September 18 – 19, 2021

Las Vegas, NV



Connect THRIVE Summit
Connect THRIVE Summit is focused on community development through LGBTQ travel, sports, and entertainment. This one-of-a-kind marketing summit features dynamic general sessions and networking events alongside a series of pre-scheduled, one-on-one connections between destinations, resorts, hotels, attractions, domestic and international tour operators and travel agents, sports rights holders, media, marketers and brands.


THRIVE Summit 2021 will be held in Las Vegas, NV. Hotel information coming soon!


Register and Pay

Registration is $1,495 


Build key relationships between destinations, resorts, hotels, attractions, domestic and international tour operators and travel agents, sports rights holders, media, marketers and brands.

Learn from Experts

Enjoy in-depth sessions about relevant topics led by industry experts.

Unwind and Mingle

Build relationships while the networking continues at our entertaining and interactive receptions.



“We firmly believe that the Connect THRIVE Summit presents an extraordinary opportunity to strengthen our communities by building strong connections between leaders within the LGBTQ travel, sports and entertainment industry.”

— DJ Doran, Managing Director, Diversitas Media

 “Attended Connect THRIVE Summit 2019 and was very impressed with the level of attendees and set up of the show. Tremendous experience and in depth knowledge sharing of this very important market, that encompasses the more discerning passenger who is looking to feel welcome in a majority luxury category.”

— Sean Bayliss, International Tourism Resources Group (ITRG)

2021 Sponsors

2020 AGENDA 

Monday, November 9, 2020

8:00 – 10:00 am


8:30 am

Coffee & Tea

9:00 – 9:15 am

Welcome from DT Minich, Visit Kissimmee and Cedar Rapids Tourism

9:15 – 10:00 am

How Important Restaurants are to Communities, Art Smith, sponsored by Cedar Rapids Tourism

10:00 – 10:05 am

Words from Roger Dow, US Travel Association

10:05 – 10:10 am

Words from Dana Young, VISIT FLORIDA

10:10 – 10:15 am

Words from Don Welsh, Destinations International

10:15 – 10:40 am

Leveraging the LGBTQ+ Segment in Your COVID Recovery, Ed Salvato, LGBTQ Travel Expert, Educator and Author

10:40 – 11:00 am

An Unintentional Leader, Barbara Poma, OnePULSE Foundation, Inc.

11:00 am – 12:00 pm

Gaycation Travel Show Podcast with Ravi Roth 

12:15 – 1:15 pm


1:15 – 2:15 pm

DJ Doran Podcast

2:15 – 2:55 pm

LGBTQ Tourism & Hospitality in the Age of COVID: Research Key Findings​, Thomas Roth, CMI

2:55 – 3:15 pm

Orbitz’s Journey to Make Travel More Inclusive, Michael Scheinman, Orbitz and CheapTickets

3:15 – 3:45 pm


3:45 – 5:00 pm

The Daily Best with David Downing, United Landmark Associates

5:30 – 6:30 pm

Reception, sponsored by VISIT FLORIDA

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

8:30 am

Grab & Go Breakfast

9:00 – 10:00 am

#ILoveGay “Voices of Travel” Podcast, Matt Skallerud, Pink Media

10:00 – 10:20 am

Discover Puerto Rico: Successful Allyship, Leah Chandler, Discover Puerto Rico + Billy Kolber, HospitableMe

10:20 – 10:40 am

Building an Inclusive, Proud and Resilient City, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor

10:40 – 11:00 am

General Session, Nadine Smith, Equality Florida

11:00 am – 12:00 pm

The Daily Best with David Downing, United Landmark Associates


Sarah Quinlan

Jane Castor

Jane Castor is the 59th Mayor of the City of Tampa. Born and raised in Tampa Florida, Castor graduated from Chamberlain High School and attended the University of Tampa on an athletic scholarship.
Upon graduating, she joined the Tampa Police Department and worked her way up from serving as a beat cop to being appointed Tampa’s first female Chief of Police. 

