Meet the BestCities Team
Board Chair & Member of Executive Committee and Executive Director Conventions, Meetings & Incentive Travel Experience Development Group, Singapore
Dr Edward Koh leads the Conventions, Meetings & Incentive Travel division of the Singapore Exhibition and Convention Bureau, a group under the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), since 2019. He provides strategic counsel to attract quality association congresses and corporate-driven events to Singapore, maintaining its position as a leading International Convention and Meetings destination. Edward also oversees local industry growth to further entrench Singapore as a business events destination.
In his previous appointment, Edward assumed the position of Executive Director, Southeast Asia since January 2015. Edward led the overall operations of STB in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia, Philippines and Brunei. He also oversaw all strategic planning and execution of marketing activities within these markets to champion Singapore as a compelling tourist destination.
Prior to that, Edward served as Executive Director for Southeast Asia I and International Group Planning in March 2014 where he led the Division in providing critical policy and planning support for the Regional Offices and working with in-market industry partners to drive tourism growth. He was the Executive Director for Strategy & Planning and Research & Incentives in November 2011, responsible for the provision of economic analysis, consumer insights and market trends to the tourism sector.
Edward brings with him a wealth of experience and knowledge of the China market. He previously served as Deputy Regional Director for STB Greater China (2006-2008), where he was responsible for strategic planning and channel development to drive BTMICE traffic from China to Singapore. He subsequently assumed the role as Regional Director for STB Greater China (2008-2011), where he managed and oversaw five Regional Offices: Eastern China, Northern China, Southern China, Western China, and Hong Kong & Macau and provided strategic direction for his team to effectively promote Singapore as a compelling destination and hub for business and travel.
Before joining the STB, Edward spent 13 years at the Ministry of Manpower, where he held various positions in its Prosecution Unit, Manpower Policy Department, International Manpower Division and Contact Singapore. His last position was as the Regional Director (Greater China) for Contact Singapore and concurrently the Deputy Director (International Operations), International Manpower Division. He was also the Alternate Lead Negotiator (Movement of Natural Persons), China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (CSFTA) for the period of 2004-2005.
Edward graduated from the National University of Singapore in 1993 with a Bachelor of Science, and Beijing University in 2003 with a second Bachelor's degree (Chinese Language & Literature). He also holds a Master degree in Public Policy & Management (2007) from Tsinghua University, and a doctorate in Hotel & Tourism Management from Hong Kong Polytechnic University, School of Hotel & Tourism Management.
Incoming Board Chair & Member of Executive Committee and Chief Executive Officer, Melbourne
Since joining MCB in 2010, Julia has led the business development, bidding, convention servicing, research and Government relations teams on the successful acquisition and delivery of some of the world’s largest and most prestigious business events. She has personally led the bids for some of the most highly acclaimed global medical conferences including the International AIDS Conference 2014, World Congress of Cardiology 2014 and the World Congress of Nephrology 2019.
Prior to joining MCB, Julia was the Area Director of Sales and Marketing VIC/SA/WA with IHG (InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn hotels) overseeing the Sales and Marketing performance of 8 hotels as well as new hotel openings across the region.
Julia holds a Bachelor of Business (Catering and Hotel Management) and a Masters of Business (Hospitality and Tourism Marketing). Her sales experience includes 13 years’ experience in a number of international hotel chains.
David Noack Pérez
Board Treasurer & Member of Executive Committee and Director, Madrid
In the tourism industry since more than 20 years, David Noack joined the Spain Convention Bureau in 2002 as Director. At the SCB he was in charge of the umbrella organization that unites leading national suppliers- from hotels to congress centres and cities to event agencies in more than 50 cities around Spain.
After a five year period at the SCB David joined the Madrid Convention Bureau as Deputy Director. Since September 2012 he is the Director of the MCB, a non-profit organisation created by the City Council of Madrid in collaboration with a group of public and private companies from the sector, with a view to promoting Madrid as a city capable of hosting national and international meetings and aiming to enable these events from a technical and institutional viewpoint.
David is graduate in Tourism & Hospitality Management and he has a M.A. in European Tourism Management by the University of Bournemouth.
