2023 State of Tourism Rob Banayore

2023 State of Tourism

Visit Indy CEO, Leonard Hoops, lays out a vision for the future at the 2023 State of Tourism.

Management Team

Visit Indy has a seasoned group of tourism leaders that bring a wide range of experiences to the organization's management team. Get to know this dynamic group of DMO (Destination Marketing Organization) leaders who are pushing the City of Indianapolis' tourism industry to new heights.

Visit Indy Organization Leader

Leonard Hoops

Leonard Hoops President & CEO

Leonard Hoops is President & CEO of Visit Indy, the official destination management organization of Indianapolis. He joined Visit Indy in 2011 and leads a team of 58 industry professionals who are charged with growing Central Indiana’s nearly $6 billion convention, tourism, and event business.

Under Hoops’ leadership, Visit Indy has shattered all-time records for convention and tourism sales, been named the #1 convention city in America by USA Today, and ranked as a top visitor destination by The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, and Time. Visit Indy has also been recognized as a “Best Place to Work in Indiana” for seven consecutive years. Hoops also leads Tourism Tomorrow Indy which oversees Indy’s Destination Vision.

Prior to joining Visit Indy, Hoops was EVP & Chief Customer Officer of San Francisco Travel for five years, where he led teams that produced all-time convention sales records and managed international tourism development offices in 13 countries. In Hoops’ 35+ years of destination and corporate marketing experience, he has also served as SVP & Chief Marketing Officer of the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau, SVP of Marketing of the San Jose Convention & Visitors Bureau, and managed corporate communications for a $1 billion global division of FMC Corp. (then a Fortune 120 company).

Hoops has been named one of the 250 most influential business leaders in Indiana (the “Indiana 250”) by the Indianapolis Business Journal, an “Indiana Living Legend” by the Indiana Historical Society, one of the “25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry” by Successful Meetings, and one of the “Top 25 Most Extraordinary Minds in Hospitality & Travel Sales & Marketing” by HSMAI. He has received the Sloan-Kettering Award for Business from Delta Upsilon Fraternity, a Kinetic Catalyst Award from Smart Meetings, and the Vonnegut Humor Award from the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library.

Hoops earned a BA in Journalism from San Jose State University and an MBA from Santa Clara University, both with honors.

He serves as the chair of PCMA and on the boards of the U.S. Travel Association, the Marion County Capital Improvement Board, the Indy Chamber, Downtown Indy, the Indiana Sports Corp., the Immigrant Welcome Center, the Conner Prairie Museum (executive committee), the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee, and the 2024 NBA All-Star Game. He is also a Governor’s appointee to the Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services (IPAS) Commission. He has previously served on the boards of Destinations International, Super Bowl XLVI (2012), the 2022 College Football Playoff Championship, and several NCAA Final Fours.

Hoops and his family (wife, Dorene; children, Cannon & Avalon) live in downtown Indianapolis.

Leading Research & Destination Vision

Matt Carter

Matthew B. Carter Vice President and Chief Destination Development Officer & Executive Director, Music Crossroads

Matt began his career at Visit Indy in 1985 after serving as a commercial banking analyst for Indiana National Bank (now Regions Bank). He currently leads destination development efforts for Visit Indy and also has served as CFO and COO during his tenure. Matt focuses his efforts on tourism master planning—aligning business intelligence and placemaking for the betterment of Indy to its residents and visitors. Matt led efforts to create the first destination tourism master plan in the U.S. and was the creator of MusicCrossroads—a strategy that has led to the relocation of multiple cultural organizations (Music for All, Percussive Arts Society, Drum Corps International, and USA Football) and their convention and related events and has created or committed to over $1 billion worth of business for the city since its inception in 2007. Matt currently serves on the technical team of the White River Regional Plan; steering committee for Reconnecting to Our Waterways (ROW); boards of Goodwill Industries of Central & Southern Indiana Foundation (current chair) and Shepherd Community Center; and is vice chair of the Mapleton-Fall Creek Development Corporation. He was a founding board member (treasurer) of Leadership Indianapolis and former chairman of the board for Music for All. Matt was appointed by Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch to serve on the Indiana Tourism Task Force and by Mayor Joe Hogsett to serve on the Indianapolis Greenways Development Committee. Matt is a graduate of the College of Business at Ball State University. Matt is married to Leslie, and they are parents of quadruplet daughters, Katelin, Elizabeth, Abigail, and Katherine and son Ben (deceased).

