Samantha Brown - Key Note Speaker
Travel expert and television host, Samantha Brown was born in Dallas, Texas and spent her formative years growing up in New Hampshire. After falling in love with the performing arts in high school, Samantha decided to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in fine Arts from Syracuse University. The week after graduation Samantha moved to New York City, to pursue her dream of being on the stage. Not surprisingly this led to 8 years of waiting tables, auditioning and various roles in off- to off- off- off- Broadway productions.
A producer spotted her work in a commercial and recommended her to the Travel Channel in 1999 to audition for a new show being developed called Great Vacation Homes.
A decade of series followed, including Great Hotels, Girl Meets Hawaii, Passport to Europe, Passport to Latin America, Green Getaways, Passport to China, Great Weekends and Samantha Brown’s Asia. Samantha’s fun-loving style has made her a revered and engaging television personality whose approach is less expert, less host and more a person you would want to travel with. Brown recently served as a co-host of The Trip: 2014, a sweepstakes event that took viewers on a trip though Spain and Morocco.
Over the last 13 years, Samantha has traveled around the world visiting over 220 cities in 49 countries and 30 of the United States creating over 160 hours of programming (and counting). After all of that traveling she reluctantly accepts her title as a travel expert, preferring jokingly the more humble title of Travel Goddess.
What Samantha enjoys most about travel is not necessarily the “must do’s” of a destination; visiting museums, castles and monuments. Her passion is to focus on the people, their culture, and the privilege of spending time in their everyday lives.
In 2011, Samantha debuted her stylish line of luggage on the Home Shopping Network. The line quickly became a “customer pick” and went on to be one of the top brand launches for the year. Living out of a suitcase for over a decade, Samantha has enjoyed designing luggage as well as accessory cases, handbags and a packing system that bring ease and elegance back into travel and remind people that when it comes to their life they should Go Ahead and Jump In!
Josh Howes - Premier Alaska Tours
Josh Howes has been in the Alaska Visitor Industry for 26 years. He was with the Anchorage division of Holland America Westours for 9 years and has been with Premier Alaska Tours for the past 17. Josh was named President of Premier in 2009 and oversees all operational aspects of the company. Josh served 12 years on the Visit Anchorage Board of Directors and is currently serving a 1-year appointment on the ATIA Board.
Destination Analysts' founder, David Bratton, has worked with detinations around the world. He holds a BS in economics from Iowa State University and a MA in economics from the University of Arizona. Bratton served as an economist for the US Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, and as a contributor to its journal, Survey of Current Business. He spent eight years pioneering new research techniques for the San Francisco CVB, where his research program won praise for its "best research prctices in the nation" by a noted academic publication. He has been named one of HSMAI's 25 Most Extraordinary Minds in Sales and Marketing.
Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon
Blake has been the Executive Director of the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon since March 2012. Originally from Nova Scotia, he started his career in the tourism and hospitality industry, working as a server, a guide and a Marine Naturalist aboard a whale tour boat. Blake studied in China, taught English in South Korea and traveled throughout Asia before earning a Bachelor of Education at the University of Maine in Fort Kent.
In 2007 Blake moved to the Yukon. During his time in the territory, he has taught in a rural community, worked as a communications consultant, gained experience as a political advisor and co-founded a culinary festival. He has sat on numerous national boards and committees, including the Aboriginal Tourism Marketing Circle, which grew to become the Aboriginal Tourism Association of Canada. He is currently the Yukon’s representative on the Provincial Territorial Tourism Industry Association (a sub-committee of TIA Canada), a member of the Yukon’s Strategic Marketing Advisory Council, and Canada’s representative on the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.
Erin Kirkland is a freelance family travel journalist and mother of two sons. Specializing in Alaska family travel, Erin and her team have scoured the land and seas in and around the 49th state in search of meaningful products and services suitable for kids.
You won't want to miss Erin's "The Physics of Family Travel: Why kids matter for Alaska tourism" concurrent session on Tuesday, October 3. She will discuss the challenges of traveling with the 0-18 demographic and unpack the secrets for successful family travel. It's a science, ya know.
Alaska Wildland Adventures
Kirk Hoessle (pronounced "hessel") is the President and CEO (Chief Exploration Officer) of Alaska Wildland Adventures, Inc (AWA). He served as a wilderness
guide for years before becoming the principal shareholder and leader of AWA in 1987.
Ann Chamberlin, Senior Vice President Membership & Strategic Partnerships for ASTA, is responsible for the association’s membership growth and support,
chapter operations and consortia partnerships. She retains the role of President of the National Association of Career Travel Agents (NACTA) sister
association of ASTA. She is responsible for the overall operations and revenue management of NACTA which include membership, sponsorship and the annual
conference. Ann leads the vision for NACTA and ASTA Membership programs, strengthens the company through strategic partnerships and membership growth
to ensure ASTA and NACTA remain the top membership choice for travel consultants.
During her NACTA tenure, she and her team have raised the membership criteria qualifications, re-branded the association, expanded the supplier portfolio, and strengthened the chapter system through a regionalized structure. ASTA member engagement and participation in ASTA’s many programs and events remains her main focus. Reporting directly to the President and CEO of ASTA, she works collaboratively with the staff of the American Society of Travel Agents to ensure the success of both associations. With 29 years of experience in the travel industry she has worked for Holland America Line, Virtuoso and is entering six years with the National Association of Career Travel Agents (NACTA) and (ASTA) the American Society of Travel Agents.
Colleen "Yaari" Walker
Alaska Native Heritage Center
Yaari was born to Herman and Esther Toolie of St. Lawrence Island. Her paternal grandparents are Jimmie and Mabel Toolie and maternal grandparents are Donald and Laura Pungowiyi . Her clan is Aymaaramka – strong people and their sub-clan is Sanighmelnguq – people of the reindeer. Yaari’s husband is Marq Walker of High Point, North Carolina. Between Yaari and Marq, they have nine children.
Yaari moved to Anchorage in 1997. Before she became aware, she was on a path of self-destruction. Yaari’s husband helped her see the course she was on, even if she wasn’t aware of it. Yaari wrote a book about her experience with domestic violence, alcoholism, and being homeless. Yaari wrote about what made her decide to change her life for the better. She has been sober since January 5, 2012. Today Yaari reaches out to people and speak about her experiences, especially with the youth at McLaughlin Youth Center and the Covenant House (homeless shelter for youth) in Anchorage, Alaska. As a Tribal Healer, she uses a different approach for mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health the traditional way.
Yaari has been working for the Alaska Native Heritage Center since May of 2005. She started off as a seasonal employee in 2005 and 2006. She was hired full time as a Cultural Programs Coordinator October of 2007. Since her employment with the Alaska Native Heritage Center, she has done a number of duties such as supervise our seasonal employees, work with troubled youth, teach life skills through skin sewing, sharing Native culture, Traditional Healing, teach cultural workshops, and teach youth how to butcher seals.
Yaari has received numerous awards for the work she has done and has been recognized as a Traditional Bearer from her region.