In 2019, Jane was elected mayor of the City of Tampa. In just her first few months in office, she successfully launched numerous initiatives, including the city’s largest ever water/wastewater infrastructure plan (PIPES); the Transforming Tampa’s Tomorrow Advisory Teams to focus on building a strategic roadmap for the City’s top priorities; establishing a minimum wage of $15 an hour for full-time city employees; securing a federal grant for body-worn cameras; initiating a renewal of the City’s transportation master plan (Tampa MOVES); designating Tampa as a Vision Zero city; and originating a range of community-based initiatives such as Art on the Block, Crosswalks to Classrooms, and Bridges to Business. All of this was done while achieving unanimous adoption of the City’s one billion dollar budget – the first budget in the black since the create recession.

Chef Art Smith

Chef Art Smith is the executive chef and co-owner of Blue Door Kitchen & Garden in Chicago, Southern Art & Bourbon Bar in Atlanta, Art & Soul in Washington DC, Art Bird & Whiskey Bar at Grand Central Terminal in New York City, and Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ Florida Kitchen & Southern Shine Bar at Disney Springs at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Art Smith has received two James Beard Foundation awards, the culinary profession’s highest honor, and has cooked for some of the world’s most famous celebrities. 

Smith is the author of “Back to the Table; Kitchen Life: Real Food for Real Families”; “Back to the Family”; and “Art Smith’s Healthy Comfort,” with a focus on healthy cooking and healthy living.

Chef Smith is the founder of Common Threads, a non-profit organization teaching low-income children to cook wholesome and affordable meals since 2003. 

In 2015 Smith launched a non-profit organization, Reunion, Florida Garden and Kitchen School, in Madison FL at the historic Wardlaw-Smith House near his childhood home in Jasper, FL. 

Sarah Quinlan

Nadine Smith

Nadine Smith is the Executive Director of Equality Florida, the state’s largest organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. An award-winning journalist turned organizer, Nadine was one of four national co-chairs of the 1993 March on Washington. She was part of the historic meeting between then – President Clinton – the first Oval Office meeting between a sitting President and gay community leaders. She served on the founding board of the International Gay and Lesbian Youth Organization. She is s a Florida Chamber Foundation Trustee and served on President Obama’s National Finance Committee. Nadine has been named one of the the state’s “Most Powerful and Influential Women” by the Florida Diversity Council. She has recieved the League of Women Voter’s Woman of Distinction Award and in 2018 was named one of the 100 Most Influential Floridians by Influence Magazine. She currently serves as chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Florida Advisory Committee.

Sarah Quinlan

Ed Salvato

Ed Salvato (pronouns he/him) offers LGBTQ marketing consulting to major travel, tourism & hospitality brands around the globe. Ed also runs the LGBTQ Travel Pavilion at the NY Times Travel Show and is the emcee at ITB’s Pink Pavilion. He’s co-author of the Handbook of LGBT Tourism & Hospitality Marketing: A Guide for Business Practice by Columbia University Press. Previously, Ed was editor in chief of OUT & ABOUT, Out Traveler and ManAboutWorld gay travel magazines. Ed is an adjunct instructor in marketing at NYU’s Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality currently teaching a class in customer relationship management.

Sarah Quinlan

Roger Dow 

Roger Dow is president and CEO of U.S. Travel Association, the Washington, D.C.-based organization representing all segments of travel in America. U.S. Travel’s mission is to increase travel to and within the United States. As the leading travel industry advocate, Dow and
his team regularly meet with executive branch and congressional leaders to advance policies that benefit the broader travel industry. His efforts have resulted in major legislative victories, including his instrumental role in establishing and renewing Brand USA, the highly effective national travel and tourism promotion program. Dow and U.S. Travel are also leaders of the Meetings Mean Business Coalition, which promotes and defends the value of face-to-face business meetings, trade shows, conferences and conventions.

Prior to joining U.S. Travel in 2005, Dow spent 34 years at Marriott International, rising to senior vice president of global and field sales. Dow served in the United States Army with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam, where he received the Bronze Star and other citations. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Seton Hall University and was honored as a Most Distinguished Alumnus in 2012. In addition, he holds an honorary degree from Johnson & Wales University.

