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Connections Housing Partner Spotlight: Crystal Chism, Walt Disney World Swan, Dolphin & Swan Reserve

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  Connections Housing Partner Spotlight is a new series that shines a light on the incredible leaders we have the privilege to work with across the event and hospitality industry. This month we're excited to talk to Crystal Chism, Senior Sales Executive, Pharmaceutical & NE, Walt Disney World Swan, Dolphin & Swan Reserve Where’s Your Hometown?   Lexington, KY How Did You Get Your Start in Your Career? I actually wanted to be a nurse, but during an internship, I passed out at every turn.  I went to college with an undeclared major and took a part-time job at a hotel and absolutely fell in love.  Hotels for me turned out to be “hospitals for well people” and enabled me the opportunity to be able to take care of people after all.   What Attracted You to the Hotel Industry?   I love interacting with people, creating experiences and knowing we never have the same day twice! Fun Fact—Something That People Do Not Know About You? I love to make pie…and my Tic-Tac Pie is f

Connections Housing Partner Spotlight: Kelli Orpen, Marriott International

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Connections Housing Partner Spotlight is a new series that shines a light on the incredible leaders we have the privilege to work with across the event and hospitality industry. This month we’re excited to talk to Kelli Orpen, Group Account Manager, National Group Sales, Marriott International.  Where’s Your Hometown?  I was born in Chicago, but raised in the Poconos in a small town called Stroudsburg, PA. How Did You Get Your Start in Your Career?  My “first hotel gig”, was the Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort in the Poconos. My husband was the beverage manager and I worked the front desk. It was my first job out of college. What Attracted You to the Hotel Industry?  I always knew I wanted to travel. I have always had a passion for it. I went to East Stroudsburg University, and the first two years  of study I was undeclared. I had no idea what I wanted to do. The summer before my third year, I got a letter from the school telling me I needed to declare a major. The second letter I opened w

Something To Cheer About

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10,000 participants...just under 800 competing  teams ...limited spectators… 72+ hotels....health and safety  protocols.....It all came together for the successful run of the 2021 CHEERSPORT National Cheerleading Championship  at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.    From pre-event reservations to onsite hotel support to giveaways creating a fun, welcoming environment for the athletes, the Connections team was proud to work with the CHEERSPORT team as we continue to return to live events.  CHEERSPORT is a Varsity All Star event producer, part of the Varsity Spirit family out of Memphis, TN. We had the chance to talk to Kelley Thorp, National Director of Stay Smart for Varsity All Star, about the incredible undertaking and the extensive planning, communication and behind-the-scenes organizing that she and the CHEERSPORT team put into hosting this successful event. What was the biggest challenge in hosting the live Cheersport Nationals in Atlanta?  Athlete safety continues

Q & A With Visit Phoenix

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  As the preferred housing provider for Visit Phoenix , Connections Housing recently had the chance to catch up with Lorne Edwards, Senior Vice President of Convention Sales and Services.   Visit Phoenix is the  non-profit organization that promotes the Greater Phoenix community to a global audience of travelers and books conventions into the Phoenix Convention Center and area hotels and resorts.   In this Q & A, Lorne shares the latest updates on new programs, safety protocols and other innovations from hotels, indoor and outdoor venues throughout the Greater Phoenix area. Q: In light of Covid-19, what new initiatives and/or programs have you launched to help travel pros feel comfortable booking their events in the Greater Phoenix Area? A: The Phoenix Convention Center, along with our greater community of hotel and hospitality partners, have implemented several key initiatives that we feel are key to inspiring confidence in planners considering Phoenix. For example, the Pho

The Mountains Were Calling. Clarion Events Answered With Successful Live Event

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 Q & A with Lisa Berry, Vice President, Clarion Events Gift & Souvenir Portfolio The Clarion Events Gift & Souvenir Portfolio successfully returned to face-to-face events last month w ith the 55th annual Smoky Mountain Gift Show – known as the nation’s oldest and most respected event for the resort, gift and souvenir industry.    We had the chance to talk with Lisa Berry, vice president for the Clarion Events Gift & Souvenir Portfolio, about the team’s commitment to creating a safe environment for the show’s buyers and exhibitors, as well as key takeaways and advice for planners looking ahead to their first live events.  (Pictured:  Lisa Berry (center right) and Christina Bell (center left), Smoky Mountain Gift Show Director, flanked by JK2 Apparel exhibitors.)  Many 2020 trade shows cancelled or pivoted to virtual formats for 2020. What led to Clarion’s decision to move forward with the live edition of the Smoky Mountain Gift Show? We were really driven by cust

