Australia, both as a place to live and destination to visit. She is committed to working regionally and making a real difference to the Shoalhaven and greater regional tourism sector.
Craig Wickham is the owner and Managing Director of Exceptional Kangaroo Island as well as the Chair of Australian Wildlife Journeys. Craig lives and works on Kangaroo Island where he grew up in a business family with a range of tourism ventures. He studied wildlife management and worked with the South Australian National Parks Service before getting into private enterprise.
Craig has been travelling internationally promoting his touring business, Kangaroo Island and Australia for over 20 years. Craig, his wife Janet, their family and their local team have been in business since 1990.
Leadership and sustainability are two primary tenets Craig follows, and he has been a consistent contributor to community and industry. He has held board positions with the South Australian Tourism Commission, SA National Parks Council, Regional Community Consultative Council, Regional Development Board, Natural Resources Board, Presiding Member of the local Development Assessment Panel; and ten years in Local Government including four as Deputy Mayor.
In running their Kangaroo Island tourism enterprise, Craig and Janet have successfully navigated a succession of business challenges: historically high-interest rates (24%!); the long shadow of the Pilot's Strike; SARS; Bird 'Flu; Swine 'Flu; Equine Influenza; MERS; September 11; the collapse of Ansett which took out Kendell Air, the primary air service provider to their region; bankruptcy of their biggest customer; and a succession of bushfires including the extraordinary January 2020 events before COVID19. Key learning: innovate or fade away!
Dr Fiona Crichton
Dr Crichton is a health psychology specialist and was also a litigation lawyer and legal writer. Fiona’s passionate about improving health and wellbeing in the community.
She is the Clinical Team lead at Mentemia, adds the science behind the tools and techniques in Mentemia, and is the perfect complement to the lived experience of Sir John Kirwan in any mental wellbeing discussion.
Dr Gabby Walters
Dr Gabby Walters is an Associate Professor in Tourism with the University of Queensland’s Business School. She holds significant expertise in image and reputation management and in particular market recovery following crises and disastrous events. Her research focuses primarily on the tourism sector. She has conducted numerous consultancies and projects with tourism destinations from different parts of the world seeking to enhance or revitalise their reputations and regain trust among the tourism market as a result one or many critical events.
She has a well-established publication record including her recently published book "Image and Reputation Recovery for the Tourism and Hospitality Industry" (Goodfellow, 2019) and she is the Associate Editor of a reputable academic publication – the Journal of Vacation Marketing. In 2017 her work in the tourism and hospitality field was recognised through the Centre of Australian Universities Tourism and Hospitality Education (CAUTHE) Fellows Award.
Gabby is passionate about using her work to assist destinations through all phases of the recovery process. Her presentations are filled with current research led facts that will be beneficial to all tourism stakeholders whether they be from small business, destination marketing authorities or government.
Grant Wilckens is CEO and Founder of the G’day Group which is Australia’s largest regional accommodation provider with 208+ properties. The company is home to three brands; Discovery Holiday Parks, Top Parks and G’Day Rewards.
Grant has a corporate finance background, coming from Rothschild and 360 Capital Group. He founded the G’day Group in 2004 with three parks and has since become a trailblazer within the Australian tourism industry. Last year, Grant was recognised with an EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award. He is also Chairman of the Caravan Industry Association of Australia and a Board Director for the South Australian Tourism Commission.
Presenting an extensive career as a successful general manager, leader, advocator, mentor, business supporter and developer of regional destinations, encompassing both the public sector and private tourism businesses. Throughout my career, I have progressed personally and professionally, evident in the results that have been achieved at senior management levels including The Australian Regional Tourism Network (ARTN), NSW regional destination network (Destination Sydney Surrounds South), tourism destination marketing organisations (Destination Wollongong), tourist attractions (Jamberoo Action Park and Thredbo), national sporting team and the ground-breaking roles for developing and growing both domestic and international markets across North and South Asia for NSW with Grand Pacific Drive.
With a vision to deliver on consumer insights and a passion, to educate businesses on the best way to integrate their services and products into ‘the supply chain’ of the visitor economy, it has influenced my executive management, communication and negotiation skills. I have built and maintained relationships with internal and external stakeholders (right people in the right place) across all the three levels of government and the corporate sector, which has created a portfolio of ‘soft power’ connections, a contributing factor for my success in business.
