2018 Speaker Information

Keynote Speaker: Duncan Wardle

Do you ever wonder why most of your best ideas come to you in the shower? Have you ever pitched a new idea to watch it diluted or killed as it moves through the processes? Ever wanted to know how Walt Disney came up with the idea for a Disneyland or how Netflix completely revolutionized the movie rental industry? Or perhaps found yourself amazed at how some companies develop killer insights that enabled them to break into major new categories.  

Building on some 25 years experience with The Walt Disney Company, most recently as Vice President of Innovation and Creativity, Duncan Wardle creates an engaging presentation that will not only answer these questions but leave you with the tools to take on your challenges in new and different ways that deliver tangible results.

Most recently, Duncan was Vice President of Innovation Creativity for The Walt Disney Company. The Creativity Team works across Disney’s Theme Parks, Pixar, Marvel, Lucas Films, ESPN, Animation and Imagineering, as "creative ideation consultants” and “cultural change agents;” using a creative problem solving process that captures unlikely connections, leading to both fresh thinking and revolutionary ideas.

Prior to heading up Creative Inc., Duncan held the posts of Vice President, Global PR and Vice President International Marketing Sales for Disney. Over the last three decades, Duncan has served in an executive role for The Walt Disney Company in London, Paris, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Mumbai and most recently Shanghai.

Duncan now serves as an independent innovation and design thinking consultant, helping companies embed a culture of innovation and creativity across their entire organization. Leveraging a unique Design Thinking process, Duncan’s clients include Coca Cola, Disney, Forbes, Ford, Johnson Johnson, McKinsey and the NBA. 


Convention Kickoff

Dennis Brandon, Grande Denali

Dennis McDonnell, Alaska Coach Tours

Dennis McDonnell, a 30-year tourism veteran, has worked in several sectors of the visitor industry in Alaska during his career. Currently he is President and majority owner of Alaska Coach Tours and Pacific Alaska Tours. He has served on various tourism related Boards including the Dalton Highway Advisory Board, National Tour Association, Alaska Tourism Marketing Board and is the current Chair for the Alaska Tourism Industry Association Board of Directors.



Sarah Leonard, Alaska Travel Industry Association

Sarah has been involved in promoting Alaska’s wildlife, cultural, and natural resources for almost twenty years. Shortly after graduating with a Master’s of Science degree in recreation management and tourism from Arizona State University, she and her husband packed their bags for Alaska, where she jumped into tourism advocacy with the Alaska Wilderness Recreation and Tourism Association. Sarah’s career highlights include fundraising and marketing, all centered around the beauty Alaska has to offer.


Denali National Park Roundtables

Don Striker, Denali National Park

Don Striker is the Superintendent of Denali National Park and Preserve, the oldest national park in Alaska. Don provides senior leadership in all areas of park management and serves as senior management in the Alaska Region. Since 2013, Dan has overseen an annual budget exceeding $20M and a staff of 230 direct reports and more than 500 contract employees, with average capital projects approaching $10M/year. Don has also served as the former superintendent of New River Gorge National River, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, and Fort Clatsop National Memorial. 

Jennifer Johnston, Denali National Park

Jennifer Johnston is an Outdoor Recreation Planner at Denali National Park and is leading the park’s effort to create a winter and shoulder season plan. She first came to Alaska in 2007, a year after receiving her B.S. in environmental science from the University of Michigan and began working at Denali in 2008. After spending seven years in Denali’s backcountry and exploring and working elsewhere across this incredible state, Jennifer left Alaska in 2014 to pursue an M.S in natural resource social science at Oregon State University. She returned to Denali this February and is excited to help the park articulate its vision for the future.

Adventure Green Alaska: A Look Ahead

Tanya Carlson

Tanya Carlson, as ATIA’s Travel Trade program lead, attends events across the globe and carries the message of Alaska tourism with her. She is also a huge proponent of sustainable tourism and is responsible for the Adventure Green Alaska certification program, which certifies Alaska tourism businesses that practice economic, environmental, social, and cultural sustainability. Tanya graduated from the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s Certificate in Sustainable Tourism Program in 2017.


