At Matador Network, we believe travel is a force for good. We envision a world where travel is a transformative experience. A lot has changed over the past few years and, as experts, we can help people responsibly navigate our shared reality.
We brought together a panel of travel experts for this year’s annual Matador Travel Awards, from authors to travel association leaders and everything in between.
A man on a mission to make DMOs more responsive to people with disabilities, including the tsunami of aging travelers that will evolve into a disability in the very near future. Founder and CEO of TravelAbility, Jake is spearheading an effort to create awareness that results in substantive changes so that “All Means All.”
Sophia Hyder Hock
As chief diversity officer for Destinations International, Sophia provides thought leadership and strategic direction for the design and implementation of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) resources, tools, and services for association members and the broader tourism industry.
Marc J. Garcia
President and CEO of Visit Mesa, Marc’s experience includes 25 years of community building and strengthening economies through visitor promotion. He led the initiative behind Mesa, Arizona, being named the nation’s first Autism Certified City. Marc holds a board seat with the US Travel Association and is the founder of the Mesa Regional Foundation for Accessibility, Diversity, and Inclusion.
Founder of Spin the Globe, Sylvia is an award-winning author, photographer, and blogger who has visited 57 countries — 48 of those as a wheelchair user and 34 of those by herself. She founded a nonprofit to provide college scholarships to students affected by MS and created a series of PSA-style videos with 1 million-plus views about improving travel and hospitality accessibility at the local level.
As a 100 percent minority-owned travel marketing company, The Culturist Group is the vision of Danny Guerrero, an award-winning 20-plus year travel and tourism marketing expert on multiculturalism and diversity in travel. Danny is an advisory board member with Black Travel Alliance and Travel Unity, and was the recipient of Outstanding Contribution Award by the World Travel and Tourism Council for advancing diversity and equity in the industry in 2021.
Founder of Better Destinations, Cathy draws on a decade of experience as state travel director for both Colorado and Illinois to bring together expert resources for destination stewardship and community engagement. Her client roster ranges from Vail, Lake Tahoe, and Nevada to Port Aransas, Kalispell, and North Myrtle Beach.
A globe-trotting travel photographer, entrepreneur, influencer, and self-advocate from Tennessee. Houston has Down syndrome and has traveled to 26 countries and 49 states. Through Downs & Towns, he is breaking down outdated stereotypes surrounding disability, one photograph at a time.
As the Visit Sacramento chief of diversity, equity, and inclusion (and formerly the chief marketing officer), Sonya is involved with all departments to ensure that DEI is brought to the forefront of programs and practices to improve representation in the tourism industry locally and beyond.
Founder of a tourism consultancy centered on the intersection of data, insights, and strategy, Esra works with destinations to reach their North Star by building a wide, frequent, and lean mindset. Formerly chief data advisor for a successful travel startup and director of research at Virginia Tourism Corp., she is passionate about transforming destinations from analog to digital business models with sustainability at heart.
Laurie Jo Miller Farr
Prior to joining Matador Network as PR Strategist, Laurie was a consultant for the eTourism Summit, editor of The Travel Vertical, and co-host of The Travel Vertical Podcast. A San Francisco-based freelance travel writer, her background includes marketing roles for the DMOs in Boston and New York City as well as Hilton, Starwood, and other international hotel groups based out of London.
Founder and CEO of Matador Network, Ross started the travel lifestyle brand in 2006 with just $11,000. Today, it has grown to become one of the largest travel websites on the Internet.