Marco Oelschlegel, CMP
Director Conventions, Berlin
Marco has been working in the meetings industry for more than 15 years - as an event organizer and market manager for the UK, France and Spain. In 2017, he was promoted to Deputy Director Conventions of the Berlin Convention Office and heading the Business Development Team. Marco is passionate about Berlin, the city of Freedom - which has developed into one of the leading meeting destinations in the world. He as strongly believes in the Power of People of the BestCities Global Alliance - which he has been working with since Berlin's adhesion in 2012.
Marco Oelschlegel took over as head of the Berlin Convention Office (BCO) of visitBerlin on 15 January 2020.
Head of Convention Bureau, Cape Town
Corne Koch is the current Head of the Cape Town and Western Cape Convention Bureau.
Koch first entered the business tourism industry in 2003, joining the Gauteng Tourism Authority (a provincial Destination Marketing Organisation) as their Business Tourism Manager before taking on the role of Communications Manager at the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa in 2009.
She re-joined the Gauteng Tourism Authority once again in 2010 for another three year stint as Trade Development and Partnership Manager, marketing the brand locally and internationally before joining the bureau in her current capacity in 2014.
Prior to working in destination marketing, she was also involved in the field of Corporate Affairs, being responsible for the South African Chamber of Commerce’s annual meetings and convention for three years.
Director of Convention, Copenhagen
Kit Lykketoft is the Director of the Copenhagen Convention Bureau.
Here she works to attract international association conferences, meetings and events to her home town.
Prior to this she has been a visiting research scholar at Parsons DESIS Lab in NYC, working with social innovation with the city of NY, following her eight years of building up MindLab within the Danish Government administration.
At MindLab Kit applied design driven and user focused processes to Danish policy-and reform making. She also advised numerous other countries and large international organization on how to do this. She is a member of the Advisory Board to the UNDP Innovation Facility and co-writer to the book “Design for Policy”.
In her current position Kit is focused on identifying value besides growth, to support positive impact of the industry on all bottom lines. Kit holds an MA in History/Anthropology from University of Copenhagen and an Executive M.Sc from Oxford/HEC.
Deputy Director, Dubai
"European, Asian or Arab? ……One always wonder where Ms. Karina Soraya Lance is from when meeting her for the first time, as her adaptability to any environment always triggers curiosity.
With a master in International Relations and Asia Pacific Studies, Karina was one of the few students who started learning Mandarin Chinese in the late 90’s to successfully punctuate her studies with a research on the economic and political implications of China, today’s power house, in the World Trade Organization.
Karina is a seasoned Sales and Marketing professional currently heading the International Sales and Congress Development Team at Dubai Business Events and City Operations, the MICE division of the Government of Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing.
In her capacity, she manages a network of 11 overseas offices located across North America, Europe and Asia and provides leadership in overall business events sales strategy.
Karina was also the chairperson of the BestCities Global Alliance Strategic Business Development Committee, for which she provided leadership support for the marketing and sales activities of the 12 city members in the association-bidding sphere from 2017 to 2019 . She is now an active member of the Strategic Business Development Committee providing guidance and tactical marketing support in the field of association and corporate incentive development.
Part of the ICCA local organizing committee, she oversaw the International Association Programme , the social events logistics and volunteer outreach at the ICCA congress that successfully took place in Dubai in November 2018.
Since early 2019, Karina has been working very closely with the EXPO 2020 Dubai Exhibition Centre and Commercial team to ensure Dubai reaches its target of visitors over the 6 month mega event in the corporate, incentive and association/NGOs segments.
Karina brings with her over 15 years of Business Development and Marketing experience that took her from France, North America, China and the UAE, Middle East.
Karina has developed expertise in Business Tourism strategy development, International Sales, multicultural team and set up management, in market marketing strategy, Convention Bureau Operation Structure Implementation, Conference Meeting planning execution etc…
Enjoying the fine things in life, insatiable traveller and avid dancer, what is Karina’s trademark? Her distinctive joyful laugh and her energetic outlook adds upbeat to all the projects she undertakes."
