The Tourism Academy Welcomes New Advisory Panel Members, Experts In Education, Leadership Development, Tourism and DE&I

New Advisory Panel Members Will Lend Their Expertise to The Tourism Academy's Latest Ventures and Continued Growth


Advisory Panel PostOctober 26, 2022 -- Today, the nonprofit Tourism Academy |, known for its global network of effective and efficient training programs, announced its newest Advisory Panel members. Eight new leaders in destination marketing, adult education, and leadership development have been added to the fold, Destination DC's Elliott Ferguson, Visit Baltimore's Al Hutchinson, Philadelphia CVB's Gregg Caren, Longwoods International's Amir Eylon, University of Southern California's Dr. Eric A Canny, intercultural education expert, Dr. Isaac Johnson-Tyas, international executive coach, Samantha Keene, Sterling Advisory Group's Timothy McGuinness, and learning & technology development leader, Dr. Juan Alberto Villarreal. They join ten seasoned leaders, including education administrator Roy Wentworth, President & CEO of Los Angeles Tourism, Adam Burke, COO of Group Travel Odyssey, Keith Snode, William Caldwell, CPA, public relations strategist, Colleen Cleary, Tourism Diversity Matters' Gregory DeShields, Rwenzori Tourism Academy's Vincent Agaba, Jeffrey Ment, JD, Lisa Curtin, PAFM, Kristina Wilson, JD, MBA - across technology, organizational development, education, tourism, media and more that form the organization's 20-person strong brain trust. The panel is co-chaired by The Tourism Academy's Sheena Works, Chief Learning Officer. 

The newest Panel members will be introducing themselves at the academy's upcoming Culture Briefing titled, "Cultivating a Brain Trust." The briefing will cover The Tourism Academy's unique nonprofit organization model through the lens of the Advisory Panel. Their expertise will guide The Tourism Academy's work and perspective on emerging trends, especially as it relates to the organization's educational initiatives that have been rolled out this year tied to Community Engagement, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and Leadership Development.

“We curate our Panel of Advisors very deliberately for depth and breadth of experience, commercial acumen, passion for travel, drive as lifelong learners, and a range of diversity factors and we are so thrilled that these eight exceptional thought leaders will add tremendous range to our new practices,” says Stephen Ekstrom, The Tourism Academy's Chief Strategist, CEO and co-chair of the Advisory Panel.


Al Hutchinson

Al Hutchinson is the Chair of Destinations International and President & CEO of Visit Baltimore. He also serves on the boards of the United States Travel Association (USTA); Religious Conference Management Association (RCMA), the American Bus Association (ABA) and Tourism Diversity Matters (TDM). As the chief executive of the city’s official destination sales and marketing organization, he is responsible for overseeing the promotion of Baltimore to leisure travelers and convention business, while demonstrating the impact of tourism on the city and state. Hutchinson boasts more than 30 years of experience in the destination marketing industry and has earned recognition for his leadership throughout his career. 

"I am honored to join this esteemed brain trust as we collectively work to advance the industry and identify the best practices and solutions to improve visitor experiences and maximize the positive impact tourism has on our local communities." Hutchinson continues, "Workforce development and education has always been an important part of destination management, but as we rebuild our workforce and respond to industry-wide staffing shortages it is even increasingly so. Urban communities like Baltimore were disproportionately impacted by the global pandemic, so our team is working closely with civic and education partners to build the career pathways and proud local ambassadors add value to both the resident and visitor experience."


Amir Eylon

Amir Eylon, a 34 year veteran of the travel & tourism industry… President & CEO of Longwoods International, one of the pre-eminent brands in tourism research; former VP of Partner Engagement at Brand USA , former State Tourism Director for Ohio, and other various roles in tourism & hospitality over the years, and my recognition by HSMAI as one of the  “Top 25 Minds in Tourism and Hospitality.”

Eylon says, "I am honored to be joining some wonderful thought leaders in tourism via this opportunity to help give back in a small way to this industry that has given me such a wonderful and fulfilling career!


Dr. Eric A. Canny

Dr. Eric A Canny joins the panel with over 27 years of global program and project leadership in education with a Ed.D. focused on global awareness and multilayered assessments. D. Canny serves as Senior Lecturer at the Rossier School of Education (USC) in the Doctor of Education in Organizational Change and Leadership as well as Educational Leadership programs, designed for current and emerging leaders who are looking to drive systemic change in their organization.

Elliott Ferguson

Elliott L Ferguson, President and CEO of Destination DC was the 2021 recipient of Destination International's Destination Organization Leadership Award. A 30-year veteran of the travel and hospitality industry, Ferguson leads DDC’s efforts to generate economic opportunity for the District through meetings and tourism, overseeing the organization’s convention and tourism sales, marketing, finance and business development operations. Ferguson served two years as National Chair of the board of directors for the U.S. Travel Association, where he guided the board and association’s efforts to advance policies that facilitate more international and domestic travel.

