ACVB Closes 2021 with Destination Accolades and Industry Awards

Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail

2021 was a banner year for the city of Atlanta with recognitions as one of the best destinations in the world for travelers as well as a top city for conventions and events.

In addition to these destination accolades, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau received awards including a Platinum Hermes Creative Award in the integrated marketing category for the Atlanta’s Food Story campaign while was given an eTourism Summit eTSY Award for best website and a Silver HSMAI Adrian Award in the website category.

Atlanta Awards and Accolades

Atlanta is a top destination according to many leading publications and organizations. See the latest accolades and awards for the city.


Best of the World 2022 – Culture and History – National Geographic Travel, 2021

“Atlanta is an epicenter of Black entrepreneurship, incubating businesses with a deep and progressive history. The destination’s history is largely tied to accessibility and continues today with Atlanta BeltLine. The project, which repurposes old railroad corridors into pedestrian-friendly paths, transforms Atlanta’s neighborhoods for walkers, runners and cyclists.”

Best in Travel 2022 (No. 4) – Lonely Planet, 2021

“Atlanta is a thriving, shining cultural jewel in the heart of the American South. A city that has
passion and activism in its soul – the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr. was a major battleground state during the United States’ 2020 presidential election – is also home to an invigorated arts scene and cutting-edge sustainability initiatives.”

The 20 Most Livable Towns and Cities in America (No. 1) – Outside, 2021

“If you haven’t been to the South’s largest city in a few years, you might not recognize it. From the expansion of the Atlanta BeltLine, which will soon be a 33-mile path that connects 45 neighborhoods in the heart of the city, to a $5 million investment in 20 more miles of protected bike lanes, this bustling metropolis is banking hard on livability and open space.”

Top Trending Destinations for 2022 (No. 1) –, 2021

“Atlanta, the capital of Georgia, is known as the cultural center of the South and offers a true urban adventure. Full of lively neighborhoods with world-class restaurants and a vibrant nightlife, it’s a great destination for all types of travelers.”

Best Cities for Conferences (No. 2) – SmartAsset, 2021

“Atlanta ranks in the top cities for conventions with its large number of hotels, affordable room rates, variety of dining options and accessibility to the airport from Downtown’s convention and entertainment district.”

Best Destinations for Large Events (No. 1) – Northstar Meetings Group, 2021

“Atlanta comes out on top of this year’s list as “the city in a forest,” whose bustling convention district is surrounded by a canopy of trees. Georgia World Congress Center features 1.5 million square feet of exhibit space. Downtown venues are accompanied by nearly 12,700 hotel rooms within walking distance and are just steps from major attractions. Getting to Atlanta is easy through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport offering 27,000 direct flights per month into the city.”


The 50 Best Restaurants in the U.S. (Lyla Lila) – The New York Times, 2021

“Lyla Lila opened just before the pandemic, and has emerged this year as exactly the diverse, sophisticated and comfortable restaurant Atlanta’s booming Midtown neighborhood needed.”


Top State for Doing Business (No. 1) – Area Development, 2021

“For the eighth consecutive year, Georgia ranks as the top state to do business with by the nation’s leading corporate site selection magazine.”

Executive Commitee and Board of Directors

See meeting schedules for Executive Committee and Board of Directors Meetings.


Chair, Board of Directors and Executive Committee
Kris Reinhard
Fifth Group Restaurants, Inc.

Vice Chair, Advisory board
Jo Ann Herold
Honey Baked Ham

Vice Chair
Chair, Atlanta Convention Marketing Fund Committee
Ken Bernhardt
Regents Professor of Marketing Emeritus
Georgia State University

Vice Chair
Chair, Finance & Human Resource Committee
Stan Wilson
Managing Partner
Elarbee, Thompson, Sapp & Wilson LLP

Vice Chair
Brad Koeneman
General Manager
Hilton Atlanta

Vice Chair
Chair, Compensation Plan and CEO Contract Committee
Erica Qualls-Battey
General Manager
Atlanta Marriott Marquis

Steve Smith
Sr. Consultant
Pendleton Group

Executive Committee

Ed Baker
Executive in Residence
Georgia State University

Leona Barr-Davenport
Atlanta Business League

Karen Bremer
Georgia Restaurant Association

Debby Cannon
Director, Cecil B. Day School of Hospitality
Georgia State University

Tommy Dortch, Jr.
President & CEO
TWD, Inc.

