President & CEO, Partner
A thirty-year veteran of the Travel & Tourism industry, Amir leads the entire team responsible for the development and execution of all facets of the organization from program development to customer acquisition and retention.
He joined Longwoods in 2015 from his previous role as Vice President, Partner Engagement with Brand USA, the public-private partnership serving as the destination marketing organization dedicated to increasing international visitation to the US. He led the team responsible for helping to increase Brand USA's partnership base and ensuring that participants received excellent service throughout Brand USA's deployment of joint marketing programs. During his tenure, Brand USA grew its base to 475 partners, comprised of destination marketing organizations, convention and visitor bureaus, attractions, travel brands, airlines, and tour operators.
Prior to joining Brand USA, Amir served as Director of the Ohio Office of Tourism. Under his leadership, the state's marketing programs realized a tremendous return on investment and contributed to the growth of the state's $40 billion tourism economy. The programs he developed leveraged industry and nontraditional partnerships that generated $14 in new state and local taxes for every $1 invested and included active participation by thousands of Ohio's tourism-related businesses. He has also served as Executive Vice President of the Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association, Assistant Director of the Ohio Tourism Division, and Sales & Marketing Manager with the Steuben County Conference and Visitors Bureau.
He has been recognized with a number of Industry honors including: Top 25 Extraordinary Minds in Sales & Marketing award (2014) by the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI); The Ohio Tourism Industry's Highest Honor, The Paul Sherlock Award; and The State of Ohio Distinguished Service Medal.
Amir holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Dayton.
Corine (Cori) Humes has served as Executive Director of Visit Marshall County for 8 years and began her career in tourism in 2009. Cori is the lifetime resident of Marshall County, a 2004 Plymouth High School graduate, and studied political science at Indiana University South Bend. She earned her Certified Travel Industry Specialist Professional certification through American Bus Association and she is Leadership Marshall County Class XVIII graduate where she then served on the Leadership Marshall County Board of Directors the following year. Through her directorship, Cori has been part of many projects such as committee member of Marshall County Crossroads Team (Stellar Designation Community through ORCA), Indiana Bicentennial Celebration involving the Indiana Torch Relay, Plymouth Gateway/Wayfinding Committee, secretary board member to Indiana Foodways Alliance, and many other committees. She has the honor as serving as the 2019 Marshall County Blueberry Festival Parade Grand Marshall and continues to find new ways to promote Marshall County as a destination. She enjoys spending time with her husband and children camping throughout Indiana State Parks and resides in the small community of Tippecanoe in Marshall County.
David Holder, Co-founder, Clarity of Place
As a tourism professional for over 25 years, David Holder co-founded Clarity of Place with a hands-on understanding of what destination leaders need to be successful. David leads stakeholder engagement efforts and crafts tactical plans to ensure destinations are equipped with the data and industry insights to react to changing environments but still attain their strategic vision.
In leading a variety of destinations, David proved himself to be an industry innovator, taking new perspectives on what it means for destinations to be competitive and specializing in setting and meeting measurable marketing, sales, and product development results.
A versatile and effective communicator, David honed his destination management skills by collaborating with industry partners though service on the board of directors for Destinations International, the Destination Marketing Accreditation Program and the US Travel Association Destinations Council, to name a few.
Before starting Clarity of Place, David was part of the Global Tourism and Destinations team of Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) Hotels Group. As the team’s Vice President, David developed destination strategic plans using research & extensive stakeholder engagement across a diverse range of organizations, each seeking innovative new approaches, focused problem solving, or stronger stakeholder connectivity.
In David’s earlier career, he served as the President of Visit Syracuse (the Syracuse CVB) and led all advocacy, operations, and programming. While there, his innovative branding efforts led measurable return on investment: increasing visitor flow and travel spending, measurably improving hotel performance, and garnering the region recognition as the "Official Home of Winter”. Prior to leading Visit Syracuse, David was Vice President for CenterState Corporation for Economic Opportunity - a 2,000-member regional chamber of commerce and economic development organization that was the predecessor organization from which Visit Syracuse was formed. Additionally, David served the communities of Fredericksburg, VA and the Corning and Finger Lakes region in similar executive capacities.
