The U.S. Travel Association Hall of Leaders will soon gain two new members: Joe D'Alessandro, president and CEO of the San Francisco Travel Association, and Ernest Wooden Jr., former president and CEO of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board.
Created in 1969, the U.S. Travel Hall of Leaders is designed to recognize industry luminaries who demonstrate "sustained, noteworthy contributions that have positively impacted the travel industry and raised industrywide standards." D'Alessandro and Wooden will bring the number of distinguished inductees up to 102. Last year's honorees were former Hilton executive Bob Moore and longtime Travel + Leisure editor-in-chief Nancy Novogrod.
D'Alessandro has headed the San Francisco Travel Association as president and CEO since 2006. He developed the San Francisco Tourism Improvement District and forged key partnerships with the hotel community, attractions and other destinations. Under his leadership, the number of annual visitors to San Francisco has grown 30 percent since 2009.
Prior to joining San Francisco Travel, D'Alessandro served as president and CEO of the Portland Oregon Visitors Association from 1996 to 2006. He also served as executive director of the Oregon Tourism Commission from 1991 to 2006, and was recognized as State Tourism Director of the Year in 1995 by U.S. Travel's National Council of State Tourism Directors.
D'Alessandro has served on many industry boards, including the board of directors for the U.S. Travel Association, Visit California and San Francisco's Super Bowl 50 Host Committee.
Wooden spent seven years as president and CEO of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, before retiring in June. He helped Los Angeles achieve record-breaking visitation, with more than 50 million visitors from around the world in 2018. Wooden also strengthened the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board's international footprint, particularly in China, where he established full-time offices to market inbound tourism to Los Angeles.
During his tenure in the travel industry, Wooden has held senior positions with Sheraton Hotels and Resorts, Omni Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton and Promus Hotel Corp., which was acquired by Hilton. From 2005 to 2008, he served as executive vice president of global brands for Hilton Hotels Corp. and was recognized as the the world's highest-ranking Black hotel executive, overseeing initiatives for 3,000 properties in 80 countries.
"Ernie is a brilliant leader with a distinguished career in travel and hospitality, breaking barriers and blazing a trail that many others have followed," said U.S. Travel president and CEO Roger Dow. "Joe is consistently in the vanguard of travel and tourism promotion, setting the highest bar in a city beloved around the world. Both of these deserving leaders have not only served their respective organizations with great distinction but also America's travel industry as a whole, contributing greatly to the growth of travel to and within the United States."
D'Alessandro and Wooden will be honored by the U.S. Travel board of directors during a virtual meeting on November 18. They will also be celebrated at an in-person dinner with the U.S. Travel board next year.