Daryl Evans
Great Southern Wood Preserving (YellaWood)

Hector Gallardo
Vice President, National Sales
The Coca-Cola Company

Sharon Goldmacher
communications 21

Sheffield Hale
President & CEO
Atlanta History Center / Margaret Mitchell House

George McKerrow, Jr.
Ted’s Montana Grill

Derrick Morrow
General Manager
Hyatt Regency Atlanta

Nancy Oswald
Co-Owner/Director of Marketing
Ruth’s Chris Steak House

Frank Poe
Executive Director
Georgia World Congress Center Authority

Derek Schiller
President, Business
Atlanta Braves

Alexis Scott
Board member

Ron Tarson
General Manager
Westin Peachtree Plaza

Armand Vari
Jacoby Dev. Inc.

Dexter Warrior
Principal & COO
T. Dallas Smith & Co.

Board of Directors

Cynthia Alford
Managing Director
Destination South Meetings & Events

Natalee Anderson
Director, Private Events & Tours
Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Joselyn Baker
Grady Health Foundation

Kimberly Beaudin
Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame

Ken Baye
Stoddard’s Guns

Todd Brosius

Andrew Chang
Vice President, Digital Marketing and Strategy
Summit CityMD

Charlie Cobb
Director of Athletics
Georgia State University

Tony Conway, CMP
Founder & CEO
Legendary Events

Dan Corso
Atlanta Sports Council

Tim Dahlen
General Manager
Courtyard Atlanta Midtown and Element Atlanta Midtown

Dennis DeLoatch
EVP, General Manager
Carey Atlanta Executive Limousine & Transportation

Ayo Taylor Dixon
Sr. Associate Athletic Director
GA Tech Athletics Association

Bobby Donlan
Managing Partner
Donlan & Greenbaum’s New York Prime Restaurant

Dr. Meredith Evans
Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum

Alex Gonzalez
Chief Innovation Officer
Metro Atlanta Chamber

John Grant, Jr.
Executive Director
Celebration Bowl

Martin Gray
Georgia Aquarium

Kevin Green
President & CEO
Midtown Alliance

Robert Hope
Hope – Beckham, Inc.

Sean Hyslop
Sysco Atlanta

Richard Jones
Presenting Atlanta

Anne Hydrick Kaiser
VP, Community and Economic Development
Georgia Power

David Malone
Chief Sales and Marketing Officer
Gas South

David Marvin
Legacy Property Group

John Metz
CEO & Co-Founder
Sterling Spoon Management Services

Mercedes Miller
Executive Director
Georgia International Convention Center

Peter Moraitakis
Senior Vice President & COO
United Distributors, Inc.

Stan Morrell
VP, Entertainment & Special Events
Stone Mountain Park

Adam Noyes
Proof of the Pudding

Eric O’Brien
Jackson Spalding

Mark O’Brien
President & CEO
LakePoint Sports

Robert Patterson
CityLife Development Partners

TK Petersen
The Gathering Spot

Jack Priblo
Director of Corporate Marketing
Georgia-Pacific LLC

Fred Rich
CTN Global Chauffeured Transportation

A.J. Robinson
Central Atlanta Progress

David Rubinger
Atlanta Business Chronicle

Andrew Saltzman
EVP & Chief Revenue Officer
Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena

Kris Shea
VP, Business Development
Juice Studios

Bob Schuler
Vice President
Atlanta Convention Center at AmericasMart

Jamie Sims
CEO and President

Kelvin Slater
Slater Hospitality

Bob Somers
VP, Global Sales
Delta Air Lines

Jim Sprouse
Executive Director
Georgia Hotel & Lodging Association

Gary Stokan
President and CEO
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

Guy Thomson
VP & Co-Owner
Pittypat’s Porch Restaurant

Jane Turner
Executive Director
Children’s Museum of Atlanta

Pat Upshaw-Monteith
President and CEO
Leadership Atlanta

Dan Vargas
Dortch Vargas Amigos

Allan Vella
Fox Theatre

John Woodward
Sr. Director, Global Commerce
Metro Atlanta Chamber

National Geographic features Atlanta in Best of the World List

National Geographic Best of the World

Atlanta has been named to National Geographic’s prestigious Best of the World 2022 list. The roundup showcases locations, communities and experiences to inspire travelers with Atlanta recognized for the city’s history and culture.

