3rd Annual Women in Tourism and Hospitality (W.I.T.H.) Awards Luncheon

‘Inspiring Tomorrow’s Leaders’
Please join us at our 3rd annual W.I.T.H. (Women in Tourism and Hospitality) Awards Luncheon, March 22, 2018 at the Four Points by Sheraton San Diego, for an afternoon of high power networking, inspiration and celebration of women leaders. Our 2018 W.I.T.H. Honorees who will share their keys to success in a moderated panel discussion. Guests will enjoy delicious lunch, live entertainment and silent auction with destination gifts; proceeds from W.I.T.H. silent auction, benefit Mt. Miguel High School Matador Business Academy and is tax deductible.

To view all 6 jingles, follow us on Instagram


Sponsorship Information: Contact Clara Carter clara@mccsn.com, 619-265-2561.
To see pictures from the 2017 event, click here
To see videos from the 2017 event, click here


Making a difference in the lives of youth – our leaders of tomorrow. Mt. Miguel High School Matador Business Academy (MBA), is a four-year program and Career Technical Education pathway creating college and career ready students in the underserved communities of Spring Valley and Lemon Grove

About Women History Month

In 1987, after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress passed Pub. L. 100-9 which designated the month of March 1987 as Women’s History Month. Traditionally every March San Diego County honors women with events that highlight how women have helped improve the lives of business professionals and impacted the economy, the atmosphere and the lifestyle that is San Diego. MCCSN supports and participates in many of these events and is pleased to culminate San Diego’s celebration by presenting the W.I.T.H. Awards recognizing and honoring six phenomenal women who are Leading the Way in Tourism and Hospitality.

During the luncheon our six honoree executives will share their success journey in a moderated panel discussion focused on challenges and triumphs relating to women in the workplace at all stages of their careers.

2018 Women in Tourism and Hospitality (W.I.T.H.) Awards Luncheon

2018 W.I.T.H. Honorees

Barbara Moreno, Executive Director of Communications San Diego Convention Center Corporation

Barbara is the chief storyteller for the San Diego Convention Center Corporation, producing award-winning content for an award-winning venue. As the Executive Director of Communications, she oversees a staff of four and is responsible for the Convention Center’s digital and print content strategy, including management of the Corporation’s website VisitSanDiego.com, all its social media channels, video production and publications. She develops digital and print materials based on the Convention Center’s business objectives and customer/user needs and oversees the branding of the center. The San Diego Convention Center’s blog was named PR News’ best Non-Profit blog in the nation, and Barbara was named one of PR News Top Women in PR in 2017. Under her direction, the Corporation’s Communications Team has won more than two dozen awards in four years.

Read More

Prior to the Convention Center, Barbara worked for the Port of San Diego as a Web Content Specialist, producing award-winning videos focusing on the Port’s Maritime Industry, Harbor Police Department as well as its environmental initiatives and community events. She was also part of a team that helped launch the Port’s social media channels back in 2009.

Barbara started her career working as a newscast producer in 1995 and worked in newsrooms across the Southwestern United States, including Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Sacramento and Phoenix. She was nominated twice for an Emmy Award and won an award for Best Breaking Newscast by the Radio and TV News Directors Association.

Barbara attended Cal State University Los Angeles graduating with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism.

In her free time, she loves to volunteer and serve as a mentor in the community.

Marilyn Hannes, Park President SeaWorld & Aquatica, San Diego SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

Marilyn was appointed Park President for SeaWorld and Aquatica in April 2016. As SeaWorld’s first woman Park President, she is responsible for more than 4,600 ambassadors and 12,000 animals. Hannes previously served as Vice President of Global Sales for SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment and Vice President of Marketing and Sales for SeaWorld San Diego.

Read More

Prior to joining SeaWorld in 1997, Hannes was the General Manager of Wild Bill’s Wild West Dinner Extravaganza in Buena Park, California. Previously, she was Vice President of Spectrum Advertising and Promotions and the Buena Park Convention & Visitors Office, as well as holding hotel leadership positions in Orange County.

