Brand USA announces three new members and the re-appointment of Marriott President & CEO Arne Sorenson to the board of directors

Rossi Ralenkotter, president & CEO, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority; Kyle Edmiston, assistant secretary, Louisiana Office of Tourism; and Maryann Ferenc, owner & CEO, Mise en Place to join the Brand USA board Dec. 1, 2015

Nov 30, 2015, 17:17 ET from Brand USA

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- The board of directors of Brand USA today announced the re-appointment by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker of Marriott President & CEO Arne Sorenson, who currently serves as board chair, to its board of directors, as well as the appointment of three new board members.  The newly appointed and reappointed members include:

  • Arne Sorenson, President and CEO, Marriott International, Inc., who currently serves as the chair of the board (re-appointment)
  • Kyle Edmiston, assistant secretary, Louisiana Office of Tourism (new appointment)
  • Maryann Ferenc, owner & CEO, Mise en Place (new appointment)
  • Rossi Ralenkotter, president & CEO, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (new appointment)

Each appointment is effective Dec. 1, 2015 for a term of three years.

"Brand USA is fortunate to have a strong, diverse, and experienced board whose members represent broad sectors of business and the travel industry," said Christopher L. Thompson, president and CEO of Brand USA.  "We thank Visit California President and CEO Caroline Beteta, Bloomberg Associates CEO George Fertitta, and Chef Roy Yamaguchi for their invaluable contributions to the board over the years.  Their support as part of the original board of Brand USA helped bring Brand USA into existence and whose leadership helped make Brand USA a strong, results-driven organization.  As they complete their terms of service with us, we are fortunate to welcome three new members to the Brand USA board.  We are confident they will provide effective leadership and governance along with new perspectives to Brand USA as we build upon the success of our first five years as the nation's destination marketing organization." 

Kyle Edmiston, assistant secretary, Louisiana Office of Tourism, has served in his capacity since 2012.  Prior to his current position, he served as President/CEO of the Ruston Lincoln CVB. He currently serves on the board of directors of the Southeast Tourism Society, U.S. Travel Association and is the Vice Chair of the Travel South USA Board of Directors.  Additionally, he serves on the DMAI Destination Foundation Board of Trustees, the U.S. Travel Association Board executive committee, the U.S. Travel Association Project: Time Off Advisory Board, and is a member of the National Council of State Tourism Directors.  Mr. Edmiston previously served as president of the Louisiana Association of CVBs and Vice Chair of the Louisiana Travel Promotion Association.  He has also served on the Brand USA Marketing Advisory Committee. He received his Certified Destination Management Executive distinction from DMAI in 2008 and was named as tourism's Rising Star by Southeast Tourism Society in 2010. During 2013, the Louisiana Office of Tourism received the Southeast Tourism Society state tourism office of the year, and the Louisiana Office of Tourism is only the second state to receive international accreditation from DMAI. 

Maryann Ferenc, president and owner of Mise en Place, has spent her entire career in the hospitality industry. Maryann and her partner, James Beard award-winner Chef Marty Blitz made their mark in Tampa Bay, Florida, with the opening of Mise en Place, a hospitality group that began as a catering company in 1986. Since that time, Mise en Place has grown into an upscale urban restaurant in downtown Tampa and diverse operations that include in-house events; a full-service catering and event company; retail marketing, exclusive contracted events at the Tampa Museum of Art with an on-premise restaurant; a wine bar and bistro at the Tampa International Airport; and a wine bar and café at Amalie Arena, the home of the Tampa Bay Lightning.  A passion for hospitality and independent business led Ms. Ferenc to community roles as founder and board member of the Tampa Independent Business Alliance; board member and past chairperson of Visit Tampa Bay, Super Bowl Host Committee, Tampa Bay World Cup Soccer Bid Committee and RNC Host Committee. She was appointed to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce's Travel and Tourism Advisory Board in 2009 and is now serving a third term. In addition, she was appointed to the board of directors for Visit Florida in December 2011 with a term through June 2019 and currently serves as treasurer of the board.  Maryann's love of the industry goes beyond her own dining room to a variety of hunger relief efforts including Share our Strength, Feeding America, and Taste of the NFL. Community and business work have led to awards, such as Lou Groza Kick Hunger, Gonzmart Ambassador and TBBJ Businesswoman of the Year. She is active in the animal rescue community and lives with nine fabulous dogs.

Rossi Ralenkotter, president/CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), is responsible for marketing and branding Las Vegas and Southern Nevada as the world's most desirable destination for leisure and business travel. Under Mr. Ralenkotter's 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.™"  It was selected the No. 1 campaign by the voting public and was inducted into the Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame in 2011. The LVCVA owns and operates the Las Vegas Convention Center and Cashman Center. With Mr. Ralenkotter's oversight, Las Vegas remains the world's trade show capital, hosting 60 of the largest 250 trade shows.  Mr. Ralenkotter began his career at the LVCVA in 1973 as a research analyst. Prior to becoming president/CEO in 2004, he was the LVCVA executive vice president and senior vice president of marketing. Before joining the LVCVA, Mr. Ralenkotter worked for a local telephone company and served in the United States Air Force. Mr. Ralenkotter is a technical advisory committee member of NV Governor Brian Sandoval's Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee. He also is the past Chair of the Board of Directors for the U.S. Travel Association. He has served as a delegate to the White House Conference on Tourism and as chair of the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board for the U.S. Department of Commerce where remains on the board. He is a member of the American Society of Travel Agents, Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI), the American Society of Association Executives and the Hotel Sales Marketing Association. He was named "Employer of the Year" by the Employee Service Management Association in 2006, one of the "25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry" by Meeting News in 2005, and in 2004, he was selected "Co-Brand Marketer of the Year" by Brandweek magazine. In 2013, the International Association of Exhibitions and Events honored him with its "Pinnacle Award" in recognition of extraordinary achievement in the exhibitions and events management field.  Additionally, he was inducted into both the U.S. Travel Association's "Hall of Leaders" and DMAI's "Hall of Fame" in 2014.  Mr. Ralenkotter was honored with UNLV's Distinguished Nevadan Award in 2009 and UNLV Alumni of the Year in 2008. He served as a First Lieutenant in the United States Air Force with the 468th Medical Service Flight.  He is a member of the Las Vegas Ad Club, which inducted him into the Las Vegas Advertising Hall of Fame for lifetime marketing achievements. He also received Lifetime Achievement honors from the American Marketing Association and the Travel and Tourism Research Association.