“This recognition is a tremendous testament to the experience Atlanta provides travelers,” said William Pate, president and CEO, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The culture of our city is one that few can rival with diverse communities and civil rights history that left a lasting legacy which continues to influence the world.”

The Best of the World 2022 list was created, researched, reported and written in collaboration with National Geographic Traveler’s international editorial teams from more than a dozen offices around the world. Framed by five categories—nature, adventure, culture, sustainability and family—the 2022 list highlights Atlanta as one of 25 must-see locations for upcoming travel.

Reasons for inclusion on the list include the city’s role as an epicenter of Black entrepreneurship, incubating businesses with a deep and progressive history. The destination’s accessibility due in part to Atlanta BeltLine also gave the city an edge. The project, which repurposed old railroad corridors into pedestrian-friendly paths, transforms Atlanta’s neighborhoods for walkers, runners and cyclists.

With the return of travel worldwide, Atlanta continues welcoming visitors and offering experiences like no other destination. New restaurants, hotels and attractions add to the city’s diverse communities. For more information on why Atlanta was selected to National Geographic’s Best of the World 2022 list, visit

Media Toolkit

Atlanta named Best in Travel 2022 by Lonely Planet

Atlanta stands as the only U.S. city included in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel list for 2022. The 17th annual edition highlights destinations and regions across the globe that will provide travelers with a must-have experience in the coming year.

“We are thrilled with Atlanta’s recognition as a world-class city for travelers to visit and explore our history and culture,” said Andrew Wilson, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Visitors will learn why Atlanta makes headlines as a dynamic city that continues to evolve and inspire travel for everyone.”

The process to create this list began with nominations from Lonely Planet’s vast community of staff, writers, bloggers, publishing partners and more. A panel of six travel experts then narrowed the selections to just 10 countries, 10 regions and 10 cities. Atlanta ranks No. 4 on the Top 10 Cities list.

The destination was deemed worthy for this designation based in part on the city’s sustainability efforts. With the country’s highest percentage of urban tree canopy, Atlanta is often referred to as the city in the forest, with lush greenspaces found across the region. The city’s numerous pedestrian and bike paths were another factor. Atlanta BeltLine, the most comprehensive revitalization project in town, continues to transform neighborhoods and communities for walkers, runners and cyclists.  

Another element in Atlanta’s appeal for this accolade is the city’s inclusivity. Thriving Black and LGBTQ communities celebrate the diversity of the area and its progressive role in the region, appealing to all types of travelers. As the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the destination continues to play an important role in advancing civil and human rights across the globe.   

Atlanta’s invigorated arts scene, diverse culinary landscape and creative class also elevated the city for this honor. From murals and art installations to music and film, Atlanta serves as a cultural hub not only in the Southeast, but also the country. 

The decision to include Atlanta on this elite list was also based in part on the city’s ability to welcome visitors in 2022. Atlanta’s hospitality community continues to implement procedures to safeguard tourists as hotels, restaurants and attractions are open and welcoming people back. 

Atlanta is an exciting destination with a tremendous amount of new development opening since March 2020. New attractions and exhibit expansions offer additional experiences for visitors along with the addition of food halls, parks and paths. For more information on why Atlanta was selected to Lonely Planet’s Best of Travel 2022 list, visit 

Media Toolkit

ACVB Announces Managerial Hire and Promotion

Monica Coleman has been hired as manager, convention services and Alecia Zackery promoted to content and social media manager, group markets for Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB).

Coleman will manage groups ranging from 250 hotel room nights on peak to major citywide accounts. She is a hospitality veteran with more than two decades experience, returning to ACVB after beginning her career with the organization. In her first role in 2000, she served as administrative assistant to convention services. She quickly rose through the ranks to convention services representative and then manager before departing in 2015 to join ATL Airport District as director of convention services. She then relocated to New York City to become senior event manager with New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge before returning to Atlanta.