Hannes is a Past Chair of the California Travel Industry Association and the Visit California International Committee. Hannes served on the San Diego Tourism Marketing District’s Marketing Advisory Task Force and 20-Year Tourism Master Plan Task Force. Hannes is also a former Chair for the U.S Travel Experience Network, a U.S. Travel Association Council. In 2014, Hannes was appointed by San Diego’s Mayor Faulconer to serve on the Board of Directors of the San Diego Convention Center Corporation. Hannes currently serves on the Boards of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, San Diego Tourism Authority and Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute.

Hannes received the 1994 Leadership Award for General Manager Excellence from the Southern California Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association. Other accolades include the TWIN (Tribute to Women in Industry) in 2005, and the California Diversity Council Woman of Power and Influence in 2012. In 2016 and 2017, Hannes was recognized by the San Diego Business Journal as one of the San Diego 500 Influential Business Leaders. She was honored by San Diego Magazine in January 2017’s Celebrating Women column. Hannes lives in Chula Vista with her husband Phil and son Brandon, the youngest of her five children.

Deborah Scott, Executive Chef & Partner Of Cohn Restaurant Group Coasterra, Indigo Grill, C Level / Island Prime, Vintana

As one of San Diego’s most renowned celebrity chefs, Deborah Scott is known for her diverse tastes and ability to create innovative dishes with an emphasis on presentation. Chef Scott first caught the eye of restaurateurs David and Lesley Cohn in 1995 when her affinity for fusion landed her as the head of Kemo Sabe, the Pacific Rim infused concept formerly housed in Hillcrest.

Read More

As a native of Virginia Beach, Virginia, Deborah perfected her talent of pairing eclectic flavors during culinary school. Scott, a graduate of the Baltimore Culinary College, also boasts graduate courses from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. Deborah quickly gained hands-on experience at the historical Clarke Cooke House and White Horse Tavern in Newport, Rhode Island, followed by a stint as Executive Sous Chef at Monterey Plaza Hotel’s Delfino’s On The Bay.

After successfully stepping onto the San Diego culinary scene, Scott was designated to re-introduce Indigo Grill to Little Italy in 2001 where she helped inspire everything from the logo to the eatery’s unique décor. The standout menu showcases Scott’s flair for indigenous ingredients, exotic flavors and artful composition. Chef Deborah is also behind the dual-concept steak and seafood restaurants, C Level/Island Prime. These premier dining destinations are located under one roof and situated on the bayfront waters of downtown Harbor Island. Island Prime features high-end seafood and prime steaks with an extensive wine list while C Level offers a more casual menu and ambiance. In May 2012, Deborah Scott once again wowed patrons with California Modern Cuisine at approachable price points when she launched her Vintana in Escondido.

Her latest endeavor and most ambitious project to date, Coasterra, opened in August 2015 directly adjacent to C Level/Island Prime. A project nearly a decade in the making, Coasterra is a $15+ million bayfront modern Mexican restaurant, lounge, and event space on Harbor Island. With Chef Deborah at the helm, the 28,000 square-foot venue offers a compelling combination of panoramic views of San Diego’s downtown skyline, carefully crafted Mexican dishes, and tequila-focused cocktails.

Well known for her hands-on approach to hospitality, Scott can be found at each of her restaurants nightly where she oversees her kitchens and visits with guests to ensure a one-of-a-kind dining experience. When she’s not at one of her award-winning venues, the avid animal lover regularly donates money and volunteers her time to animal advocacy programs such as The Project Wildlife Foundation, an organization that facilitates the adoption and rehabilitation of animals in need. Chef Deborah Scott was named “Chef of the Year” in 2012 by U-T San Diego and has been awarded with multiple accolades for “Best Chef in San Diego” by San Diego Magazine, 944 Magazine, San Diego Home & Garden Magazine and the California Restaurant Association. Chef Scott has appeared in Condé Nast Traveler, Sunset Magazine, Food & Wine Magazine and Nation’s Restaurant News.