Industry recognition is something that brought personal satisfaction both locally and state wide for my contribution to the tourism industry being presented the: 2007 NSW Tourism Award for Excellence and at the 2007 Illawarra Tourism Award Outstanding Contribution by an Individual to Regional Tourism.
Hayley Harris joined Tourism Australia in 2015. She is currently responsible for delivering consumer, market and industry insights from a wide range of research and data sources in order to help improve Tourism Australia’s strategic direction and decision making.
Most notably, managing the Consumer Demand Project and Travel Sentiment Tracker, an opportunity to understand latest sentiment towards travel and what motivates people when selecting a holiday destination. Prior to her career in tourism Hayley worked for global Market research company Millward Brown (now Kantar) for over 7 years, understanding consumer behaviour across a wide variety of industries in both Australia and the UK.
Dr Jennifer Cronin
Jennifer was appointed President of Wharf Hotels in February 2016. Her focus has been spearheading new initiatives and strategic developments, further strengthening the Niccolo Hotels and Marco Polo Hotels portfolios as leading regional players in the hospitality industry.
Jennifer graduated with a Doctorate of Philosophy in 2016 from Bond University based on her PhD research, titled “Empowering Readiness; influencing crisis management success outcomes”. She was conferred Bond’s most prestigious alumni accolade; the Robert Stable Alumni Medal for her exceptional achievement in bridging academia and industry, followed by the 2016 APAC BMW Corporate Hotelier of the Year Award, ACI Singapore’s 2017 Mentor of the Year Award, the Australia China Alumni Association’s 2018 Award for Corporate Achievement, the 2019 APacCHRIE Lifetime Achievement Award, and Griffith Business School Outstanding Alumnus Award 2019. Jennifer is also a graduate of Griffith University’s School of Modern Asian Studies with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Japanese and economics.
In 2019, Jennifer became Chair of the HK Heritage Tourism Brands alliance and a member of the Tourism Recovery Industry Task Force for the Hong Kong Tourism Board, as well as a member of the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau’s External Relations Committee.
Her commitment to professional development and supporting future hoteliers is evidenced with her appointment to Chairperson of Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s Industry Advisory Committee for the School of Hotel and Tourism Management and the Advisory Board of Bond Business School, Bond University and their HK Alumni Committee.
Chief Marketing Officer, Qantas Group
As the Chief Marketing Officer for the Qantas Group, Jo is responsible for the brand and marketing strategy for Qantas’ domestic and international airlines, Loyalty and associated businesses.
Prior to her previous role, Jo was Chief Marketing Officer of Qantas Loyalty and Executive Manager of Qantas Hotels. Jo joined Qantas in 2009 to manage internal communications, before taking on responsibility for digital communications across the Qantas Group, then becoming Head of Digital and Entertainment for Qantas Airlines.
She has more than 20 years’ global experience leading digital, communication, marketing and entertainment strategies for large organisations, including Optus, British Telecom and Google.
Jo is passionate about the impact technology has on customer experience and the role marketing and communications can play in enhancing it.
Sir John Kirwan
Sir John Kirwan, or ‘JK’ as he prefers, is a New Zealand legend. JK played 63 test matches for the All Blacks from 1984 to 1994. He was part of the 1987 Rugby World Cup team. And he’s also had success with the Warriors and as a coach including on the international stage with Italy and Japan. He’s also a family man. During his time as one of the most high profile rugby players on the planet though, he was hiding a serious mental health crisis. He finally decided to get help and started his journey from just surviving, to thriving.
In 2012 JK was knighted, but not just for services to rugby. He was also knighted for his services to mental health. JK was talking about mental health and his personal story of depression at a time when there was a lot of stigma associated with these conditions. He’s been at the forefront of public campaigns about mental health and has led the charge to see talking about mental health normalised. In recent times he is now the co-founder of ground-breaking mental wellbeing app, Mentemia.
Senior executive with 25 years' marketing, communications and destination development experience in the visitor economy and related sectors in Australia, New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates. The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) manages over 870 national parks and reserves - more than 7 million hectares - comprising landscapes from rainforests and rugged bush to coastal landscapes and outback deserts. As Director Visitor Experience, my team and I are responsible for the customer journey of NPWS' diverse range of visitor segments, whether an intrastate, interstate or international visitor, seeking to undertake a leisure, business, educational or volunteer experience across NSW's protected natural, cultural and heritage areas. The Visitor Experience team develops, markets, distributes, delivers and evaluates our visitors' experiences.