I have managed the Dublin Convention Bureau for five years and also have a responsibility for the Convention Bureau in Cork, Kerry, Shannon Region and Galway.
My lucky day was in 2015 when I became Manager of Dublin Convention Bureau. I've worked in rural and urban DMOs since 1999, initially in leisure tourism but made the move to MICE in 2010 and haven't looked back. My early career involved welding equipment but left that after an incident involving nuclear submarines - ask me about that some day!
Gustavo Staufert Buclon
Gustavo Staufert graduated as a Chartered Accountant and did his master's in Finance and Hotel Markets. For 27 years, he was a prominent member of the Intercontinental Hotels Group, which allowed him to gain experience in five countries and seven cities across the Mexican Republic. He has previously held the positions of President of the Jalisco Hotel Association and President of Operation Smile A.C. in both Mexico and Honduras. Gustavo is President of the Latin American and Caribbean Association of Convention Bureaus. In 2014, he joined the Guadalajara Convention and Visitors Bureau’s board of directors, which he remains in charge of to date.
Senior Vice President of Sales & Client Services, Houston
John Solis joined the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau as vice president of sales in December 2010, after spending a year and a half consulting on sales strategy.
Solis retired from the San Antonio CVB as assistant executive director in 2008. During his tenure, he was involved in coordinating bids for citywide conventions and major events, including the 1996 NBA All-Star Weekend and the NCAA Men's and Women's Final Four Basketball Championships. His main responsibilities included managing the tactics and strategies related to marketing, public relations and the convention and tourism group sales and services efforts.
Director of Sales, Business Events Team, Tokyo
Kana is the Director of Sales at the Business Events Team at the Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau (TCVB). She joined TCVB in 2014 and has been actively fulfilling her role leading the international association meetings team. Her team has been enthusiastically working on bids and has won international association meetings including the International Society for Diseases of the Esophagus 2022 and the International Societies for Investigative Dermatology Meeting 2023.
She started her career in the meetings industry at the Japan Convention Bureau of the Japan National Tourism Organization back 20 years ago. Also, she was with the Yokohama Convention & Visitors Bureau Convention Sales Team for five-plus years. Over the years, she has kept in close communication with industry partners both in Japan and globally. In 2019, she spent a year training at an international core PCO in Canada.
Director of Sales, Meetings & Conventions, International & Canada, Vancouver
Michael Drake, joined Tourism Vancouver three years ago, as the Director of Sales, Meetings and Conventions. In this senior leadership role, Michael oversees Tourism Vancouver's Meetings & Incentives Global and Canadian sales team. His team includes Corporate, Association and Sports, along with their Ambassador program, called “The MIND Program”. Michael assumes the board level roll with our global alliance with “BestCities”, on behalf of Tourism Vancouver.
A Toronto transplant, Michael brings 20 years of hospitality sales experience to his role; including Director of Global Accounts at Hyatt Hotels and Associate Director Sales with Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Toronto.
A longtime supporter of SITE and a SITE Canada board member for 6 years. Other affiliations include MPI and ICCA. When not out promoting Vancouver, he is out skiing Whistler Mountain, hiking the Vancouver North Shore Mountains or finding a running route in the city he is visiting.
Melissa A. Riley
Senior Vice President, Convention Sales and Services, Destination DC
Melissa Riley serves as the Senior Vice President, Convention Sales and Services at Destination DC, the official convention and tourism corporation for the nation’s capital.
A 25-year veteran of the travel and hospitality industry, Riley leads a team of more than 25 who work in concert to generate a positive economic impact for the District.
Riley sparked DDC’s Connected project. The strategic positioning aligns DDC with the city’s priorities to drive meetings and events business within growth sectors. The overall positioning includes three pillars: Connected Capital, focused on DC’s strong industries and assets that benefit customers; Connected Campus, focused on unique venues and event space to extend a meeting’s footprint; and Connected Community, a platform for customers to leave a lasting positive impact on Washington, DC.