Randa J. Coniglio, President/CEO Port of San Diego

As CEO of the Port of San Diego, Randa oversees a workforce of more than 500 talented and committed public servants. In executing their mission, Randa is guided by the policy leadership and direction from their seven-member Board of Port Commissioners. Together, they are focused on continuing the agency’s movement toward 21st Century governance with a focus on excellent service to their constituents, businesses, and other community members.

Read More

The Port of San Diego is where their region greets the world. On behalf of the State of California, the Port is an innovative champion for the 34 miles of San Diego Bay waterfront along Chula Vista, Coronado, Imperial Beach, National City and San Diego, balancing multiple uses on this waterfront spanning our five cities.

Collecting no tax dollars, the Port manages a diverse portfolio to generate revenues that support vital public services and amenities. The Port champions Maritime, Waterfront Development, Public Safety, Experiences and Environment, all focused on enriching the relationship people and businesses have with our dynamic waterfront. From cargo and cruise terminals to hotels and restaurants, from marinas to museums, from 22 public parks to countless events, the Port contributes to the region’s prosperity and remarkable way of life daily. Randa’s mantra, which she shares with her team daily, is “to do the greatest good by doing remarkably well.”

Fae Desmond, Executive Director of Comic-Con International: San Diego

Comic-Con is a nonprofit educational corporation dedicated to creating awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular artforms, primarily through the presentation of conventions and events that celebrate the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture.

Read More

Fae attended her first Comic-Con when her husband asked her to accompany him to the event for the day. She had such a good time she returned the next day even though her husband opted to stay home. She began as a volunteer in 1976 and among her achievements was the creation of the first Comic-Con Film Festival in the mid-70s. Her time and talents proved indispensable and in 1985 she became the first employee of Comic-Con and served as General Manager for the organization. It should be noted that during this period Comic-Con only had a post office box as an official address so some of the work, mailings, and division meetings were held at Fae’s home.

Her leadership and guidance has contributed to Comic-Con being the largest convention at the San Diego Convention Center as well as a brand that is recognized nationally and internationally. From the organization’s humble roots at the basement of the US Grant Hotel to the El Cortez Hotel, to the Convention and Performing Arts Center, to now the San Diego Convention Center, Fae has carefully shepherded the growth of Comic-Con both in terms of size and scope. The event regularly welcomes well over 135,000 individuals from around the world as well as media from over 35 countries and generates an estimated $180 million dollars to San Diego’s economy.

Fae has lived in San Diego County for 63 years. She is married to her husband of 45 years and has 2 children and 2 grand-children. She fell into meeting management because of her job with Comic-Con and has had the honor of working with many talented and creative people within the Comics and hospitality industries. In her spare time, she paints, kayaks, and plays ukulele.

Dania Duke, General Manager Hilton San Diego Gaslamp

Dania Duke is currently the General Manager of the Hilton San Diego Gaslamp focused on creating cultures of care and purpose in hospitality. Dania is praised as “caring” by employees, ‘results oriented” by employers and “welcoming and memorable” by guests of the Hyatt and Hilton hotels, and “innovative” by industry professionals.

Dania’s career spans over 28 years including General Manager of the world’s top hotel brands. Duke’s been affiliated with 14 various properties in the Hawaiian Islands, Grand Cayman, British West Indies, and the cities throughout the United States. She was General Manager of Hyatt Regency La Jolla in San Diego, CA, Hyatt at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, CA and Hyatt Regency Santa Clara in the Heart of Silicon Valley.