David received his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Tourism Management from North Carolina State University. He is a Certified Destination Management Executive and Immediate Past Chair of the Destination Marketing Accreditation Program.
Elaine E. Bedel
Secretary & Chief Executive Officer
Indiana Destination Development Corporation
Elaine Bedel was appointed by Governor Holcomb in 2019 to serve as the first Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of the newly established Indiana Destination Development Corporation (IDDC), a quasi-government agency focused on making Indiana a great place to live and visit and to learn and earn.
Prior to her recent appointment, Bedel served as President of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), the state’s lead economic development agency from 2017-2019. Under Bedel’s leadership, the state had consecutive record-breaking years for new job commitments.
Prior to serving the state, Bedel served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Bedel Financial Consulting Inc., a role held since she founded the company in 1989.
Bedel, who resides in Indianapolis, is an author of a personal finance book and has spoken nationally and internationally sharing her interpersonal and financial expertise and experience. Bedel earned a bachelor’s degree from Hanover College and an MBA from Butler University.
Throughout her career, Bedel has been recognized for dedication to her profession and her community. She was inducted into the Indiana Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2016 and was recognized as the 2015 Women Business Owner of the year by the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). Bedel was inducted into the Business Hall of Fame by the Junior Achievement of Central Indiana and received the Financial Planning Association’s “Heart of Financial Planning” Award in 2013.
Emilie Harris started her career in destination marketing. Working with destinations around the Houston MSA to drive visitation, she developed a passion for what makes small and large cities unique and exciting places to visit. As the Director of Marketing Operations at Bandwango, Emilie brings this same passion to Bandwango's more than 250+ destination partners, assisting them in launching conversion-focused marketing campaigns for free and paid experience passports. Additionally, Emilie manages marketing solutions that support the sales team - including website maintenance, case study development and more. Her favorite part of the role is analyzing the rich first-party data Bandwango gathers for clients to find patterns in consumer behavior.
Julie founded CFO by design in 2012 with the vision of supporting executives and organizations by using finances as the foundation for organizational excellence. Since then Julie has had the privilege of working with DMO’s and associations across the nation. Julie’s experience does not follow the traditional path and includes serving two terms on the City Council in Bastrop. Julie is known for her expertise in developing easy to understand financial statements, training of executives and boards and taking a long-term, holistic strategic planning approach to organizational finances.
Karrah (Miller) Herring received her Bachelor of Arts in Communications/Public Relations from Purdue University (’05) and her Juris Doctorate from Valparaiso University School of Law (’11). On November 19, 2020, Indiana governor, Eric Holcomb announced his appointment of Karrah to his cabinet as Indiana’s first ever Chief Equity, Inclusion and Opportunity Officer for the state. In this role, she works with the governor and his team to improve state government operations as well as remove hurdles in the government workplace and services the state provides. Within the first 6 months, Karrah has engaged with over 200 stakeholders, built the infrastructure of the office, and in conjunction with other agencies rolled out the State of Indiana's first ever equity website and Equity Data Portal. Her team's two-year strategic plan will focus on equity in Community, Economic and Workforce Development. Prior to joining Governor Holcomb's team, Karrah worked for the University of Notre Dame for a decade and served as the Director of Public Affairs in the Office of Public Affairs and Communications. Her team assisted with cultivating campus relationships with community nonprofits, businesses and state and local government officials. Additionally, Karrah oversaw the university’s $250,000 annual United Way campaign, Public Affairs engagement stories, and assisted with engaging faculty, staff and students with service initiatives in the region. Prior to her role with Public Affairs, she served on the University of Notre Dame’s Office of Human Resources Senior Executive Leadership team as the Director of the Office of Institutional Equity. Her team focused on workplace culture compliance including Title VII, Title IX, the Americans with Disabilities Act, workplace investigations of harassment and discrimination and workplace culture training efforts. Karrah has received a number of awards and recognition and was most recently named by the South Bend Regional Chamber as the 2021 Woman of Influence. Karrah serves on several boards and committees and speaks at events across the country. She is the assistant pastor of her family's church, Faith Alive Ministries in South Bend, where she supports her brother, the senior pastor, Pastor YPJ, and their parents Bishop Eddie and Diana Miller. Karrah is married to Ray Herring (University of Notre Dame ’09) and they have three children, Bryce, Brianna and Ja’Mari
Kelsey Waite is the Tourism Success Manager at Near, a privacy first company that provides actionable insights on people, places, and products by utilizing human movement data of more than 1.6 billion people globally.