She has fostered a strong relationship between DDC and the hotel community, as well Events DC, to yield the maximum number of events for the city. Additionally, she positions DDC as a leading industry voice in meetings-related initiatives around the world, serving as deputy chairperson for the International Congress and Convention Association North America Chapter and Destinations International’s Chair of the Large Market Round Table.
Riley received a Bachelor of Science with a Major in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Virginia Tech. Her memberships in the industry include Professional Convention Management Association, International Association of Exhibition Executives and Destinations International. Riley is a longtime resident of the District of Columbia and was born and raised in Reston, Virginia.
Alliance Business Development Chair and Senior Sales Manager, Copenhagen
Senior Sales Manager
Head Of Business Development, Berlin
As Head of Business Development Manuel overseas the Berlin Convention Office (BCO) business development team that acquires national and international events to Berlin. BCO is part of visitBerlin - the city's official marketing agency which promotes Berlin as a tourism and convention destination worldwide. Together with partners from politics, business and society, visitBerlin pursues the goal of further developing Berlin tourism and positioning it for the future.
Manuel has over 15 years of experience in the MICE industry. The power of personal enconters drives him personally. Events are about bringing people together and creating meaningful experiences. Great things happen when people meet in-person - they learn, inspire one another, trust each other and sometimes they even change the world for the better.
Business Development Manager: International Business Events, Cape Town
With over 20 years of experience in the Business Events industry, with a particular passion for Destination Marketing. I joined the Cape Town & Western Cape Convention Bureau 10 years ago and Cape Town is one of the original members of the BestCities Global Alliance. Special interest on how conventions can benefit and influence broader African communities and how the link between tourism, events and the socio-economic upliftment can be strengthened. Cape Town is the leading convention destination on the African continent, the legacy and impact of hosting conventions on the continent is of great importance.
Neasa Ni Dhomhnaill
Business Development Officer Conferences, Dublin
With over 17 years experience in the tourism industry I couldn’t ask for a better job than working within Business Tourism promoting my country of Ireland and home city of Dublin to meeting planners and associations around the world.
I’m an introverted extrovert, morning person and put cake in front of me and I’ll be your best friend!
Business Manager, Guadalajara
Ligia brings with her over 12 years of experience in the MICE industry. She has a degree of Tourism Management and she´s certified as CEM (Certified in Exhibition Management) by IAEE. The meetings industry has been her passion in different companies and segments. Since 2019, Ligia has been Business Manager at the Guadalajara Convention & Visitors Bureau, leading a multitasking team with different agencies representing the city abroad. She recently assumed the role as ICCA Mexico´s Commitee "Chairperson".
Director of Global Sales, Houston
"Daniel Palomo is Director of Global Sales for Houston First Corporation with 20 years of experience on international strategy, sales and marketing globally. Daniel recently served as ICCA 1st VP worldwide and Board Member for North America and as Strategic Business Development- SBD Chair for BestCities Global Alliance. Also served as Chair of the Texas Medical Center International Affairs Advisory Council and currently serves as Board Member at the US-Mexico Chamber of Commerce in Houston.
Daniel worked as professor and researcher at academic institutions in Latin America and lived in Mexico, Spain, Belgium, UK, Colombia, Chile and the US. He has a degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Tec de Monterrey in Mexico and two masters: an MBA from ESADE Business & Law School in Barcelona with specialization at KU Leuven in Belgium and a MSc. in Politics of Development in Latin America at the LSE. Daniel was a PhD in Government candidate at LSE and PhD in Management Sciences candidate at ESADE."""
Reyes Lopez Garcia
Head of Business Development, Madrid
"Graduated in Political Science and Sociology from the Complutense University of Madrid, training that she completed at the University of Nantes (France) and at Lagrange College University in Atlanta (USA). I worked for the marketing department of Saunier Duval in Nantes and for the British Embassy in Paris until my arrival at the original Campo de las Naciones Municipal Company, later renamed Madridec, where I have been project coordinator for the Palacio Municipal de Congresos
In Madrid Destino, I stand out for my long experience in the sector, business maturity, solvency in professional terms, with a vision and business perspective, capable of assuming pressure and resolving conflicts that may occur.
Since January 2019, I have joined the Madrid Convention Bureau team to complete my knowledge of the sector and lead new projects in the department."