Read More

While General Manager of the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara in 2012, Dania launched an Innovation Lab. It was one of eight global Hyatt properties to experiment with new concepts and prototypes for short periods of time. If the concepts succeed with customers, they stay. If not, the labs share what they learned and move on to the next new idea. Dania was also part of the Lab Launch at Hyatt Regency New Delhi India. In addition to Hyatt Innovation projects, Dania has collaborated with Innovation Executive teams from Jet Blue, Citrix, Victoria Secret, SAP, CEO delegations from New Zealand and Korea. She also has participated on the Stanford D School Executive panel at Design Thinking Boot Camps.

One of her most significant achievements is being recognized as a ‘disruptor’; Duke was named and awarded one of Silicon Valley’s Women of Influence 2013 and recognized by the Silicon Valley Business Journal as an “Executive Changing the Business World.”

Duke’s distinguished career includes such professional achievements as receiving the Dannon International Hotelier Award, Hyatt Hotel’s Operations Achievement Award and the Donald J. Pritzker Award for Operations Achievement within Hyatt.

Duke enjoys the fast pace and daily challenge, the opportunity to guide her team in problem solving and to mentor young hospitality leaders. Serving her community is near and dear to Dania’s heart. She serves on the San Diego Hotel Motel Association as the Vice President and sits on the San Diego Tourism Authority Board of Directors. In her spare time this woman of influence can be described as elegant and outdoorsy whether seriously collecting art, volunteering or playing with Sonoma – Dania says “life is about making moments count. Make no mistake – moments are everything.”

2018 Sponsors:

19_Atlas Hospitality Group Logo_STACKED FINAL_COLOR-01
Creative Coverings
The Patio Group
R&R Hospitality

Seaworld San Diego
SmartCity_4c [Converted] copy

Event Archives

2017 Women in Hospitality and Tourism Luncheon

2017 Honorees

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADenise Jackson, President CEO Balboa Travel Management

Denise Jackson is the President and CEO of Balboa Travel Management, a California based agency ranked in the top 1% nationwide with sales exceeding $200 million. A veteran of more than 34 years in the travel industry, Denise is responsible for all aspects of the strategic direction of its operating division including Corporate Travel Management, On-Line Travel, Meetings & Incentives, Leisure Travel and Technology Consulting. During her 30 year tenure at Balboa Travel she has held various leadership positions in operations, business development and account management. Prior to Balboa Travel, she held strategic operational roles for a cruise line and tour operator in San Francisco.

Read More

Denise has a long history of community service. She serves widely on many governing industry and community boards. Her greatest passion is assisting with educational opportunities for underserved at-risk youth.

Gina 2016Gina Champion-Cain, CEO of American National Investments, Inc.

Ms. Champion-Cain has been responsible for the redevelopment and repositioning of nearly 10 million square feet of commercial space (retail, office and hospitality) as well as over 5,000 residential units. As President and CEO of American National Investments, Inc. (“ANI”), Ms. Champion-Cain’s responsibilities include providing strategic direction to ANI and overseeing all real estate services such as development and acquisition activities, commercial and residential leasing, commercial and residential asset management, as well as the overall management of a lifestyle brand called LuvSurf; a San Diego-based real estate, hospitality and branded merchandise company. LuvSurf is a multi-faceted business, complementing the vacation rental business (www.luv-surf.com) with The Patio Group, a hospitality and restaurant company (The Patio on Lamont, The Patio on Goldfinch, Fireside by The Patio, Saska’s Steakhouse and Sushi, Surf Rider Pizza, Harvest by The Patio and Bao Beach), www.thepatiorestaurants.com), a coffee roasting company called The Swell Coffee Roasting Company, a specialty culinary store called Luxury Farms (www.luxuryfarms.com), a locally hand crafted chocolates company called Andrea’s Truffles, as well as an apparel brand that captures the “sand, sun, and surf” lifestyle of southern California (www.luvsurfapparel.com, www.luvsurfretail.com).

Read More

Ms. Champion-Cain is a recipient of the San Diego Business Journal’s 2001 and 2015 Women Who Mean Business Award, San Diego Metropolitan’s 2001 40 Under Forty Award, San Diego Magazine’s 50 People to Watch for 2002, YWCA’s 2002 Tribute to Women and Industry Award and was nominated by the National Association of Women Business Owners’ Woman Business Owner of the Year Award in 2002. She was also the 2003 recipient of the Author E. Hughes Career Achievement Award, accorded by the School of Business Administration at the University of San Diego. Lambda Alpha International, the San Diego Chapter, awarded her an honorary membership for years of leadership and contributions to San Diego’s educational, political and professional communities; and the economic revitalization and redevelopment of San Diego. The former Mayor of San Diego awarded Ms. Champion-Cain for her efforts as a civic leader by reserving June 28th as “Gina Champion-Cain Day”.

pattiPatti Roscoe, Founder of PRA Destination Management Company

Patti Roscoe is happily retired after a lifelong career in the hospitality industry. In 1981, she founded PRA Destination Management Company. In the mid-nineties, expansion plans led her to franchise her five Southern California offices. By 2007, her franchise system consisted of 19 PRA offices nationwide. She decided to sell her growing business to Paris based, Allied International. It is now is a global organization. During her career, Patti has served as a Board member of the San Diego County Hotel-Motel Association, and as a Board member and Chair of the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau, now the San Diego Tourism Authority.

Read More

Patti is also a Board member of SDSU’s Campanile Foundation and chairs the Board of Advisors of SDSU’s L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, of which she was a co-founder. In 2010, Patti helped create and endow a professorship in an Institute of Meetings and Events, the first of its kind in the nation. The University has recognized her with its prestigious President’s medal for Patti’s commitment to SDSU. In May of 2014, she was conferred with an honorary degree as a Doctor of Humane Letters.

Patti is a trustee with San Diego Zoo Global and is a Plank Owner of the USS Midway, serving on its Foundation. Girl Scouts San Diego has named her as one of their Cool Women. In addition, she was the first female president of the San Diego International Sports Council.

Three organizations have recognized Patti with their Lifetime Achievement Awards: San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau, San Diego Rotary Club’s Heilbron Award, and the International Special Events industry. In 2015, Patti was recognized by the Society of Incentive Travel Excellence for embodying integrity and making notable contributions with long-term service to the incentive travel and motivational events industry.

shirleyShirley Hirai, Manager of Equal Opportunity, Port of San Diego

Shirley Hirai began her career at the Port District twenty-seven years ago as an Office Assistant. She was promoted several times, and today, is the Manager of Equal Opportunity and has the role of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinator.

Read More

Ms. Hirai is involved in the development and implementation of the equal opportunity contracting, employment, and accessible programs for the Port District. Throughout her twenty-seven year career, she has coordinated Port-wide and community outreach events and workshops for consultants, contractors and vendors. Previously, she served as the Secretary for the Airport Minority Advisory Council and as the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Liaison Officer for the San Diego International Airport. She is actively involved with her counterparts in the equal opportunity industry via the Public Agency Consortium, and has implemented various partnerships with other San Diego regional entities to enhance the Port District’s equal opportunity programs.

As the ADA Coordinator, Ms. Hirai is the staff liaison for the Board of Port Commissioners Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC). The AAC assists the Port District in ensuring that all services, programs, and facilities are accessible to all.

Ms. Hirai has lived overseas in Japan, Okinawa, and Korea, and holds a liberal arts degree in Asian language and literature from The University of Iowa.

RebeccaRebecca Aguilera-Gardiner, VP of Sales and Marketing for Diego and Sons Printing

Rebecca Aguilera-Gardiner is the vice president of sales and marketing at Diego and Son Printing. In this role, she has acquired large contracts with corporations such as MetLife, CVS Caremark, The Ken Blanchard Companies, Karl Strauss Breweries, Metropolitan Water District, and many others. She has also helped the business to become environmentally friendly, as it is now part of the Green Supplier Network and has earned the Forest Stewardship Certification. Rebecca worked for Diego and Son Printing in her youth and, prior to rejoining the company, spent time in the radio industry as on-air talent and in sales.

Read More

Rebecca currently serves as the Executive Director for Veterans In Business (VIB) Network. She was a volunteer for over 13 years with the Elite SDVOB Network, planning outreach events and was on the Board of Directors. She was also the conference chair for several Elite SDVOB National conferences planning and executing soon of their most successful conference. She was also the chair of the San Diego Workforce Investment Board from 2013-2015. She was involved with Crawford High School Advisory Board, San Diego Minority Supplier Diversity Board and is a member of the National Skills Coalition, Business Leaders United, where she attended a bill signing for the long-term unemployed at the White House with President Obama and Vice President Biden.

suebotosSue Botos, VP, Community Relations, S.D. Padres

Sue Botos enters her 18th season with the San Diego Padres in 2016, her sixth in the role of vice president, community relations, overseeing all areas of the Club’s community outreach and philanthropy.

Read More

Since 2012, Botos has overseen the conceptualization and implementation of the Future Padres program, which in 2016 will outfit more than 25,000 local youth baseball and softball players in Padres jerseys and caps – free of charge. Botos has played a part in other milestone programs, including the development of the first college scholarship program in Major League Baseball, Padres Scholars.

Born and raised in Cleveland, Botos is a 1991 graduate of The Ohio State University. She resides in San Diego with her husband, Doug.

Catherine Garcia HeadShotCatherine Garcia, Evening Anchorwoman NBC7 San Diego

W.I.T.H. Mistress of Ceremonies

Catherine Garcia joined NBC7 San Diego 13 years ago as the weekend anchor.  She’s now the evening anchor Monday through Friday at NBC7 San Diego.  You’ll see her on the 4, 6 and 11pm newscasts.  Catherine graduated from USC with a degree in Journalism.  Her first job was behind the scenes at the CNN Bureau in LA, and then at CNN Headquarters in Atlanta.  She landed her first reporting job at the NBC station in El Paso, Texas and went on to report and anchor at FOX in Austin and ABC in Dallas.  After her tour of Texas, she was happy to come home to Southern California and plans to never leave again!

Peggy CooperPeggy Cooper, Senior Community Relations Specialist at the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority

W.I.T.H. Moderator:

A well- tenured public and community relations specialist, Peggy Cooper a native of Kentucky has served the community of San Diego for 33 years.  She’s had a respected (21 year) political background in San Diego having worked for both United States Congress and City Hall, as well as, maintained a long-term establishment of leaders. Today, she holds the position as Senior Community Relations Specialist at the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority where she has been employed for the past 12 years.


Peggy has two days with the City of San Diego proclaimed in her honor under former Mayor’s Dick Murphy and Jerry Sanders for handling a vast amount of protocol issues at the City, County, State and national level.   In February 2013, she was instrumental in coordinating the efforts of an historic dedication and permanent tribute of a five-mile stretch of Interstate 15 “Tuskegee Airmen Highway”, as well as, throughout the years personally raised close to a million dollars to support numerous non-profit agencies and organizations in San Diego.  She enjoys mentoring young adults and has raised funds to send over 15 students to major universities across the country.


Peggy serves on the Board of Directors for the USS Midway Museum and Hotel-Motel Association of San Diego County which keeps her directly involved with some of the biggest power players in the SD Tourism Industry.  In addition, she is a member of International Association of Business Communicators, Executive Women’s International, Friends of Downtown, Public Relations Society of America and serves as Mistress of Ceremony for numerous engagements.


2016 Women in Hospitality and Tourism Luncheon


2016 Sponsors:

19_Atlas Hospitality Group Logo_STACKED FINAL_COLOR-01
Courtyard by Marriott
FSS Logo with Sms
GO on Light Background
LAFAYETTE Logo Retro blk Rich
scrd_logo_mg (2)
SmartCity_4c [Converted] copy