The Role of Visitors in Alaska's Economy

Heather Haugland, The McDowell Group

Heather is a senior project manager for McDowell Group. One of her first tasks when she started at the firm 20 years ago was to count the number of cruise ship passengers traveling to Alaska. Since that time, she has surveyed, analyzed, counted, or otherwise examined millions of Alaska visitors, as well as their impact on the economy, both statewide and at the community level. She now works in Bellingham after spending 12 years in
the firm’s Juneau office.

Alaska: Expand Your Season!

Dan Blanchard, Uncruise

Dan's unassailable career began early. As an accomplished Sea Scout, his leadership skills earned him honors of Regional Boatswain and National Boatswain Mate when he was 16. At 18, he received his Ship Master's License. He attended Everett Community College, and from there he's lived a storied-tale—owner and operator of Blanchard Marine; Captain of sightseeing vessels at Glacier Bay Lodge in Alaska; 14 years at Alaska Sightseeing/Cruise West working through the ranks from Captain to Director of Marine Operations to Vice President of Operations; and in 1999, he joined American Safari Cruises. Dan acquired the company in 2008 and as Principal/CEO, launched InnerSea Discoveries, a new small boat expedition company specializing in active adventures on the water. In January 2013, the company changed its name to Un-Cruise Adventures. In May 2013, he was adopted intoa native Tlingit tribe. He's living the dream and wouldn't have it any other way.

Adam Baldwin, Anchorage Museum

Adam Baldwin is the Chief Programs Officer and Director of Community Partnerships at the Anchorage Museum. He first began working in Alaska tourism for the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad in 2000. He has served as the ATIA Anchorage Chapter President from 2014-16 and as ATIA Arts and Culture Chapter Treasurer from 2016 to the present. He has been a member of the ATIA Board of Directors since 2015.


Scott McCrea, Explore Fairbanks

Scott McCrea is a lifelong Alaskan who has lived in Fairbanks for more than 30 years. He has had more than 20 years’ experience working in the hospitality and public relations industry in Interior Alaska. As the director of tourism at Explore Fairbanks for the past four years, McCrea has taken the lead on developing the organization’s strategies in the rapidly growing China market to include the orchestration of three annual statewide sales missions to the region in partnership with Visit Anchorage. When not living the dream of selling the place he proudly calls home to the rest of the world, he enjoys all of the various year-round activities Fairbanks has to offer, from camping and hiking in the summer to skiing and ice fishing in the winter. McCrea also works as an adjunct faculty for the University of Alaska Fairbanks, teaching online classes in public relations and business communications.


GCI Invests

Paul Landes

Paul E. Landes joined GCI in 1999 and has been a member of the senior executive team since January 2011 when he became senior vice president of consumer services. Currently responsible for all areas pertaining to residential products, Landes and his team have developed a reputation for creating innovative campaigns that have resulted in accelerated, long-term growth for Alaska’s largest telecommunications company. Notable milestones include overseeing the development of all 38 storefronts in the state, launching the GCI 1GIG red service in Alaska, and increasing the number of household cable modems from 1,000 to 125,000 over the course of his tenure.

Landes previously served as GCI’s vice president of marketing and sales from 2005 to 2011, chief marketing officer from 2002 to 2005, and vice president of marketing from 1999 to 2002. Before joining GCI, Landes was vice president of marketing and purchasing at Carr Gottstein Foods.

Landes served on the Salvation Army advisory board and is a member of the Special Olympics Alaska board of directors for 15 years including two terms as chairman. He recently led fundraising efforts for The Special Olympics Alaska Sports Training Center and Campus, the only Special Olympics training center in the world of its kind.