Sarah Quinlan

Billy Kolber

Billy Kolber is the founder of HospitableMe, the global leader in LGBTQ+ strategy and training for tourism and hospitality. He co-founded OUT&ABOUT, the first gay/lesbian travel magazine in the US, and ManAboutWorld, one of the first mobile-only magazines of any kind.

He and his team provide learning and training around issues of sexuality and gender diversity, empowering destinations and brands to provide authentic, welcoming service to diverse travelers, and more personalized service to everyone. Billy traveled and sang around the world with the Yale Whiffenpoofs and has visited 71 countries, but still lives in New York City, where he was born. 

Sarah Quinlan

Don Welsh

A seasoned tourism executive with more than 35 years of experience in the industry, Don Welsh serves as the President and CEO of Destinations International. Since joining the association in March 2016, Welsh has implemented a strategic realignment for the association through a renewed commitment to focus on member needs to deliver the resources members have determined to be essential to the success of their organizations.
Prior to joining Destinations International, Welsh served as the President and CEO of Choose Chicago. Welsh also held the CEO position at the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association and the Seattle Convention & Visitors Bureau. Prior to joining the destination marketing industry, Welsh served as senior vice president for Westin Hotels at its corporate headquarters, and has also held senior leadership positions in sales and marketing for Westin Hotels and Resorts, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas.

Sarah Quinlan

Matt Skallerud

Matt Skallerud, president of Pink Media, specializes in LGBTQ online marketing, targeting gays & lesbians via content marketing, social media, programmatic ad banners, mobile smartphone apps and more. He also specializes in search engine optimization (SEO), key word / search advertising (PPC) and social media analytics. He’s been in the LGBTQ online industry for over 20 years now.

Matt Skallerud began his online career in May 1995 with the launch of, which became one of the top 3 LGBTQ websites worldwide. Having worked with companies, large and small, for more than 20 years to reach the LGBTQ online consumer through this site and others, he is now focused on the most cutting-edge global innovations in programmatic ad buying, social networking and Web 2.0 technologies. He empowers his clients to reach the LGBTQ market using the most advanced techniques taking hold in the online marketing world today, including Real-Time Ad Bidding (RTB), Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube, blogs and others.

In addition, Skallerud is the former Board Chairman of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) and has served on the boards Travel Gay Canada (TGC) and the LAGLCC. He is actively involved with key national LGBTQ organizations including the NGLCC, Out Professionals and Lambda Legal, just to name a few.

Sarah Quinlan

Ravi Roth

Roth comes with prior experience in LGBTQ+ travel as a blogger, vlogger, content creator, and influencer, exploring the Queer culture in 31 countries with his travel brand Ravi Round The World. Ravi fearlessly captures and discovers where to stay, play, eat, work out, sites to see, and the Queer history of each destination.  Ravi has been recognized as an expert in the LGBTQ+ travel community and was was named “One of the Top 10 Gay Travel Instagrammers in the World to Follow” by Unicorn Booty, nominated for “Best Insta Traveler of 2019″ by Gay Cities, and recognized as “People We Love in 2019” by Metrosource. As a highly sought after lecturer on LGBTQ+ travel, Ravi has been a featured speaker at the NY Times Travel Show, LGBT Week, Google, and Community Marketing Insights. Ravi is also an actor and singer and has been living in the Big Apple for 14 years! Ravi is represented by Jeremy Katz at The Katz Company.

Sarah Quinlan

DJ Doran

Mr. Doran currently serves as the CEO of Doran Omnimedia and Aequalitas Media. He also serves as the Executive Director of the AEQUALITAS Advisory Board. Mr. Doran’s background and experience include a 23-year military career as a United States Air Force Reserve Pilot; and a business career that spans over 25 years as owner and CEO of multiple corporations across various media companies. Mr. Doran has held key leadership roles throughout his career in LGBTQ Media and his management and leadership qualities as CEO have given Mr. Doran a unique ability to evaluate opportunities and successfully negotiate agreements that support the mission statement of the company, board of directors and investors. Such experience and insight have allowed Mr. Doran to work with his team toward the profitable acquisition of media assets ahead of the competition.

Mr. Doran continues to be actively involved with the local/national LGBTQ community as well as an ambassador to the business and political leaders of Chicago and beyond.