She has been involved in the hospitality and tourism industry for nearly a decade, Before joining Near, she gained experience from her time with Crowne Plaza Hotel, the tourist bureau for Parke County, IN, and 6 years with STR. Kelsey received her B.A. in Travel and Tourism from Ball State University’s Honors College.
Laura Peck has been with Visit Evansville for over a year. She has over 18 years of hospitality experience mainly in the Hotel world. Prior to joining the Visit Evansville Team Laura was part of the opening team and the Assistant Director of Sales at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Downtown Evansville. Laura's focus with Visit Evansville and her long-time passion is in Sports Sales. In Laura's spare time she is busy running her 3 children to all their sporting events.
Lauralee Hites is the founder of Stratavize Consulting. Lauralee, as she likes to say, grew up in Corporate America working with some of the best companies on earth like, Wells Fargo, Accenture, and Microsoft. She is a successful speaker, engaging facilitator, and dynamic strategy consultant.
It's her personal mission to help groups reimagine their strategy and activation plan to go-to-market with a unique story and brand that resonates.
She’s known for her humor while speaking, so be prepared to have your spirits lifted, laugh hard, and learn a few new tricks that can be implemented the minute you return to your office.
When she’s not working with Tourism Bureaus or Main Street Organizations, you will find her traveling the world and writing about the unique communities she explores.
Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch
Proud to have been born and raised in Evansville, Indiana, Suzanne previously served as Indiana’s State Auditor since January of 2014.
Before becoming Auditor, she served as the State Representative for House District 78 which encompasses parts of Vanderburgh and Warrick counties. She was elected to the seat in 2005, and served as the Vice Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and on the Public Health Committee. Throughout her years of public service, Suzanne has been focused and committed to programs and services for people with disabilities.
Prior to serving in the House of Representatives, Suzanne spent eight years as Auditor of Vanderburgh County. During that time, her office received its first clean bill of health in decades from the State Board of Accounts. She then went on to serve as a Vanderburgh County Commissioner until joining the Indiana House of Representatives. She presided as president of that body during her third year in office.
As a public servant, Suzanne has received the following awards and recognitions:
- Trine University Woman of Distinction (2021);
- Indianapolis Business Journal Woman of Influence (2021);
- Purdue University College of Liberal Arts Distinguished Alumna (2018);
- Indiana Association of Rehabilitation Facilities (INARF) Lifetime Achievement Award (2015)
- Arc of Indiana Public Policy Award (2012);
- National Coalition of Capital Champion of Small Business Award (2012); and
- Indiana Association of Rehabilitation Facilities (INARF) Legislator of the Year (2011).
Constitutionally, as lieutenant governor, Suzanne serves as the President of the Indiana Senate.
Statutorily, the Lt. Governor oversees a portfolio that includes the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA), Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA), Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA), and Indiana Destination Development Corporation (IDDC).
Additionally, she chairs the Lieutenant Governor’s Roundtable on Mental Health, the Intellectual and Development Disabilities Task Force and the Civics Education Commission.