In January 2021, he was named Board Chair of Tourism Diversity Matters, an organization focused on creating diversity, equity and inclusion opportunities at all levels of the workforce. He has been instrumental in advancing conversations about race and racism throughout the
hospitality industry.

"The Tourism Academy is important as the success of retaining and attracting diverse talent to this industry is directly correlated to the level of involvement in outreach, education and opportunities. The industry benefits from diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives that create more opportunities for all people at all levels." Ferguson continues, "Tourism Academy’s mission and my professional endeavors align as I try to implement all three pillars within our organization."


Juan Alberto Villarreal, Ed.D.

Juan Alberto Villarreal, Ed.D. has been in the Learning and Development arena for over 18 years in different capacities, from Director of Operations of a Private School in Mexico to Consulting on Learning Development Programs for Retirement Communities, Hospitals, Colleges, and District Courts. His love for Learning and Travel started when he was able to create International Educational Experiences for young kids to college students and saw the positive impact it had on them. Originally from Mexico, Alberto holds a B.S. in Business Administration, a Master's of Education in Instructional Design & Technology, and a Doctorate of Education in Leadership.

"By focusing on developing the people involved in tourism, the Tourism Academy is setting up a strong foundation that will allow the industry to build reliable and knowledgeable professionals capable of making every travel experience unforgettable," says Villarreal. "I am looking forward to helping them create curriculums, programs, and courses to engage learners, change mindsets, spark curiosity, and give future industry leaders the tools to succeed in this fantastic field."


Gregg Caren

Gregg Caren, President and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau oversees efforts to promote and sell Philadelphia as a premier destination for meetings, conventions, sporting events, overseas travelers, and group tour visitors. He also serves as the chief liaison for the city's tourism and hospitality partners, including the Pennsylvania Convention Center, as well as national industry associations, and the City of Philadelphia.

Samantha Keene, MA

Samantha Keene is an executive coach, certified educator and school administrator with over 15 years of experience in diverse educational settings. Her expertise is curriculum development and ensuring literacy achievement for early learners, having most recently worked with educators and school administrators throughout New York City.  As a coach, Samantha supports adult learners and business leaders in creating strategic goals for personal and professional growth. She's well recognized for her background in Executive Functioning skill development, and deep understanding of evidence-based behavior change methodologies. Samantha holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of California, Davis, a Master of Arts in International and Transcultural Studies from Columbia University and Advanced Certification in Education Leadership from Bank Street College.

"Although people can receive training on the job and through their work experience, there is still quite a large gap that exists beyond the traditional education environment and a a result, people often struggle to receive adequate training in technical fields," Keene notes. "The Tourism Academy helps to fill that gap by providing individuals the training and capacitation that is needed to not only improve their own livelihood but also contribute positively to the economic prosperity of their region."


Dr. Isaac Johnson-Tyas

Dr. Isaac Johnson-Tyas is an avid traveler and lifelong learner. Isaac has been working in the education and training industry since 2008. Isaac’s keen insights into intercultural communication are largely the result of having lived and taught in Mexico, Spain, South Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, China, and Switzerland. Recognizing that learning is more of a journey than a destination, Isaac has earned a bachelor’s degree in international business, an MBA from the University of North Carolina, an MS in international management from the Institute of Business Studies in Moscow, and a doctorate in business administration from the University of Liverpool in the UK. Isaac currently works to spread high-quality education around the world in his role as vice president of operations at an educational company while also teaching business, entrepreneurship, and international business at a nonprofit in the US.

When it comes to education, Isaac’s catchphrase of “Let’s do it!” - accompanied with unending enthusiasm, ensures that training will always have the biggest impact possible.


Tim McGuinness

Tim McGuinness has spent the last 25 years as a senior level executive serving both the for profit and non-profit business sectors. He is currently Chairman of Sterling Advisory Group which was formed in 2020. Sterling is a full service management company assisting organizations with strategic planning, board governance, logistics execution and revenue generation.

Mr. McGuinness was Senior Vice President of Programs and Services at the International Council of Shopping Centers. His roles included the management of ICSC’s global portfolio of programs and events, including sales, service, strategic partnerships, and volunteer committee oversight. In addition to ICSC, Mr. McGuinness held senior leadership positions with NYC & Company, New York city’s official tourism and marketing organization and Reed Exhibition Companies, the largest and most prestigious face to face media company in the world.


These new collaborators will help The Tourism Academy answer the questions that are on the minds of every hospitality and tourism executive right now. How should my company give back? Are we relevant to a rapidly changing consumer base? How do we function in a more equitable fashion? This work will be reflected in new practice areas, intelligence reports, client work, culture briefings and more.

For more information on The Tourism Academy, its Advisory Panel and work, visit:

About The Tourism Academy
The Tourism Academy is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to helping improve the efficacy and efficiency of education to the tourism industry so that its professionals can create better visitor experience, positively impact their communities and share the world with more people through travel. They leverage their custom LMS platform at, in combination with a powerful human network to quantify learning, unlock the future, and ignite transformation for destinations, travel brands and their consumers. 


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