In her new role, Zackery will produce and publish content for ACVB channels and collateral, focusing on group markets, social media and publications. She will also manage content initiatives across all platforms to drive engagement, primarily for groups and attendees. She joined ACVB in 2017 as specialist, group markets to develop creative concepts, including ATL Unguided to promote Atlanta’s Black travel experience. In 2021, she was named to U.S. Travel Association’s Destinations Council of Emerging Leaders. Previously she worked as an event coordinator for Georgia State University as well as marketing and communications director for Chick-fil-A Riverdale Dwarf House.

22nd Annual Atlanta Hospitality Hall of Fame Will Induct Four New Honorees

Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB) will recognize four new individuals at the 22nd annual event Wednesday, Oct. 20. Held at Zoo Atlanta’s Savanna Hall, the ceremony will honor Carl Adkins, Jeffrey L. Portman Sr., Nancy Gordy Simms and Steve Smith as outstanding members of Atlanta’s hospitality community.  

“Atlanta’s hospitality industry is resilient and that is reflected in our 2021 inductees,” said William Pate, president and CEO, ACVB. “As we celebrate the rebound of business, we are honored to recognize these individuals’ contributions to the destination.”

Carl Adkins served as executive director of Atlanta’s local organizing committee for the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship, Super Bowl LIII in 2019 and NCAA Men’s Final Four in 2020. He was responsible for citywide planning, promotion and coordination for all aspects of each of the three large-scale sporting events. Adkins also worked at the Georgia Dome for 21 years, starting as assistant general manager before being promoted to general manager. A 43-year veteran of Public Assembly Venues and Event Management, he held various roles and served as an on-site operational consultant for 16 Super Bowls. Adkins served in leadership roles with several industry-related associations such as chair of the Board of Governors of International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM), Senior Executive Symposium at Cornell, Board of Directors of the Stadium Manager’s Association Foundation, IAVM Board of Directors and Atlanta Sports Council.

Jeffrey L. Portman Sr. is vice chairman, president and chief operating officer of AMC, Inc., the world’s largest trade mart/trade show organization and the parent company of AmericasMart Atlanta. He manages operations which bring tens of thousands of visitors annually to the city, generating more than $478 million in direct economic impact. Under Portman’s leadership, AmericasMart Atlanta has been named to Trade Show Executive magazine’s coveted Gold 100 listing of the world’s largest and most important trade shows as well as the magazine’s Fastest 50, which honors the fastest-growing U.S. trade shows and markets. AmericasMart’s January and July markets have also been named to Trade Show News Network’s Top-250 listing of the largest U.S. shows. Portman served on ACVB’s board of directors and executive committee from 2003 to 2018.

Nancy Gordy Simms is chairman of the board of The Varsity Restaurants and formerly served as CEO. She took over the family business in 1983 after her father, Frank Gordy, passed away. Simms is an emeritus member of the Reinhardt University Board of Trustees. She was named Woman of the Year in 2010 by the Buckhead Girls Club and is a sustaining member of the Junior League of Atlanta. She is also a member of National Restaurant Association, Metro Atlanta Chamber and Rotary Club of Atlanta.

Steve Smith is a partner of Pendleton Consulting Group and brings 25 years of business leadership experience to governmental, corporate and non-profit clients. He leads Pendleton’s project review teams and has authored economic analysis reports for some of Georgia’s largest cities and counties. Smith joined ACVB’s board of directors and executive committee in 2003 and went on to serve as chair of the finance and HR committees in 2006 and 2007 and chair of the board in 2008 and 2009. Smith’s leadership experience has included serving as the associate superintendent for Atlanta Public Schools, vice president of corporate responsibility and governmental affairs for Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. and director of administrative services for Georgia Public Broadcasting.

In addition to honoring the 2021 Hospitality Hall of Fame inductees, ACVB will present the third annual Spurgeon Richardson Member of the Year Award. This year’s winner is Elarbee, Thompson, Sapp & Wilson, LLP.

Delta Air Lines, The Coca-Cola Company and Atlanta Business Chronicle serve as presenting sponsors for this year’s Hospitality Hall of Fame. Individual tickets or tables are available for purchase at

Discover Atlanta Announces New Guides in Apple Maps for Destination Discovery

Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB) announces that Discover Atlanta is publishing new Guides in Apple Maps, making it even easier for visitors to discover the city using the Maps app on iPhone, iPad and Mac.