Outdoor recreation, infrastructure, and tourism on public lands

Lee Hart, Valdez Adventure Alliance

Lee Hart, Executive Director, is an avid outdoor enthusiast. Lee is convinced all her career experiences were leading to a perfect convergence with Levitation 49. Since 1999, Lee has been a public relations strategist and contractor in the outdoor, snow sports, bike and adventure travel industries. Some of her greatest successes have been with brands such as Jackson Kayak, Mammut and Buff, as well as organizations including the United States Tennis Association, Chaffee County Visitor's Bureau (CO) and Women Grow.


Chris Beck, Agnew::Beck

Chris Beck is a principal and founding partner of Agnew::Beck Consulting. He specializes in the areas of land use planning, public participation and facilitation, tourism planning, community development and urban design. He first came to Alaska in 1979 where he worked with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources and helped set up DNR’s regional land planning process. In 1993, Chris began focusing on community tourism issues, working in areas such as Girdwood, Cordova, Homer, McCarthy, Prince William Sound, Talkeetna and Dillingham. In 2002, Chris joined with Thea Agnew to form Agnew::Beck Consulting, LLC.

David Houghton, Wildlandscapes International

Over his career, David Houghton has partnered with diverse stakeholders to conserve the globally important landscapes of Alaska, the Everglades, the Great Basin, Hawaii, New England, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, the Russian Far East and Northeast India. David worked extensively to develop $150 of adventure tourism infrastructure on the 5.2 million acres of public lands that surround Las Vegas. He helped to lead the efforts to conserve more than 6 million acres of habitat for the New England cottontail, and sage grouse in the Great Basin and Rocky Mountains, which prevented the need to list them as endangered species. David has extensive experience in raising public and private capital, having secured $100 million in private capital and $9.5 billion in public funds. David’s work led to the protection of $642 million worth of land in the U.S. and across the globe.

Tourism Marketing Research

David Bratton, Destination Analysts

Dave Bratton, founder of Destination Analysts, is a widely respected DMO industry thought leader. Dave is well known for his creative approach to market research and solving client problems with rigorous, carefully-designed research programs. Dave has been named as one of HSMAI’s 25 Most Extraordinary Minds in Sales and Marketing.

Dave spent eight years pioneering new tourism research techniques and e-marketing promotions for the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau as director of electronic marketing and research. His work in market research ranged from in-depth qualitative work, such as brand audits and advertising concept testing, to groundbreaking quantitative studies including return on investment, profiles of San Francisco visitors and large national consumer surveys. His research program won praise for its “best research practices in the nation” by a noted academic publication.

Dave’s work in digital marketing has also been highly praised. He managed the digital marketing efforts for San Francisco, and his new website allowed the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau to achieve its goal of dramatically increasing advertising sales, while effectively promoting its membership and carrying forth San Francisco’s brand message to the world. His celebrated Life of Riley email campaign won California Tourism’s prestigious Best Electronic Promotion Award.

Internet Security and Small Business Financial Management

Ross Toole, Applied Microsystems

Ross Toole is the founder, President and CEO of Applied Microsystems and has co-founded three additional successful technology companies located in Atlanta, Dallas and Sacramento. Ross has a BSEE from the University of Washington. His career in Oil and Gas and Technology spans 35 years with proficiencies in Systems and Network Engineering, Software Architecture, SCADA, Security and Cloud Computing. Ross provides CIO consulting and has been providing business benefits for clients in various industries including; Health Care, Education, Utilities, Native Corporations, Oil Companies, Manufacturing and Distribution, Trucking, Airlines/Aircraft Maintenance, Insurance, Retail/Wholesalers, Law Firms, State/City Government agencies, and Technology since the early 1990s.

Jim Culley, Northrim Bank

Jim Culley is the Vice President and Fairbanks Commercial Loan Unit Manager for Northrim Bank. He holds a BBA in Finance from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and is a graduate of the Pacific Coast Banking School at the University of Washington. Jim has over 24 years' experience in banking, holding a variety of operational and lending roles in Fairbanks, Anchorage, Kenai, and Wrangell. His financial expertise lies in government, transportation, tourism, hospitality, construction, and resource extraction.