General Manager Sales, Melbourne
Bev has worked in the events industry for 30 years with experience working as a professional conference organiser prior to joining Melbourne Convention Bureau (MCB). Bev has worked at MCB for 16 years and currently manages the sales business units. These are business development, international bidding, corporate meetings and incentives, stakeholder engagement and event servicing. Bev also manages MCB's overseas staff in the US and Europe (key international association markets for Melbourne). Bev is a member of the MCB Leadership Team.
Assistant Director, Conventions, Singapore
"Elke oversees the business development team that attracts international association meetings across various sectors, to Singapore. The convention bureau sits within the Singapore Tourism Board, where she and her multicultural team are plugged into an extensive network of non-profits, government agencies, educational institutes, tourism, hospitality, and business events industry partners, whom they work with collaboratively.
10 years with the Convention Bureau, 2 years in a non-profit based in India, and a stint in Singapore’s Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, Elke offers diverse perspectives and is passionate about what Singapore has to offer as well as driving impact. She led the formation of the MICE Sustainability Roadmap aligned with the Singapore Green Plan 2030 and UN Sustainable Development Goals. Launched by the Minister of State for Trade and Industry in December 2022, the roadmap was created with leaders from public and private sectors with industry targets and actionable steps forward. She is a certified Sustainable Events Professional by Events Industry Council, and an active member of the BestCities Global Alliance Strategic Business Development group.
Assistant Manager Business Events Team, Tokyo
"Destination marketing professional with global experience, Asuka has been actively engaged with promoting Tokyo as the convention destination. Prior to joining the Business Events team at the Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau, she started her meeting industry career at the Sendai Tourism, Convention and International Association.
Proud to be representing her home city and looking forward to bringing people together!"
Manager, Meeting & Convention Sales, Canada & International, Vancouver
Born and raised in Vancouver, I am very fortunate to work and live in a city that inspires me. I’ve been with the Vancouver Convention and Visitors Bureau for over 20 years with what started as a summer job. I am now responsible for the Canada & International association meetings & conventions market. Vancouver is a city where the ocean meets mountains, fresh air intertwines with fresh ideas, and inspiring surroundings attract insightful minds. We encourage people to see things differently, and we can do the same for you.
International Account Director, Destination DC
Applying over a decade of diverse industry experience, Tara Miller, global accounts director, executes the strategy to attract international meetings and conventions to Washington, DC for Destination DC, the city’s official destination marketing organization.
Tara rejoined Destination DC in 2017 as the senior manager of international sales, after she helped launch its international convention sales program several years prior through bid development.
Tara now leads international MICE sales, marketing, business development, and strategic programs, including Washington DC’s Ambassador Circle and International Business Events Council.
She started her career at MCI USA supporting the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI), and expanded her knowledge of corporate events and incentive travel at CSI DMC, a leading event and destination management firm. As this dynamic industry continues to evolve, Tara remains committed to promoting the benefits and legacies of international meetings.
Loren Christie brings more than 25 years of experience in Tourism & Hospitality to his role as Managing Director of the BestCities Global Alliance. He held various leadership positions with Starwood Hotels & Resorts during his 17 year career with them including Director of Sales for International Congress, Business Transient and Leisure Sales at the Toronto Metro Market. From 2017 to 2020, he moved to Destination Toronto, the Destination Management Organization for Canada's largest city, where he led the International Congress and Canadian sales teams.
For the last three years he has been running his own consulting and project management company working with a number of clients including IAPCO - as faculty, #Meet4IMpact and the Global Destination Sustainability Movement (GDS) teaching their masterclass on Legacy and Impact, and for Canada's 2SLGBTQI+ Chamber of Commerce as their Director of Business Development and Strategy. He recently wrapped up two years as the Vice-Chair of the Global Business Travel Association's Meetings & Events Committee for Canada. He is currently a board member for Ontario's Regional Tourism Organization 9, which encompasses the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Prince Edward County wine region and the 1000 Islands. He also sits on the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee for the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario and on the Technical Advisory Committee for the GDS.