Kym Goodes, the principal of 3P, is recognised as one of the foremost public voices in Tasmania.
She has two decades of experience working in government and the not for profit sector in social and economic public policy fields as diverse as education, employment, transport, energy, digital inclusion, health, housing and human services. She has worked across both the public and private sectors as a sought-after adviser specialising in public engagement and evidence informed policy and program responses.
As the previous CEO of TasCOSS, Kym is a recognised leader and change maker, having worked as an advocate and lobbyist on a range of policy, projects and legislative changes that contribute to ensuring everyone has the opportunity to live a good life in this beautiful island state.
In addition to her work in her advisory business, Kym is a Director on the Brand Tasmania Board, is the Chair of the East Coast Tasmania Tourism Board, Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania Board, a state council member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and is a Director on the Board of Wintringham, a unique national aged care provider supporting older Australians who have spent many years homeless and living in poverty.
Further to her governance roles, Kym is a Ministerial appointed member of the Premiers Health and Wellbeing Advisory Council, 26TEN Coalition and the Strategic Growth Industry group. Kym is also a member of the University of Tasmania Policy Exchange and is an advisory group member of the Tasmania Project research being undertaken by the Institute for Social Change.
Managing Director, Tilma Group
Linda is Managing Director of regional tourism and events agency, Tilma Group, and a recently retired Director on the Board of Australian Regional Tourism. She is a regional tourism strategist and practitioner boasting a suite of regional tourism and event expertise with LGAs and RTOs across Australia in regional tourism and event development, tourism strategy, destination marketing, regional branding, and event development. Linda is also the founder regional events capacity building program www.reventsacademy.com
Linda has a strong marketing and events background, coupled with intuitive skills in community and tourism development, and has worked on a range of regional tourism and events projects such as destination branding, regional tourism strategy and development, regional event strategies and capacity building, destination marketing campaigns, and industry training and mentoring. Linda has an intimate understanding of regional Australia and an innate ability to connect with regional communities that has been a standout over the past fifteen years of her career in regional tourism and events.
Head, Tourism Recovery, Austrade
Margaret joined Austrade in 2015. She advocates the interests of Austrade and its clients on international business issues. Margaret enjoys work that brings government and business together to solve problems and create economic opportunities for Australia.
Margaret brings more than 20 years’ experience leading high performing teams in Austrade, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Her work has had a particular focus on Australia’s business relationship with Asia.
Mark joined Tourism Tropical North Queensland as the CEO 12 months ago after 25 years in the tourism and hospitality industry. Starting his career in the 90’s washing dishes to nine years at Tourism Queensland, then a decade running an international tourism consultancy working in over 70 countries, was good preparation for the challenges of regional tourism.
It has been an ‘interesting’ first 12 months in regional tourism as the industry rode the rollercoaster of aviation seat capacity losses, bushfires, coral bleaching and COVID-19, an experience Mark is happy to share with the tourism network.
Natassia Wheeler is a dedicated and loyal professional with a strong passion for tourism, having worked in multiple Regional Tourism Organisation (RTO) throughout her career. Tash has proven she is the key ingredient to building, strengthening and maintaining strong relationships with key industry and stakeholders.
Being a dedicated team player with strong communication and interpersonal skills have helped Tash quickly rise to the role of CEO. Tash is a strong positive leader at the helm of the Tourism Whitsundays team.
Nick has been in the tourism industry his whole working life in hotels, restaurants, camps in the UK, USA, Asia and now his home (Australia). Nick spent six years as head of marketing for Voyages Hotels and Resorts which had twenty hotels from backpacker lodges through to the ultimate luxury, not one of which was in a city! Nick spent almost seven years as the Chief Marketing Officer of Tourism Australia. In this last role, he got to help show this country to the world, which pretty fantastic thing to be able to do!
Nick is currently the CEO of Go See Australia and Outdoria, companies designed to bring camping, caravanning and a love of the outdoors to life and one firmly rooted in regional Australia. Nick loves a road-trip, getting out into country as often as he can and has a passion for food and wine, which is fitting given his role as Chair of Ultimate Wineries of Australia.
Rory Chapple is a project manager with the WA Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions based in Geraldton. His role is the planning and development of larger visitor infrastructure across the Midwest of WA.