Leading Marketing & Public Relations

Chris Gahl

Chris Gahl Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer

Chris has been at Visit Indy since 2005. Prior to Visit Indy, he was part owner of a marketing firm in Honolulu, helping Hawaii tourism. In 2012, Chris helped lead public relations for the Super Bowl Host Committee. He was named a “Forty under 40” business leader by the Indianapolis Business Journal in 2013 and was a member of the 2014 Stanley K. Lacy Leadership Class. Chris co-chaired the city’s Plan 2020 Love Indy Committee in 2015 and in 2016 helped launch the city’s Film Indy initiative, which helps attract television and film-related production to Indy. Chris holds a degree in communications from Butler University and serves on the Butler University Board of Trustees and on the boards of the St. Vincent Foundation, Indiana Humanities, and Kennedy King Memorial. He and his wife Catherine have two boys, Kanoa and Kai.

Leading Convention & Meeting Sales

Daren Kingi

Daren Louis Kingi Senior Vice President and Chief Sales Officer

Daren joined Visit Indy in 2014 after a distinguished 29-year career in the hospitality industry with Hilton Hotels and Marriott International, most recently serving as vice president of sales, Western Mountain Pacific Area, for Marriott International. In that role, he was responsible for overall sales and market share growth of 65 of Marriott's Managed hotels in five major markets including San Francisco, Denver, Salt Lake City, Portland, and Seattle. Prior to that Daren served as vice president of sales & marketing for Renaissance Hotels North America and market sales leader for Marriott's New York City hotels. In Daren's short time with Visit Indy he has led the team to record-breaking results. Daren is married to Sandra, and together they have seven children, Caitlin, David, Noah, Gabriella, Emma, Julia, and Giovani.

Leading the Visitor Experience

Susie Townsend

Susie Townsend Senior Vice President and Chief Destination Experience Officer

Susie has been part of the hospitality and meeting professional industry for over 31 years. She is a graduate of the Indiana University School of Business with a degree in Marketing. Susie started her career working for Hyatt Hotels and for the past 30 years has been with Visit Indy having roles in both sales and services. In her current role Susie oversees convention services, convention housing, and visitor experience. Susie was a loaned executive for the Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee for Super Bowl XLVI in 2012. She has served as the chair or on the board for local organizing committees for the United States Conference of Mayors, the NCAA Men’s Final Four, the NCAA Women’s Final Four, and currently is serving on the Meeting Professionals International Global Board of Trustees. In addition, Susie is a lecturer for the TCEM (Tourism, Convention, and Event Management) Department at IUPUI. Susie is married to Bill and is the proud mom of two children, Matt and Rebecca.

Leading Organization Operations

James Wallis

James E. Wallis Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

James began his Visit Indy career in 1990 as accounting manager with previous experience on the audit staff at Arthur Young (now Ernst & Young). During his time at Visit Indy James has increased visitor quantity by 50%; designed and implemented an ROI-based flexible pricing model for the Indiana Convention Center; implemented systems to measure the economic impact of conventions and meetings; coordinated a statewide approach to economic impact for the state and many Indiana counties; fostered the creation of the Indiana Sports Impact Calculator; secured new sources of revenue; restructured the team to align with new goals and the changing environment; and designed and implemented custom productivity solutions including customer relationship management (CRM), content management systems, and business intelligence solutions. James serves on the boards of the Indiana Tourism Association (past president), Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site (past chair), and the FBI Indianapolis Citizens Academy and was appointed to the Indiana Tourism Council by Governor Eric Holcomb. He is a CPA and a graduate of Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas. James and his wife Missy have three children, Lincoln, Landon, and Katelyn.

Directors Council

Visit Indy’s Management Team also includes a Directors Council, with two directors serving each month with the CEO and VPs in Executive Team meetings to guide the organization’s business strategies and operational policies. The Directors Council also meets independently to ideate and identify/address challenges in achieving our annual organizational goals.

Directors Council Members

Brad Beaubien

Brad Beaubien Senior Director of Destination Development and Chair, Director’s Council

L'America Brown

L’America Brown, PHR, SHRM-CP Senior Director of Human Resources and DEI and Chair, Director’s Council

Michele Coffey

Michele R. Coffey Senior Director of Finance and Operations

Jon Hixon

Jonathon Hixon, CMP, CDME Managing Director of Sales

Jeff Robinson

Jeff Robinson, CDME Managing Director of Marketing

staff jrussell

Joyce Russell Managing Director of Sales

Morgan Snyder

Morgan Snyder Senior Director of Public Relations and Film Indy

John Sobieralski

John Sobieralski Director of Partner Relations

Directors Chair - John S

Roberta Tisdul

Roberta Tisdul, CMP Senior Director of Destination Experience, Conventions

Diane Whitsitt

Diane J. Whitsitt Managing Director of Sales Administration

Christine Zetzl

Christine Zetzl Associate Director of Marketing

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