More than 16,000 industry peers named Paco Saldaña, director of guest services at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, as new "Face of Travel," according to the U.S. Travel Association. Saldaña won a nationwide contest as the industry spokesperson who best embodies the vitality of travel and the importance of increasing travel to and within the U.S.
"Paco is a great representative of the 7.7 million Americans whose jobs depend on travel," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. "As a front-line worker whose family depends on travel, Paco is uniquely capable of addressing the consequences of the downturn in corporate meetings and events and the benefits of increasing travel to and within the United States. The U.S. Senate has an opportunity this week to help Paco and millions of his colleagues by passing the Travel Promotion Act."
The U.S. Travel Association launched the "Faces of Travel" contest in April to find the person who best represented the jobs, opportunities and hope created by travel. Hundreds of industry employees submitted brief videos describing why they believed that they were the face of the industry. An expert panel narrowed the submissions to a list of six finalists and more than 16,000 votes were cast online at meetingsmeanbusiness.com. Chosen as the winner by the public, Saldaña receives a $5,000 prize and will serve as an industry spokesperson with media, policymakers and other stakeholders.
Saldaña joined the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island as a server attendant in 1996, a year after emigrating from Mexico City to the United States. He quickly learned English and took on leadership positions at the hotel, earning his U.S. citizenship along the way.
"I came to this country in search of the American dream, and as an employee of the Ritz-Carlton, I've been given the opportunity to achieve it," said Saldaña. "But, like the millions of other ladies and gentlemen working in the travel industry, these aspirations will be cut short if we continue to suffer from a downturn in travel."
"All of our ladies and gentlemen are very proud of Paco Saldaña being selected as the Face of Travel," said Simon F. Cooper, president and chief operating officer, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C. "Paco represents the hopes and dreams of millions of hospitality workers around the world that a successful career is possible through hard work and dedication to serving our guests. He has seen, first hand, the impact cancellations of meetings and business travel have had on his hotel and the local community. I am sure he will be a wonderful advocate for the travel industry with his own inspiring story."