“Discover Atlanta’s inclusion in Guides provides ACVB another accessible platform to showcase the city’s multicultural experiences to travelers,” said Andrew Wilson, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, ACVB. “With our world-class attractions, inspiring civil rights history and iconic Southern cuisine, Atlanta continues to delight guests with an ever-evolving metropolis to explore.”

Guides are curated collections that offer recommendations for the best places to eat, shop and explore around the world. ACVB worked with Apple Maps to showcase some of Atlanta’s most iconic spots – like Atlanta BeltLine’s Eastside Trail, local restaurants and the historic Sweet Auburn neighborhood known for its place as the heart of Black enterprise.

Guides automatically update when new sites are added, ensuring users have the latest recommendations. Travelers can also save places to My Guides, create their own personal Guides, and share them with friends and family while planning a trip to Atlanta. 

For more information on what to do while in Atlanta, visit

Largest NCAA-certified boys basketball tournament brings more than 500 teams to Atlanta

Best of the South basketball tournament

Atlanta welcomed HoopSeen’s 2021 Best of the South boys basketball tournament to Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) July 8-11, becoming the largest NCAA-certified boys event ever run under one roof. During the competition, 517 teams combined to play in more than 1,400 games across 38 courts in the center of Downtown’s convention and entertainment district.

“As a lifelong native of Atlanta, it’s a thrill to bring basketball teams and college recruiters from around the nation to our city. Atlanta is an ideal location for running one of the largest travel basketball events in the country,” said Mike Eddy, president of HoopSeen. “The ease of travel to Atlanta, both regionally and nationally, the hotel inventory and a tremendous venue in Georgia World Congress Center all help to ensure a great experience for our teams, parents and coaches.”

With more than 5,000 athletes participating, GWCC offered an ideal venue as it sits within walking distance of 12,500 hotel rooms, restaurants and world-class attractions. Best of the South will return to Atlanta in 2022 and 2023.

The basketball tournament adds to the list of youth sporting events Atlanta has hosted this year including volleyball and cheerleading competitions. The combination of GWCC’s ability to transform its conventions halls into competitive fields of play and Atlanta’s accessibility makes it a hub for youth sports in the Southeast.

“Atlanta provides the total package for families traveling here for sports competitions with so many amenities within close proximity of Georgia World Congress Center,” said William Pate, president and CEO, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau. “These guests provided a boost to our economy throughout the first half of the year, and we look forward to continuing to welcome them for years to come.”

In addition to youth sports, Atlanta will see several large events return in 2021 with 75 percent of the destination’s citywide conventions scheduled for the back half of the year.

Atlanta celebrates the return of conventions

Centennial Olympic Park in Downtown

Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB) successfully welcomed multiple conventions and events in the first half of the year including medical meetings, youth sports competitions and a wholesale market. This signals the return of in-person events as Atlanta’s hospitality community continues to rebound from the pandemic.

“Atlanta has safely welcomed a variety of groups that continue to boost the city’s economy, and this trend will continue with a strong convention calendar in the second half of the year,” said William Pate, president and CEO, ACVB. “It’s exciting how much new hospitality product we have to show our customers including the ever-expanding Georgia World Congress Center, new hotels and refreshed event spaces throughout the destination.”

This year’s collective of successful events began in January with the eight-day Winter 2021 Atlanta Market at AmericasMart. In February, CHEERSPORT held its Nationals competition at Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) and in March, the city welcomed Thomas P. Hinman Dental Meeting’s 108th gathering with continuing education in dentistry. Mizuno Big South National Qualifier brought more than 1,500 volleyball teams to GWCC in April, using all three buildings for the tournament. The first weekend in May, SECO International held its annual convention highlighting optical research.

The outlook for the remainder of 2021 is positive with 75 percent of Atlanta’s citywide conventions scheduled for the back half of the year. Momentum continues to build as sporting events welcoming patrons at full capacity and demand generators such as concerts and festivals return. Development is booming with eight hotel properties opening this year, and the recent groundbreaking of Signia by Hilton Atlanta. The new hotel will connect directly to GWCC with an anticipated completion in late 2023.

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