Sarah Quinlan

Michael Scheinman

Michael Scheinman is general manager of the Orbitz and CheapTickets brands for Expedia Group. Orbitz’s vision is to be the champion of inclusion and diversity in travel, and in July 2020, it launched the Travel With Pride initiative to support the LGBTQIA travel community. Prior to leading Orbitz and CheapTickets, Michael has spent over 10 years at Expedia Group and served in a variety of roles across hotel partner relations, product management, operations, and e-commerce strategy. He has an undergraduate degree in Hotel Administration from Cornell University, and an MBA from University of Chicago Booth School of Business, where he focused in revenue management and corporate strategy, respectively.

Sarah Quinlan

DT Minich

DT Minich is a veteran tourism executive. In August 2014, he became the first President and CEO of Experience Kissimmee, the Destination Marketing Organization for Osceola County, Florida. In this role, DT leads a 53-person staff, plus in-country representation firms in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Germany, Northern Europe, Mexico, and the United Kingdom. With an annual operating budget of $25 million, Experience Kissimmee helps inspire visitation for more than 8.9 million overnight guests annually. Capitalizing on his nearly three decades as a tourism marketer, DT has succeeded in strengthening the destination’s relationships with valued travel professionals and media worldwide. In addition, DT champions strategic partnerships as witnessed by frequent collaboration with key agencies, such as U.S. Travel Association, Brand USA, and the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.

Under DT’s leadership, the staff has made tremendous gains in positioning Osceola County as a top destination for vacations, meetings, and sporting events. In 2017, DT and Experience Kissimmee were recognized by U.S. Travel Association with the Grassroots Travel Champion
Award. DT is a U.S. Travel Association Chairman Circle Board Member, Executive Committee Member and sits on the Brand USA Marketing Committee and IPW Planning Committee. He also serves on the board for the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association and is the past president of the Florida Association of Destination Marketing Organizations.

Sarah Quinlan

David Downing

David Downing CDME is the President of Brand for United Landmark Associates, a Tampa Bay-based full-service advertising, branding and marketing agency specializing in hospitality development and luxury lifestyle brands.  Downing’s previous experience includes 10 years in NYC with Random House/Fodor’s and Zagat Survey, followed by 12 years at Visit St. Pete Clearwater, including the last five as President & CEO. 

A former member of the board of directors of both the U.S. Travel Association and Visit Florida, among others, Downing was named one of the Top 25 Extraordinary Marketing Minds in 2019 by Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International. 

His advice for marketing during a pandemic is three fold: 1) don’t give your brand coronavirus; 2) stop showing grown adults what 6 feet looks like; and 3) keep the faith.  

Sarah Quinlan

Barbara Poma

Barbara Poma, founder and owner of Pulse nightclub, was raised in Coral Springs, Florida where she attended J.P. Taravella High School. She graduated in 1990 from the University of Central Florida with a BA in English Literature and a minor in Secondary Education and she was member of the Pi Beta Phi Sorority.

Ms. Poma worked as an educator in the Orange County Public School system for three years teaching Creative Writing, Language Arts, Debate and Drama.

In 1995 she married entrepreneur Rosario Poma, with whom she has two children and a stepdaughter. Joining her restauranteur husband, Ms. Poma has built and operated several businesses, most significantly Pulse nightclub which was established in 2004 as a tribute to her brother John who passed away from complications from HIV/AIDs.

Pulse nightclub was embraced by the global LGBTQ+ community for the club’s culture of love and providing a venue where the LGBTQ+ community and their families could be themselves. In the course of operating Pulse nightclub, Ms. Poma has become a respected human and civil rights advocate.

Sarah Quinlan

Thomas Roth

Thomas Roth, President and Founder of Community Marketing & Insights, launched the company in 1992. Tom is primarily dedicating his industry-leading expertise to head up Community Marketing’s Research & Development division. Tom and his team produce the annual LGBTQ Community Survey (45,000 participants in 150 countries; 14th year), and the annual LGBTQ Tourism & Hospitality Survey (24th year), as well as custom surveys and focus groups for a variety of market leaders in tourism, hospitality, retail, finance, beverages, real estate, insurance, health care, government, etc., and conducts educational training seminars for corporations and organizations.