From Our Table To Yours | Festive Holiday Recipes

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 Between all the Zoom and Microsoft Teams meetings,  strategy sessions and conference calls while we've all been working from home, we've also been perfecting our holiday recipes.  We've got some fun, easy (and not so easy!) and festive ones we'd like to share with you: Click on any image to download the complete recipe! Larry Peterson, Vice President of National Accounts, has a great libation to liven up any holiday gathering with this wonderful Old Fashioned Swedish Glogg recipe.  Jon Mitchell, Vice President of National Accounts, recommends this amazing Kabocha Squash Pie With Spiced Crust .  It won a winter squash recipe blind taste test (the pumpkin is part of the squash family) and promises to win over your holiday guests, too!  Courtnie Hicks, Director of Account Management, has shared a few recipes, including this savory Italian Briolata .   Not the easiest of the recipes she shared, but it's a favorite of her Italian family! For an easy appetizer, Courtnie

Celebrating The Other Members of Our Pack

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 Where would we be without our animal companions! Whether returning to a room after a quick trip to the kitchen or returning home from a long day away, they're always happy to see us!  Bottom line, our pets just make everything better.   So we wanted to take a moment to introduce you to some of our fabulous furry friends: Robert Colvin, Chief Operating Officer, and Chip Courtnie Hicks, Director of Account Management, and Sheba, a Great Dane Pitbull mix; Harlow, a Shih Tzu Terrier; and Bella, a Chiweenie    Larry Peterson, Vice President of National Accounts, with Sally the super dog, Luke and Kate   Truman, named for Harry S. Truman, and pal to Jon Mitchell, Vice President of National Accounts  Tom Bell, Vice President of Sports Programs, sent this great shot of (top to bottom)  Maggie, Zeke and Benny    A very special picture.  Jeff Moore (right)  a long-time member of our Connections Family, passed away in April of 2020.  Shown here with husband Richard and their 2 dogs, Zoey and

Easy Hacks To Stop Hackers

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By Stephanie Gasca, IT Manager and Zac Kellogg, IT Specialist, Connections Housing Cybercriminals are getting craftier every day.   Here are some quick and easy “hacks” to stop scammers from getting access to your devices and personal information. Be Cautious of Unknown Networks When traveling or in public, it might seem like a convenient option to leave your WiFi turned on so your device will connect to known networks. Make sure that any networks you connect to are secured and that your phone or laptop does not auto-connect to unknown networks. It is very easy for even a novice cybercriminal to gain personal information, including usernames, passwords, and any uploaded or downloaded data. NEVER connect a work computer to ANY public networks (including hotels and airplanes) without your IT team knowing first. Be On The Lookout for Phishing Phishing -- the fraudulent practice of sending emails that appear to be from reputable companies as a way to trick individuals into revealin

Getting Back To Business

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Las Vegas is busy with property expansions and new resorts.  Connections Housing   COO Robert Colvin and Larry Peterson, Vice President of  National Accounts, recently went on  “socially distanced” site visits of the Downtown Grand and new Resorts World Las Vegas , opening in May of 2021.  Resorts World Las Vegas is the newest property currently under construction on the Las Vegas Strip.  Opening with an initial 3,500 rooms and 350,000 square feet of meeting, convention, and event space, this property will grow to 10,000 rooms and 1.5 million square feet of space.  The property will feature Hilton, Conrad and Crockfords/LXR Hotel brands.   In addition, Circa Las Vegas, the first downtown property to be built since 1980, opened on October 27, 2020. The 711-room, 35-story property will offer a higher-end option for events in Downtown Las Vegas, as well as a great addition to our Las Vegas Market events.   

Winning The Battle: How Careful Planning & Mutual Respect Delivered Successful Live Martial Arts Tournament During Pandemic

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When Truth Entertainment owners Greg and Toby Ruth rescheduled the 2020 Battle of Atlanta World Karate Championships for the second time due to Covid-19 concerns, the duo knew their prestigious event was facing a fierce adversary. Typically held in June, the 52nd annual Battle of Atlanta, which has been home to some of the greatest fighters the martial arts world has ever known (think Chuck Norris, Jean Claude Van Damme, Joe Lewis and others who have graced its halls), had already been pushed to July. As summer approached and Covid-19 showed no signs of backing down, Greg and Toby made the decision to move their event to September 2020  -- Labor Day weekend – remaining at the original Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel venue. Even after the North American Sports Karate Association (NASKA) World Tour Board of Directors made the decision to cancel its 2020 season in August, Greg and Toby pressed on.  Teamwork Makes the Dream Work The Ruths and their incredible team worked tirelessly to