Other initiatives she and her office oversee includes the Next Level Connections Broadband Grant Program, the Golden Hoosier Award, Hoosier Women Artists and Brilliant Firefly.
Suzanne graduated from Mater Dei High School in Evansville. She then went on to receive her Bachelor’s Degree from Purdue University, majoring in Political Science. She is married to Larry Downs and together they have a grown daughter, Courtney.
Rachael Ackley is a fine artist, graphic artist/designer, photographer, writer, fan of all things ornithological and a history buff. The author/designer of Historical Shelby County and co-author/designer of Shelby County A to Z, Rachael has embarked on her newest coffee-table book, Capture Shelby County: Fine-Art Photography of Shelby County, Indiana. Named a Hoosier Woman Artist, an Indiana Historic Preservation Photography winner and a member of SAGA, Rachael enjoys co-locating Bald Eagles, Herons and Osprey for the DNR
Since 2012, Rachael has been the Executive Director of the Shelby County Visitors Bureau, along with owning her own business, H2O Design, an award-winning brand and marketing development agency. Rachael is currently on the Board of Directors for Indiana Foodways Alliance, member of Sports Indiana, member of Indiana 421 Historic Byways Committee, member of the Arts Committee with Blue River Community Foundation, board member of Blue River Career Programs and currently co-chairs the Shelby County Bicentennial Committee which is spearheading Shelbyville and Shelby County’s Bicentennial celebrations and Legacy Projects. Through her directorship at SCTVB, Rachael has been instrumental in creating The Taste of Shelby County, Dish It Out, Barbeque and Brewfest, KCBS sanctioned Big Blue Barbeque, Victor Higgins Plein Air Paint Out, Varmints and Vino, along with events and activities featured at First Fridays in downtown Shelbyville.
Rachael relishes time with her family and friends, cheering on the Triton Central Marching Tigers, stalking birds with her Nikon for her annual “Birds of Shelby County” calendar, caring for her pet opossum Moonshine and all things Star Wars.
Sonya believes in helping people have amazing memories and one-of-a-kind experiences! In her position, Sonya has been leading group travel efforts including product development, experience creation, marketing initiatives, sales strategies, reservation coordination, partner programming, and strategic planning for the travel trade market segment at the Elkhart County Convention & Visitors Bureau. Prior to her current position, she worked as Director of Sales for Amish Acres in Nappanee and as the Manager of Group Sales and Convention Services for the South Bend/Mishawaka Convention and Visitors Bureau in South Bend.
Currently she provides day-to-day sales, customer service and customized itinerary planning to tour operators, group leaders, meeting planners and RV rally masters from across the world. She is a leader within the state of Indiana for group tourism and is known to be exceptionally helpful and customer centric driven by connecting groups to other people and places within her state and region.
Mrs. Nash graduated from Indiana University and has served various leadership roles within the industry including on the national American Bus Association Marketplace Education Subcommittee and Past President of the former Tour Indiana organization. She has received her certification as a Certified Tour Planner through the National Tour Association, and as a Certified Travel Industry Specialist from the American Bus Association. She currently is enrolled in the Certified Destination Management Executive program thru Destinations International.
Mrs. Nash resides in Granger, Indiana, with her husband, Richard Nash, President of Enrichment Strategies. She loves to bake, cook, garden, read and have fun with her great-nieces & nephews!
In 2006, Vanessa launched Victory Sun, Inc. after 14 successful years executing events, public relations campaigns, and advertising initiatives. She adheres to a strict discipline of research, planning, implementation, and evaluation to develop winning communications plans. Vanessa’s wealth of professional tourism experience includes creating economic impact results for destination districts, enriching visitors’ emotional connection to places, and working on state tourism plans. Vanessa holds the esteemed accreditation in public relations (APR) designation. Vanessa grew up in Central Indiana and graduated from Emory University (in Atlanta, Georgia).
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