Professional Development

Karyl Leigh Barnes, President, Development Counsellors International

Having spent her entire professional life in the tourism industry, Karyl Leigh has had the privilege to create and implement marketing strategies for destinations on every continent except Antarctica. Now the President of Development Counsellors International, she is committed to helping destination communications professionals embrace new opportunities to lead their communities with inclusive and collaborative actions.

Sara Broers, Writer

Sara Broers is passionate about helping others make valuable connections. She is the co-owner of the Midwest Travel Network, CEO of Travel With Sara, and the author of 100 Things To Do In Iowa Before You Die. She wrote the Iowa Chapter in the book, Midwest Road Trip Adventures. She is currently writing the Iowa chapter of Midwest State Park Adventures and the book Perfect Day Iowa.

Sara has worked in the digital marketing space for 15 years. Through these years she has helped hundreds of businesses make valuable connections. She has helped destinations pitch writers and pitched many destinations herself.

Sara leads the yearly Pitching to Connect Workshop with the Midwest Travel Network, a small group focused on pitching. Sara is a lifelong Iowan. It was in 2015 that she realized the Midwest was going to be a deep flyover country if Midwesterners did not get better at telling their story. Sara lives on the family farm with her husband. They have two grown adult sons and three grandchildren.

Jordan Campbell, Blogger

Jordan Campbell is an off-beat flashpacker with an appreciation for tasty libations, and the blogger and creator behind @GlobalDebauchery. She’s traveled to 62 countries and all 50 states, and absolutely lives to help people travel deeper. You might know her from The Travel & Adventure Show, The Nomadic Network, or from Wanderful—where she’s the Global Hub Director.

In her prior life, Jordan was an award-winning Creative Director with 20 years’ experience in design, marketing, and brand. She holds a BFA in Design from Rochester Institute of Technology and an MS in Management and Marketing from University of Maryland. Her portfolio includes brands like Mastercard, Xerox, and the American Heart Association, and even boasts a feature on Oprah. Now, she reveals her industry secrets to writers and creators!

Robin Catalano

Robin Catalano is a travel, arts, culture, and food journalist, and a book author/editor based in the upper Hudson Valley. Her work has appeared in National Geographic, Travel + Leisure, TIME, Smithsonian, Conde Nast Traveler, AFAR, Hemispheres, Robb Report, Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Fodor’s, ROVA, Insider, Yankee, Boston Globe, Albany Times Union, and a variety of other national and regional publications. 

A member of SATW and the International Federation of Journalists, she was selected as the summer 2020 Writer-in-Residence at Arrowhead, the historic home of Herman Melville in Pittsfield, Mass. In 2022, she was a finalist for the International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association’s Excellence in Journalism Award. Robin has also served as an on-staff and freelance book editor for publishers such as Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Workman, Appalachian Mountain Club, and Inner Traditions International. As an author coach, she helps writers take their ideas from concept to print.

Danielle Desir, Podcast Host

Danielle Desir Corbett is the host of The Thought Card, a top-rated 4x grant-funded and award-winning affordable luxury travel and personal finance podcast empowering financially savvy travelers to travel more and build wealth. She is also a podcast marketing coach and founder of WOC Podcasters (Women of Color), a podcasting community dedicated to amplifying Women of Color podcasters and audio creators worldwide.

Tonya Fitzpatrick, Co-founder of World Footprints

Tonya Fitzpatrick, Esq. is the co-Founder of World Footprints, a socially conscious travel media platform that was founded on the unity principle of “Ubuntu” – I am because we are. Recognized as Black Travel Journalist of the Year (Black Travel Summit) and Female CEO of the Year for Best Social Impact Travel Media Company (CEO Monthly), Tonya is co-host of the multi-award-winning World Footprints podcast and has interviewed distinguished guests like the late Dr. Maya Angelou. Through World Footprints, Tonya amplifies stories about the transformative power of travel and the beauty of our common humanity.

Tonya is a 3x TEDx and international speaker, lawyer, actor, author, and member of The Explorers Club.  She was appointed as a Delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and is a former White House political appointee.  

Tonya graduated from the London School of Economics, Wayne State University Law School and she attended East China University of Politics and Law.  She has been featured in AAA World, MSNBC, U.S. News and World Reports, Black Enterprise, NBC, CBS, in several books and on multiple podcasts including Frommers and Traveling with AAA.

Veda Gilbert, Senior Public Relations Representative, Visit North Carolina

Veda Gilbert is a Senior Public Relations Representative with Visit North Carolina. She works with media, domestic and international public relations, Partner & Industry Relations contractors, and travel trade on behalf of Visit NC for individual visits, familiarization trips and media missions. She specializes in creating trip itineraries and story ideas, while also supporting the overall public relations efforts of Visit NC.

A journalist and communications specialist with a unique understanding of both sides of the media landscape, she has a Masters of Communications from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Australia where she ran my own freelance writing, editing and digital marketing business for 15 years. She fell in love with North Carolina whilst scouting article ideas in The South, moving here in the fall of 2017. It is an absolute pleasure to help others fall in love with this vibrant state.

Ruth Sykes, Director of Media Relations, Laurie Rowe & Company

As a longtime writer herself, Ruth knows what media professionals look for and need in a destination and, likewise, which media professionals to zero in on for any given destination’s unique media outreach initiatives.

A natural-born connector of people and places, she organizes and implements all LRC press trips and media events while managing the company’s media relations efforts. In addition, she has served as LRC’s lead with Southeast Tourism Society’s Domestic Showcase’s journalist program since 2014 (formerly Travel South USA).
Ruth first joined SATW in 1995 while at Visit Macon, Georgia and, after a short break between leaving there and joining LRC in 2012, was thrilled to rejoin the society a few years ago.
Ruth holds a BS in Communication Arts, emphasis in Public Relations/minor in Journalism, from Georgia Southern University and is a graduate of Southeast Tourism Society Marketing College.