Phone: +1 416 882 5645
Director, Business Development & Community Engagement
Tia is based in Denmark and brings more than 25 years of experience in the meetings and events industry, with many of her previous positions stationed in the US and Denmark. Her most recent roles include Director of Sales and Marketing at Konventum Hotel & Conference Center and International Senior Sales Manager, Congresses & Events at Bella Center in Copenhagen. She also worked for MCI Copenhagen, where she led the COP15 Hotel & Guest Relations team through one of the city’s largest conferences in history with over 30,000 delegates in attendance. During her time in Houston (1995 – 2008), Tia worked at Hilton Houston Post Oak and the Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa, in roles such as Convention Service Manager and Corporate Sales and Service Manager.
Throughout her seasoned career, Tia has worked with a vast array of associations and corporations. She has also remained active within the MPI and PCMA communities, and regularly forges new connections at IMEX, IBTM and other industry events.
Now, as Director, Business Development & Community Engagement for BestCities Global Alliance, Tia will focus on helping partners and clients develop experiences that leave a positive and lasting legacy in the world, while raising BestCities’ profile in the corporate and incentive market. She will also ensure forward momentum on BestCities’ legacy commitments by working in collaboration with members and supporting key initiatives such as The Madrid Challenge, Copenhagen Legacy Lab, and Incredible Impacts Programme.
Phone: +45 5363 9385
Nigel Brown, CICS
Director, Marketing & Partnerships
Nigel started his career at the head office of the International Congress & Convention Association (ICCA) in Amsterdam. He was part of the event organizing team of the association and served 7 years organizing a host of events on all continents. During his tenure he gained extensive project management skills and was responsible for implementing new technologies at ICCA events. Prior to joining the team Nigel worked as Project Manager for Singex Exhibition Ventures, the event organizing arm of the Singapore EXPO.
During his period at Singex he gained experience working on trade & consumer shows and conferences. This all-round experience has given him insights into both the client and supplier sides of the events industry.
Nigel holds a Bachelor of Hotel Administration, Bachelor of European Hospitality Management from the Hotelschool The Hague and a culinary diploma from the Amsterdam College of Hotel and Gastronomy.
Phone: +65 8453 2641
Sonu Lake is a communications and marketing professional with more than a decade of experience leading multifaceted projects, captivating campaigns and strategic corporate communications for destination marketing organizations, corporate and government organizations, and tourism businesses.
As the founder and director of Crafted INK Consulting Inc., Sonu provides corporate communications, media and public relations support for several organizations, including Destination Canada, the country’s tourism marketing agency; Destination British Columbia, the province’s tourism marketing organization; Vancouver Economic Commission, the city’s economic development agency; Martini Film Studios, a major film studio located in Langley, BC; and several public relations firms whose clients span hotels and resorts, festivals and events, restaurants and vineyards, cannabis companies and more. For BestCities Global Alliance, she provides strategic public relations and content creation.
Marketing Project Manager
As founder and managing director of Aureum Hospitality Advisers, Marlieke provides personable and results-driven revenue management and digital marketing solutions to companies in and beyond the hospitality industry.
Marlieke has over 10 years of experience in the international hotel industry. She held positions as Revenue Manager, Ecommerce Manager, Digital Marketing Manager and Marketing Communications Manager in luxury (branded) hotels.
Combining all her experience she successfully helped other businesses grow by implementing proven revenue management and digital marketing strategies.
Phone: +855 78 444 701
Associate, Alliance Operations
Based in Kuala Lumpur, Caryn joined the team as its Management Assistant in July 2012. She provides management support to the company's Corporate Office and also works closely with GainingEdge's Asian Office to build and manage its Asian clientele.
Prior to joining the team Caryn worked for one of Malaysia's leading destination management company and professional congress organiser where she served as a personal assistant to the Group Managing Director of Asian Overland Services Tours and Travel and AOS Conventions & Events for 14 years. Earlier in her career, Caryn has worked as a Secretary to the Owner/Accountant of a Malaysian based accounting firm, which later became internationally affiliated and provided administration support in a property development company.
Phone: +6012 2942609