Tom earned his MBA at Maharishi International University in 1985. He is a long-time instructor of the Transcendental Meditation program, and volunteers teaching meditation to people living with HIV.

Sarah Quinlan

Leah Chandler

Leah is the Chief Marketing Officer for the Puerto Rico Destination Marketing Organization, Discover Puerto Rico. As CMO, Leah is charged with providing strategic marketing leadership for the organization; responsible for the oversight of the DMO’s paid media, creative, public relations, brand development and management, and digital strategy. 

Prior to her move to San Juan, Leah was the Chief Marketing Officer for Explore Branson, where she led the growth of the community’s tourism industry for five straight years, repositioning the destination’s brand and posting back-to-back years of record ROI for the organization’s marketing program. In previous years, Leah led the Missouri Tourism account at H&L Partners, the agency of record for the Missouri Division of Tourism. In this role, Leah developed and guided the strategic direction of the Division’s marketing, managing paid and earned media, creative and interactive development, and campaign implementation. Leah led Missouri Tourism’s brand repositioning effort in 2013, introducing a new brand identity and corresponding campaign featuring “Enjoy the Show.”

Leah is a veteran of the travel and tourism industry, having directed the Indiana Tourism account for five years prior to joining H&L Partners. Leah’s advertising and marketing experience in the tourism and travel sector also includes The Indianapolis Zoo, Caesar’s Casino, and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

Sarah Quinlan

David Paisley

David Paisley is the Senior Research Director with Community Marketing & Insights (CMI). He has been with CMI for 25 years. With decades of experience, organizations utilize his expertise that comes from coordinating over 200 LGBTQ-specific research initiatives. His research clients include many industries but David has a tourism specialty and has coordinated the LGBTQ research for over 30 destinations and tourism offices around the World. Other clients include companies like Wells Fargo, Target, Absolut, AT&T, the United States Census Bureau and AARP.

Sarah Quinlan

Dana Young

As VISIT FLORIDA’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Dana Young leads Florida’s official destination marketing organization in partnership with its Board of
Directors and the statewide tourism industry. Throughout her career, Dana has served in leadership positions working to cultivate and protect Florida’s exceptional business climate and a world-class quality of life. Dana served in the Florida House from 2010 through 2016, rising to Majority Leader for the 2015 and 2016 legislative sessions. In 2016, she was elected to the Florida Senate, where she represented parts of western Hillsborough County for two years. Dana was appointed to the VISIT FLORIDA position by Governor Ron DeSantis in January of 2019. In addition to her duties as President and CEO, she is a member of the U.S. Travel Association’s Chairman’s Circle.

Dana is a sixth-generation Floridian and was born and raised in Tallahassee. She received her undergraduate degree in Political Science from Florida State University
and, in pursuit of her interest in law and public policy, graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1993, and maintained a robust environmental law practice for many years. In her free time, Dana enjoys spending time in natural Florida and tarpon fishing with her husband, Matt, and two daughters, Alexandra and Carson.


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Connect Travel requires registration to be paid in full to access any live event. Any special billing or payment arrangement must be made in writing and agreed upon between Connect Travel management and the client seeking event access. Please see below for cancellation policy.

Cancellations requested inside of 30 days to event date – Client forfeits 100% of registration fee. Cancellations requested 31-90 days prior to event date – Client forfeits 50% of registration fee and the remaining 50% can be used towards a new product purchase in the same calendar year. Cancellations requested over 90 days to the event date – Client may apply 100% of the registration fee to a new product purchase or service in the same calendar year.

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Connect and its legal representatives and assigns, retain the right and permission to publish, without charge, photographs taken during this event. These photographs may be used in publications, including electronic publications, or in audio-visual presentations, promotional literature, advertising, or in other similar ways.

Medical Release:
With registration, the attendee agrees and acknowledges they are participating in the conference on their own free will. While Connect does its best to provide the safest possible environment for the events, the attendee acknowledges freely and knowingly that as a result of their registration and participation, they hereby assume responsibility for their own well-being and safety, releasing Connect of any harm.