2024 Industry Insights Speaker Line Up

Meet Our Keynote Speaker

Hudson Riehle, Senior Vice President of Research & Knowledge

National Restaurant Association

As the Senior Vice President of the Research and Knowledge Group for the National Restaurant Association, Hudson Riehle directs the Association’s consumer, economic, technology, market, human resources, tourism and operations research as well as oversees its extensive knowledge center activities.  Frequently cited by major national and international news organizations and appearing on national television broadcasts, he has authored a variety of articles and serves as an information source and spokesperson for the restaurant and hospitality industry.

Mr. Riehle received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Skidmore College in New York and his Master of Business Administration from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.  Appointed by the Secretary of Labor, he has been a member of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Business Research Advisory Council; a former Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Alexandria (VA) Convention and Visitors Association; a member of the Center for Food Integrity Consumer Research Advisory Panel and the Wharton Executive Advisory Panel;  and is currently included in the current edition of Who’s Who in America.

Meet Our Speakers

Cristian Avalos, Hyer

Cristian Avalos is an experienced industry professional specializing in account management and strategic partnerships within the gig economy. In his current role as the Director of Partnerships at Hyer, he plays a pivotal role in driving company’s transformative growth by forging valuable alliances with new partners across the restaurant, hospitality, and foodservice industries. Prior to Hyer, Cristian worked at DoorDash, where he gained valuable insights into ongoing staffing challenges across these industries. His mission at Hyer is to address and resolve these labor challenges by enabling partners to tap into a growing pool of gig workers who are vetted, motivated, and ready to work.

Troy Flanagan, Vice President of Government Affairs & Industry Relations

American Hotel & Lodging Association

Troy Flanagan serves as executive vice president of external government affairs and industry relations for the American Hotel & Lodging Association. He brings over 20 years of experience to the role as a policy advocate who works closely with AHLA’s state association members and industry allies on issues critical to the hotel industry.   

Troy came to AHLA from Parquet Public Affairs (now known as Align Public Strategies), where as a partner he represented numerous service industry brands and trade associations that dealt with many of the same issues facing the hospitality industry. Through Parquet-managed coalitions, he also helped develop comprehensive, industry-wide solutions to the various public affairs threats posed to employers. 

Previously, he was director of government relations at International Franchise Association (IFA), where he focused on state and local policy threats to franchised industries, including lodging. Troy’s experience as an issue advocate also includes government relations roles at ConAgra Foods, Inc. and the Grocery Manufacturers Association. He began his career serving in various staff positions of the Florida Legislature, both in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Troy holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Florida and a Master of Arts in International Commerce & Policy from George Mason University. Troy serves on the Industry Advisory Board of the University of Florida’s Eric Friedheim Tourism Institute andholds the Institute for Organization Management (IOM) designation from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

Mary Moore, Shafer Leadership Academy

Communication expert and community activist, Mary Moore is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Communication Studies at Ball State University. Committed to student development and enhancing relationships, Mary has received multiple teaching and coaching awards. Her expertise covers a broad spectrum, including argumentation, debate, presentational communication, and conversational intelligence. As a decorated coach, she has led college speech teams to state and national championships. Mary is also dedicated to extending her communication insights beyond academia, conducting impactful workshops with organizations such as the Shafer Leadership Academy, Open Door, Muncie Resists, Soup Kitchen of Muncie, United Way, and Ball State's LEAD University Leadership Development Program.

Rico Louw, CHIA, Central US Regional Sales Manager 

Smith Travel Research, a CoStar Group Company

Rico Louw, CHIA, joined STR in 2015 holding positions with the Support & Account Management teams before joining the Sales team in July 2021. In his current Regional Sales Manager role, he’s responsible for growing STR’s business in the Central States, from Texas to the Dakotas. 

Rico services a wide array of hospitality clients, from ownership and management groups, parent companies and independent hotels, to also include CVBs, and DMOs. Rico frequents lodging conferences around the country, also in a speakercapacity. He is also responsible for numerous key accounts at STR, with portfolios that exceed 1,000 hotels each. 

His degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management was earned when a resident of the Canary Islands, Spain (where he also perfected his Paella cooking skills, to Michelin Star levels per his acquaintances). Currently resides in Gallatin, TN, near the STR North America Headquarters.

STR provides premium data benchmarking, analytics, and marketplace insights for the global hospitality industry. STR was acquired in October 2019 by CoStar Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: CSGP), the leading provider of commercial real estate information, analytics, and online marketplaces.

Brandon Gill, Sales Executive                                    Smith Travel Research, a CoStar Group Company

As a Sales Executive, Brandon Gill, works closely with hotel owners and operators, as well as community leaders in Chambers, CVBs, and other DMOs as a resource to help them better understand performance in their markets and make informed, data backeddecisions for their stakeholders. Brandon previously worked with STR’s Industry Partner clients which included developers, investors, bankers, consultants, and suppliers. 

Prior to STR, Brandon worked in the hotel industry where he managed multiple properties both branded and independent. He has also served on the board of industry associations. Brandon is originally from South Bend, IN and currently lives just outside of Nashville, TN near the STR headquarters. 

Additional STR background:

STR provides clients from multiple market sectors with premium, global data benchmarking, analytics and marketplace insights. Hotel owners and operators, developers, CVBs and DMOs, investors, consultants, bankers and suppliers involved in the hotel industry benefit from STR’s data insight into the industry. Founded in 1985, STR has an international presence and works with more than 80,000 hotels globally. Its corporate North American headquarters in Hendersonville, Tennessee.  

STR was acquired in October 2019 by CoStar Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: CSGP), the leading provider of commercial real estate information, analytics and online marketplaces.

Mike Whatley, State Affairs & Grassroots Advocacy

National Restaurant Association

Mike is currently Vice President of State Affairs and Grassroots Advocacy at the National Restaurant Association. In his role he advocates on behalf of restaurants in all 50 states, oversees the restaurant industry's grassroots efforts at all levels of government, and serves as the staff executive of the Restaurant Advocacy Fund.  Prior to working at the Association, he worked in Congress for the House Oversight Committee in the United States House of Representatives. He is a graduate of Claremont McKenna College with honors in Government and received his MBA from Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business.