He brings more than 25 years of experience working in protected area management and ecotourism development across four Australian states and territories. The recent completion of the Kalbarri Skywalk project earmarked more than five years of personal commitment to a ground breaking and important tourism product for Western Australia.
Sara Quon has been the Chief Executive Officer of The Sovereign Hill Museums Association since January 2019. Sara is a strategy and marketing professional with two decades of experience across tourism, major events and fast-moving consumer goods.
Sara's previous roles include Group CEO of Beechworth Honey, inaugural CEO of Tourism North East Regional Tourism Board, Marketing Director and Interim CEO of Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.
Sara currently sits on the board of Visit Victoria and the Committee for Ballarat and also serves on the Council of Australian Museum Directors executive. In February, 2020, Sara was appointed to the Federal Government’s Regional Tourism Bushfire Recovery Grants Advisory Panel.
Shannan has a proven track record of delivering projects between government and the private sector and background in tourism investment and product development.
Shannan has worked previously at the South Australian Tourism Commission, Flinders University, Parks Australia and at Shoalhaven City Council in events and investment. Shannan has been successful also in securing grant funding for recent multi-million dollar projects for the local visitor economy.
Hailing from Bawley Point in the southern Shoalhaven, Shannan returned to the area nine years ago to take up a management role at Booderee National Park. Immediately prior to joining Destination Sydney Surrounds South she led the post bushfire tourism and economic recovery for the region as acting Tourism Manager at Shoalhaven City Council. Shannan has recently been appointed as the General Manager of Destination Sydney Surrounds South.
Shaun de Bruyn
Shaun de Bruyn is Chief Executive Officer of the Tourism Industry Council of South Australia (TiCSA). He is a dedicated industry advocate with 20 years’ experience delivering strong outcomes across the leisure, travel and tourism industry in South Australia. His background is both wide and varied, having worked within the roles of relationship management, business planning, destination and experience development, marketing and distribution, government engagement and strategic management.
Shaun’s knowledge and experience, combined with his diverse skills and genuine passion for the industry, enabled him to take on the role as CEO of TiCSA in 2015. TiCSA’s purpose is to be a strong industry body advocating for, engaging with and strengthening tourism businesses to grow the visitor economy in South Australia.
Shaun also represents the needs and interests of tourism operators through his participation on various councils, including Premier Steven Marshall’s Industry Response and Recovery Council.
Executive Director, Australian Tourism Industry Council (ATIC)
With over 20-years of senior executive experience inside some of Australia’s most prominent companies, (including the Qantas Group, Tourism Australia, BHP and Medibank Private), Simon is a leader in corporate, regulatory, government and public affairs. He has headed Corporate Communication functions inside two ASX listed companies and led Corporate Affairs Departments for companies across a diversity of sectors including resources, private health, aviation and tourism.
Simon has made a major impact in his roles around Australia’s visitor economy. A former senior manager at a regional airline, he was executive Head of Corporate Relations and a member of the start up executive for Jetstar Airways for 7 ½ years during its formative development and rapid evolution as a major domestic and international airline group.
He became an Executive GM for Corporate Affairs and Strategy at Tourism Australia for almost two-years overseeing TA’s China Strategy and the successful implementation of Tourism 2020.
After senior roles held at Orica Limited and BHP, he was CEO of a national agricultural export body for two years, prior to heading Strategy at 50-year old national boutique business advisory firm, Royce at the beginning of 2019. In August the same year Simon was appointed as Executive Director of the Australian Tourism Industry Council (ATIC), enthusiastically marking his return to Australian tourism policy and advocacy.
Tiffany Thornton is an experienced local government professional with more than 15 years of involvement in the tourism industry in visitor servicing, marketing, events and industry development. Beginning her career in tourism as a tourism intern within a local government council, along the way she has worked within a variety of business sectors including university and local government. Tiffany holds a Bachelor of Business in Tourism and Hospitality from Southern Cross University, an Executive Certificate in Event Management through University of Technology, Sydney and currently undertaking a Diploma of Graphic Design through Torrens University.
Tiffany is a passionate advocate for regional tourism involved in regional and state tourism award programs, Director on regional Tourism Board Thrive Riverina and local community organisations including being the current President of the Narrandera branch of Soroptimist International. Tiffany is currently the Marketing, Tourism and Economic Development Coordinator for Narrandera Shire Council.