The Pulse of China’s Outbound Travel Market and Evolving Digital Landscape

Matt Grayson, Dragon Tail

Matt Grayson has been active in the travel industry for 15 years and was instrumental in the creation of the US National Tourism Association’s (NTA) China Inbound Program. Approved by both the US government and the China National Tourism Administration, the program was a key piece in the opening of Chinese group leisure travel to the United States.

During his tenure at NTA, Matt also worked to secure access and funding for U.S. National Parks, and served as an international liaison with Parks Canada, the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, the Pacific-Asia Travel Association, and the European Tour Operators Association.

Matt was also the Executive Director of the Receptive Services Association of America (now the International Inbound Travel Association). Matt was instrumental in working to establish business relationships in diverse markets such as Brazil and Indonesia. He also served as a representative on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Industry Trade Advisory Committee.

Matt is currently the President, Americas of Dragon Trail Interactive, a social media marketing and digital solutions agency based in Beijing. As president, Matt is responsible for business development and industry education efforts in the Western Hemisphere. He has spoken at industry events in the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Cuba, China, Indonesia, Mexico, and the U.K.

Special Guest Speaker

Ned Rozell

Alaska Cruise Industry – Land and Sea Opportunities

Charlie Ball, Holland America Group

Elizabeth Hall, John Hall's Alaska

Elizabeth Hall currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer of John Hall’s Alaska focusing on unique, off the beaten path Alaska travel highlighting the entire state.Being raised in a family owned business in Alaska tourism has provided an insight to the extreme importance on strong tourism relationships within Alaska. Small business, the cornerstone of Alaska tourism, must continue to be supported by fellow tourism businesses, tourism marketing and creating in state awareness.As an industry, we must work and support those organizations with strong values, passion for Alaska tourism and continue to showcase the unique visitor experience year round tourism in Alaska has to offer. The Hall family has a deep pride for the beautiful states offerings, but the ability and passion to share the unique offerings with visitors alike. Elizabeth Hall serveson the Alaska Travel Industry Association Board of Directors. 

Dennis McDonnell, Alaska Coach Tours

Dennis McDonnell, a 30-year tourism veteran, has worked in several sectors of the visitor industry in Alaska during his career. Currently he is President and majority owner of Alaska Coach Tours and Pacific Alaska Tours. He has served on various tourism related Boards including the Dalton Highway Advisory Board, National Tour Association, Alaska Tourism Marketing Board and is the current Chair for the Alaska Tourism Industry Association Board of Directors.


Chris McGraw, Halibut Point Marine Services


Alaska’s Tourism Marketing Program

Jillian Simpson, Alaska Travel Industry Association

Jillian has been involved with Alaska tourism for the last 18 years, 14 of which have been with ATIA. She’s promoted Alaska in more than 19 countries and has traveled though out the state in her various capacities as ATIA’s Travel Trade & International Marketing Director, Director of Membership, Sales & Tourism Policy, and now



Karen King, Spawn Ideas

Karen King is president and CEO of Spawn Ideas, Alaska’s largest advertising agency. She has more than 30 years of experience in her field and is an expert in brand and marketing strategy. Under Karen’s leadership, Spawn, an employee-owned firm, has experienced substantial client, capabilities and financial growth, adding both a new innovation practice and a subsidiary company in the last two years. The agency’s clients include ATIA, GCI, Northrim Bank, Ravn Alaska, The Alaska Railroad and many other Alaska brands. Spawn was recently recognized nationally by Ad Age magazine with two Small Agency of the Year awards (Northwest, Best Culture).

Mike Dawley, Dawley & Associates

Jennifer Thompson, Thompson & Co

Jennifer Thompson is the principal partner and president/CEO of T&C. With her name on the door, Jennifer ensures that absolutely everything the agency produces is strategic, consistent and exceeds client expectations. Overseeing account teams across the country, she’s purposefully grown a cohesive agency structure that exudes a vibrant culture. Recognized by PR News as a “Top 50 Women in PR”, she is a member of the Anchorage Athena Society and a board member of the Public Relations Society of America’s Counselors Academy.