"We are pleased that we will continue to benefit from Arne's leadership as a result of his re-appointment to the board," said Thompson. "Marriott is a leading global lodging company with more than 4,300 properties comprising 19 brands in 85 countries and territories, and Arne's lodging company leadership and vast international experience have been especially valuable as Brand USA continues its work to market the United States as the world's premier travel destination."

Since its establishment, Brand USA has demonstrated a positive impact on international visitation.  In fact, according to studies by Oxford Economics, from 2013 through 2014, Brand USA's marketing initiatives have helped bring more than 2 million incremental visitors to the USA, benefitting the U.S. economy with nearly $15 billion in business sales; nearly $2 billion in federal, state and local taxes; and supporting, on average, 50,000 incremental jobs per year.  In addition, the United States' share of total international travel increased from approximately 12% in 2011 to 13.5% in 2014 (and the USA's share of long-haul travel increased from 6.4% to 6.7%).



Effective Nov. 30, 2015, members of Brand USA's board of directors include:

Arne M. Sorenson, Chair of the Board

President & CEO, Marriott International, Inc.

Represents:  Hotel accommodations sector

John Edman
State Tourism Director, Experience Minnesota Tourism
Represents: Official of a state tourism office

Tom Klein, Vice Chair, Board of Directors

Chair, Audit Committee

President & CEO, Sabre Holdings

Represents: Travel distribution sector

Kyle Edmiston
Assistant Secretary, Louisiana Office of Tourism
Represents: Official of a state tourism office

Barbara J. Richardson, Vice Chair, Board of Directors

Chair, Marketing Committee

Chief of Staff, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

Represents: Land/Sea transportation sector

Maryann Ferenc
Owner & CEO, Mise en Place
Represents: Restaurant sector

Daniel J. Halpern, Treasurer of the Board

Chair, Finance Committee and Conflict of Interest Committee

President & CEO, Jackmont Hospitality, Inc.

Represents: Small business/Retail sector

Randy A. Garfield

Former Executive Vice

President, Worldwide Sales & Travel Operations, Disney
Destinations, &
 President, Walt Disney Travel Co. (retired)
Represents:  Attractions/Recreation sector

Andrew Greenfield, Secretary

Chair, Governance & Nominating Committee

Managing Partner, Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen and Loewy, LLP

Represents: Immigration law and policy sector

Rossi Ralenkotter

President & CEO, Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority
Represents: Official of a city-level convention and visitors bureau

Mark Schwab

CEO, Star Alliance Services GmbH

Represents: Passenger air sector



Members of the Brand USA board of directors are appointed by the Secretary of Commerce (after consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State) and represent various regions of the United States, with members having expertise and experience in specific sectors of the travel and tourism industry. More information about the members of the Brand USA board of directors can be found at under "About Brand USA." 

About Brand USA

Brand USA, the destination marketing organization for the United States, was established by the Travel Promotion Act to spearhead the nation's first global marketing effort to promote the United States as a premier travel destination and to communicate U.S. entry/exit policies and procedures to worldwide travellers.  Formed as the Corporation for Travel Promotion in 2010, the public-private entity began operations in May 2011 and does business as Brand USA. With a mission of increasing incremental visitation, spend and market share of international travelers to the United States, Brand USA works in close partnership with more than 500 partners to maximize the economic and social benefits of travel. These benefits include fueling the nation's economy and fostering understanding between people and cultures.

Brand USA is governed by an 11-member Board of Directors appointed for a maximum of two consecutive three-year terms by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security. As required by the Travel Promotion, Enhancement, and Modernization Act of 2014, all members of the board are United States citizens and are either current or former chief executive officers, chief financial offers, or chief marketing officers, or have held equivalent management positions. Designated members have leadership expertise in specific sectors of the travel industry including: hotel accommodations; restaurants; retail or a related association; travel distribution; attractions or recreations; state-level tourism office; city-level convention and visitors bureau; passenger air; land or sea transportation; and immigration law and policy. At least two members of the board are audit committee financial experts. In addition, at least five members of the board have expertise in international travel promotion or marketing broadly representing various regions of the United States.

For industry or partner information about Brand USA, visit

For information about exceptional and unexpected travel experiences in the United States, please visit Brand USA's consumer website at

Anne Madison, Chief Strategy and Communications Officer  
Brand USA

Felicia Farrar McLemore, APR, Sr. Director, Global Corporate Relations  
Marriott International, Inc.

Jacques Berry, Communications Director for Lt. Governor Dardenne  
Louisiana Office of Tourism

Erika Zimmerman, Customer Service Manager  
Mise en Place

Cathy Tull, Senior Vice President of Marketing
Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority