Keynote Speakers

Christopher L. Thompson, President & Chief Executive Officer, Brand USA

Christopher L. Thompson is President and CEO of Brand USA, the nation's public-private partnership dedicated to increasing international visitation to the United States through marketing and promotional efforts. In this role, Chris is responsible for accelerating the organization’s efforts to build and execute effective marketing strategies to increase U.S. travel exports, create jobs, strengthen the economy, and help enhance the image of the United States with people all over the world. Under Chris’ leadership, Brand USA has nearly tripled its partnership network and more than doubled its partner contributions and program offerings.
Chris has over 30 years’ experience in the travel and tourism industry. Prior to joining Brand USA on November 1, 2012, Chris was president and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA. Under his leadership, Florida realized record growth in international visitation.
He began his career in tourism with the Division of Tourism in the former Florida Department of Commerce in April 1983 and was appointed bureau chief over domestic tourism in April 1986. In November 1988, he joined the Leon County (Florida) Tourist Development Council as the organization’s first executive director, and in April 1991 took leadership of the Tallahassee (Florida) Area Convention and Visitors Bureau as president and CEO. In August 1995, Chris founded MarketServe, Inc., a professional management, marketing and planning services company based in Tallahassee, Florida. Two years later, he joined VISIT FLORIDA as senior vice president, partner development. He was promoted to chief operating officer in May 2003 and named president and CEO in May 2009.
Throughout his career, Chris has been honored with a number of industry awards and recognized for numerous accomplishments, including twice being named one of the "Top Twenty Five Most Extraordinary Minds in Sales & Marketing" by the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International in 2009 and 2013. In 2015, Chris received the NTA Pioneer Award for his accomplishments in producing significant changes in the travel industry.
A Certified Destination Management Executive (CDME) since May 2010, Chris has been a member of and served on the leadership boards of numerous national, regional, state and local trade associations and organizations including the Destination Marketing Association International; U.S. Travel Association; Travel and Tourism Advisory Board to the U.S. Department of Commerce; the Travel and Tourism Advisory Council to the Miami Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta; Association of Travel Marketing Executives; the Southeast Tourism Society; and International SKAL. In addition, Chris is a trustee and on the executive committee for the Federal City Council, a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to the improvement of the District of Columbia.
Chris earned his Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from the University of Florida in 1980. He and his wife, Susan, have two grown sons, Christopher and James.

Dr. Li Zhongguang , Vice President, China Tourism Academy, (National Tourism Data Center)

Dr. Li is the Vice President of China Tourism Academy, the research and intelligence arm of China National Tourism Academy. He used to serve as Deputy Director of Liaoning Province tourism industry development research center, Director of Industry Research Institute of China Tourism Academy. He is also a postdoctoral supervisor affiliated with China Tourism Academy. His main research areas include tourism industry analysis, tourism enterprise development and urban tourism management. Since 2009, he has been responsible for managing the national tourism industry analysis report produced by China National Tourism Administration. In 2011-2012, he served as the Deputy Mayor of Eerguna City in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. In 2013 he was elected to the national youth Tourism experts.
He presided over key projects focusing on tourism development quality control, tourism economic performance and monitoring system, tourism market research, national tourism planning, China Tourism Law, and other research projects funded by China National Social Science Foundation and China National Tourism Administration. His projects won the UNWTO Ulysses prize twice, respectively in year 2011 and 2013. His scholarly work also involves projects with HK Polytechnic University, the EU Asia-Link project, and UNWTO. He also initiated national and regional tourism research projects in relation to the United States, Europe, Northeast Asia markets.

Dr. Geoffrey Wall, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Department of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Waterloo

Geoff Wall is Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of Geography and Environmental Management and for 11 years was Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research at the University of Waterloo (Ontario Canada N2L 3G1). He was educated at Leeds University (B.A., 1966), Cambridge University (Cert. Ed., 1967), University of Toronto (M.A., 1968), and Hull University (Ph.D., 1970). He taught at Sheffield University and the University of Kentucky before moving to Waterloo in 1974. He is the the author (with L. Yang) of Planning for Ethnic Tourism (Ashgate, 2014), (with A. Mathieson) of Tourism: Change, Impacts and Opportunities (Pearson / Prentice Hall, 2006); (with E. Heath) of Marketing Tourism Destinations: A Strategic Planning Approach (Wiley, 1992); (with A. Mathieson) Tourism: Economic, Physical and Social Impacts (Longman, 1982); (with C. Wright) The Environmental Impact of Outdoor Recreation (University of Waterloo, 1977); and editor of Approaching Tourism (Department of Geography Occasional Publication 21, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, 2007): Tourism: People, Places and Products, (Department of Geography Occasional Publication 19, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, 2003): Contemporary Perspectives on Tourism (Department of Geography Occasional Publication 17, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, 2001); (with J.G. Nelson and R. Butler) Tourism and Sustainable Development (University of Waterloo, 1993, second edition 1999); Recreational Land Use in Southern Ontario (University of Waterloo, 1978); (with J. Marsh) Recreational Land Use; Perspectives on its Evolution in Canada; Outdoor Recreation in Canada (Wiley, 1989) and (with L. Briguglio, B. Archer and J. Jafari, Sustainable Tourism in Islands and Small States: Issues and Policies (Pinter, 1996). He has published more than 200 papers in refereed academic journals, more than 100 book chapters and has edited a number of volumes on the implications of global climate change.
He has acted as a consultant for such agencies as the Asia Development Bank, the Canadian International Development Agency, the International Joint Commission, Office of Technology Assessment (US), Environment Canada, the Federal Department of Communications, the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Ontario Ministries of Culture and Recreation, Citizenship and Culture, Treasury and Economics, and Natural Resources, and other such organizations as the Ontario Science Centre, the Council for Business and the Arts of Canada, the Association of Canadian Orchestras, the Ontario Arts Council, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, and the City of Waterloo.
Recent research projects include studies of the impacts of tourism on host communities, assessment of the implications of the greenhouse effect for tourism and recreation, the involvement of indigenous people in tourism (especially in Hainan, Yunnan, Inner Mongolia and Taiwan), and the implications of World Heritage designation for people living in and around the sites. He continues to assist in the preparation of nomination documents for possible UNESCO World Heritage sites in western China.
He has directed multi-year projects on coastal zone management in Hainan, China, and on eco-planning and environmental management strategies for coastal cities in China. He has participated in tourism planning initiatives in Jiangsu, Henan, Hunan, Shaanxi and Sichuan provinces and the city of Dalian and has provided inputs on ecotourism into a biodiversity strategy for Inner Mongolia and a tourism strategy for Hainan. He holds Visiting Professorships with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Renmin University (Beijing), Sun-yat Sen University (Guangzhou), Yunnan Agricultural University (Kunming) and National Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism (Taiwan).
Dr. Wall was awarded the Roy Wolfe and Rooney Awards of the Association of American Geographers in 1991 and 2000 respectively for his contributions to the understanding of tourism and recreation, and the Award for Scholarly Distinction in Geography of the Canadian Association of Geographers in 2011. He is an Honorary Professor of Nanjing University and Dalian University of Technology and was given a Friendship Award by the Province of Hainan, China, the Taishan Award by the Government of Xinjiang, China, and A Friendship Award (‘China’s's highest award for foreign experts who have made outstanding contributions to the country's economic and social progress’) by the People’s Republic of China in 2014. In 2015 he was given the title Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of Waterloo, ‘to recognize your important research contributions as a tourism scholar of international repute and your considerable impact as a mentor of many prominent scholars and as a consultant to national and international agencies’. In 2017 he was awarded the Ulysses Prize for Excellence in the Creation and Dissemination of Knowledge by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). He is a founder member and past President of the International Academy for the Study of Tourism.
Geoff’s research interests can be summarized succinctly as follows: exploring the implications of tourism of different types for destination areas with different characteristics and the implications of the resulting insights for tourism planning.

Dr. Daniel Fesenmaier, Fellow, International Academy for the Study of Tourism; Adjunct Professor, Modul University, Vienna; Co-Founder, tourism Education Futures Initiative

Dr. Daniel Fesenmaier received his Ph.D. in geography from Canada’s University of Western Ontario. He has taught at the University of Oklahoma, Texas A&M University, Indiana University, the University of Illinois and Temple University. Dr. Fesenmaier is author of a number of articles dealing with tourism marketing, advertising evaluation and information technology. He has co-authored a book and a monograph and co-edited five books focusing various aspects of tourism marketing, information technology and development. Dr. Fesenmaier is co-founding editor of Tourism Analysis; past Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Information Technology and Tourism, and is Editor of the Foundations in Tourism Research Series in the Journal of Travel Research.
He is a Fellow, International Academy for the Study of Tourism; an adjunct Professor, Modul University – Vienna; and Co-founder, Tourism Education Futures Initiative. Dr. Fesenmaier’s leadership has been recognized whereby he has received many awards for excellence in research and teaching including the Travel and Tourism Research Association (TTRA) Lifetime Achievement Award (2013), the Hannes Werthner Tourism and Technology Lifetime Achievement Award (2013), The Michael D. Olsen Research Award from the University of Delaware (2010) and the Medal of Exceptional Scholarly Achievement (CPTHL, 2007).

Angela Chen, Vice President, International Division of Dossen Hotels Group

Angela is the Vice President of the International Division of Dossen Hotels Group, which operates about 1,500 hotels in over 200 cities in China and Southeast Asia with around 15 million loyalty members. Dossen was ranked the 23rd hotel group of the world by HOTELS magazine, and the 5th hotel group in China by domestic media. In the year of 2016, Dossen has signed strategic partnership with Marriott to bring Fairfields into China.
Prior to joining Dossen, Angela previously worked in different roles in hotel design company, hospitality media, hotel training group, China Hotel Owners Club, and Asia hotel investment platform, etc. She was fully involved in bringing hotel asset management concept into China, and devoted to the establishment and running HAMA (Hospitality Asset Managers Association) China Chapter. Known as a world traveler, brand ambassador, efficient communicator and problem solver, Angela is working on Dossen’s global expansion.

D. T. Minich, President/CEO, Experience Kissimmee

D.T. Minich is a veteran tourism executive who in August 2014 became the first ever President/CEO of Experience Kissimmee, the destination marketing organization for hundreds of hospitality and travel providers in Osceola County, Florida. In this role, D.T. leads a nearly 50-person staff and in-country representation firms in the United Kingdom, Canada, Northern Europe and Brazil. Under D.T.’s leadership, the staff has made tremendous gains in positioning Kissimmee as the Gateway to Fun for leisure, business and sports travelers from around the world. With an annual operating budget of $17 million, Experience Kissimmee helps inspire the annual visitation of more than 7 million overnight guests at diverse lodging choices that include hotels and motels, as well as private vacation home rentals, condos, and villas.
Capitalizing on his nearly three decades as a tourism marketer, D.T. has succeeded in strengthening Experience Kissimmee’s B2B relationships with valued travel professionals and media domestically, in traditional markets as well as in emerging markets. In addition, D.T. has made strategic partnerships a priority as witnessed by more frequent cooperative partnerships with key agencies as U.S. Travel, Brand USA, Visit Florida and the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.
D.T. is a US Travel Chairman Circle Board Member, sits on the Brand USA Marketing Committee and IPW Planning Committee. Sits on the board of the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association and is a past chair of Visit Florida’s international marketing committee and past president of the Florida Association of Destination Marketing Organizations (FADMO).

Dr. Xiang (Robert) Li, Washburn Senior Research Fellow, School of Sport, Tourism, and Hospitality Management, Temple University

Dr. Xiang (Robert) Li is a professor and Washburn Senior Research Fellow of the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management, Temple University. He is also the Director of Temple’s U.S.-Asia Center for Tourism and Hospitality Research. Between 2006 and 2015, he taught at the School of Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management at the University of South Carolina. Prof. Li’s research mainly focuses on destination marketing and tourist behavior, with special emphasis on international destination branding, customer loyalty, and tourism in Asia. He has authored over 150 scientific publications, including thirty two (32) published in or accepted by top-tier tourism, business, leisure, and hospitality journals such as Journal of Travel Research, Annals of Tourism Research, Tourism Management, Journal of Business Research, Journal of Leisure Research, Leisure Sciences, and Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research. Prof. Li serves on the editorial boards of over ten journals and book series, including the Journal of Travel Research and Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research. He has edited four special issues/columns for four prestigious journals, and is currently guest co-editing a special issue on 'Transcultural experiences within and beyond home” for the Journal of Business Research. Prof. Li’s academic work has been recognized by a number of awards, including the “Emerging Scholars of Distinction” Award by the International Academy for the Study of Tourism, the first ever “Best Emerging Scholar in Tourism (B.E.S.T.)” Award by the International Tourism Studies Association, and the USC Educational Foundation Award for Research in Professional Schools, which is the university's "most prestigious annual prizes for research and scholarship." In 2015, he was inducted as Fellow of the International Association for China Tourism Studies. In multiple recent rankings, Prof. Li has been consistently listed among the world’s top 40 contributors to tourism journals/most cited tourism scholars (Li & Xu, 2014; McKercher, 2014; 2015).
To date, Prof. Li has conducted extensive tourism research in various areas and has been awarded over $1.44 million research funding. His clients include the United State Department of Commerce/Office of Travel and Tourism Industries (OTTI), China National Tourism Administration (CNTA), the United States Travel Association (UST, formerly TIA), and National Tour Association (NTA), as well as numerous destination marketing organizations and companies such as Walt Disney Parks and Resorts and Universal Studio Hollywood. His research has been cited by numerous American and international media, such as New York Times, USA Today, Time, Las Vegas Sun Times, The Globe and Mail (Canada), and China Daily. His project on Chinese outbound travel for the U.S. federal government and the industry was described as a “landmark” and “groundbreaking” project by the industry and media. Preliminary results of the study were used in the Joint China Commission on Trade (JCCT) meeting in Beijing, China, Dec. 2007, in which the “China-U.S. MOU to Facilitate Outbound Tourist Group Travel from China to the United States” was signed. His 2016 edited book “Chinese outbound tourism 2.0” ( is considered “the most comprehensive book to date that is crafted to exclusively examine the Chinese outbound tourist market.” Prof. Li’s another project on American outbound travel market is one of the first marketing research projects China National Tourism Administration commissioned to a western university. During 2012–13, Prof. Li served on the Global Insights Advisory Council for Brand USA. He holds/held adjunct or visiting faculty appointment in universities in Australia, Hong Kong, and Mainland China. He is also a frequent speaker at numerous international and industry conferences.
Native of Nanjing, China, Prof. Li earned his Ph.D. in Recreation, Park, and Tourism Science from Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas. Before coming to the United States, Prof. Li worked as a destination marketing, event organizing, and tourism planning specialist in the city tourism bureau of Nanjing, China, for five years.

Dr. Jiuxia Sun, Ph.D. Supervisor, School of Tourism Management, Sun Yat-Sen University

Dr. Jiuxia Sun, Professor, PhD supervisor in School of Tourism Management, Sun Yat-sen University. Professor Sun is also a Pearl River scholar in Guangdong, the member of the humanities and social sciences academic committee of Sun Yat-sen University, the head of the Research Center for Tourism, Leisure and Social Development of Sun Yat-sen University. Professor Sun serves as the chief expert in the major project funded by the NSSFC (The National Social Science Fund of China), the director of Chinese Anthropological Association, and as the vice president of Guangdong Sociological Association and the chairman of Youth Commission of Anthropology Advanced Forum. Professor Sun is the principal investigator of several projects funded by national and regional associations, such as the NSSFC (National Social Science Fund of China), the NSFC (The Natural Science Foundation of China), the Philosophy and Social Sciences Fund of Guangdong Province, the State Ethnic Affairs Commission of PRC, and so on. The main research areas of Professor Sun include tourism anthropology, tourism and social space, community tourism, tourism and mobility. Professor Sun has published over 100 theses in the international and domestic high-level journals and has published 3 books. Professor Sun has presided over or participated in the planning of many well-known tourist destinations such as Kanas of Xinjiang, Shangri-La, Turpan, Guilin, Huangshan, Zhangjiajie, Nyingchi of Tibet, Confucius Temple of Nanjing, Xishuangbanna of Yunnan, and also presided over or participated in several special planning projects launched by the China National Tourism Administration.