2021 Arizona Governor’s Conference On Tourism


August 2-4, 2021

The Arizona Governor’s Conference on Tourism (GCOT) is the premier educational and information-sharing event in the state for travel professionals and destination marketers. GCOT provides its attendees the opportunity to exchange ideas with peers, learn from expert panelists, draw inspiration from nationally renowned speakers, and discover cutting-edge products and services.

Questions? Please contact us at (602) 542-0065 or info@azgcot.com

Selfies In The Arizona Desert
Traditional Native American Dance Urban
Arizona Golf Courses


Registration for the IN-PERSON event is available at the full conference rate of $425.


The Early Bird rate has expired, and the Full Conference rate is $425.  A scholarship program is still available for those hit especially hard by the current tourism climate and you can explore that application process HERE.

**Please note that after analyzing the cost and the current CDC guidance the GCOT planning committee has decided we won’t be able to offer a VIRTUAL TRACK option and we are encouraging in-person attendance.

For more information or questions, please contact us at:

Events & Activities

Monday – Toast to Tourism

Let’s all raise a glass with the Arizona Wine Grower’s Association!  This business casual event will be a brief toast and then open networking.  Please stop by the exhibit hall and thank the sponsors who make this event happen.  There will be some horderves but dinner is open to catch up with a colleague or friend you haven’t seen in a while.  Some suggestions.

Governor’s Tourism Awards Gala

Dinner Emcee Yetta Gibson

The awards have been decided and it is going to be a great awards ceremony celebrating the excellence and achievements of our industry. Attire is business – cocktail and we look forward to gathering together as an industry!

Wednesday – Conference Close Out

We are making Wednesday a casual day and encourage all attendees to wear jeans and their favorite Arizona T-shirt!


Deadline for Conference Rate: July 16, 2021

JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn

Discover our award-winning hotel located at the base of Camelback Mountain in Paradise Valley at JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa. Our luxury hotel prides itself on providing guests with attentive service, deluxe amenities, heated outdoor pools, garden terraces and desert trails in the Sonoran Desert.


2021 Conference Schedule

Monday, August 2, 2021

2:30PM General Session: The Comeback: AOT State of the State Tourism Industry Update, Debbie Johnson

AOT’s annual presentation will offer a brief look at the research data, recovery programs, marketing plans, and advertising strategies that contributed to a successful year. AOT will also share our strategic vision and path forward for the industry.

3:30PM Keynote Session: Make Your Ideas Irresistible, Tamsen Webster

Sponsored by Visit Phoenix

Now, more than ever, it’s important for your message to be heard. But is it strong enough to withstand whatever is thrown at it? Is it strong enough to stand out from the crowd? With over 20 years of working on the big ideas of individuals and organizations, Tamsen Webster has learned a thing or two about the things that make ideas last. She’ll walk you through four key measurements you can take away to test if your message is built to last.
After this keynote you’ll be able to:
-Understand the difference between your message and your idea
-Identify key metrics to help your message stand out
-Test the strength of your message
-Develop the story people will tell themselves about your message

4:30PM Conference Reception: Toast to Tourism

Join AOT and your industry colleagues as we Toast to Tourism with the Arizona Wine Grower’s Association representing our local wineries and craft beer industry. Immediately following the toast we will enjoy a conference kick-off reception in the Exhibit Hall from 4:30-6:30pm. Dinner this evening is open to plan with colleagues and friends.

Sponsored by Navajo Tourism Department

6:30PM Open Evening or Optional Sponsor Dinners

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

8:00AM Continental Breakfast Sponsored by Experience Scottsdale

8:45AM Keynote Session: US Travel Association Update, Roger Dow

Roger Dow, President & CEO of the US Travel Association, will join us for an update on the state of the travel industry, the current advocacy priorities U.S. Travel is advancing to accelerate a full industry recovery, as well as longer-term priorities that will support the rebuilding of the travel economy and position us for future growth.

Sponsored by Wild Horse Pass Development Authority

9:15AM Keynote Session: The Future Normal: How to Anticipate What Comes Next & Trends that Matter, Rohit Bhargava

Sponsored by Miles Partnership

Futuristic ideas are now becoming daily realities and going mainstream. What are the biggest trends shaping our future? In this engaging session inspired by the upcoming book (March 2022), you’ll get an exclusive advanced look at some of the biggest trends that matter in a world shaped by the pandemic and you’ll leave with new ideas for how to win in a disrupted future.

10:30AM Morning Break Sponsored by Madden Media

11:00AM Concurrent Breakout Sessions

This workshop led by the expert team at Coraggio Group, will be geared towards rural destinations. Learn which essential strategic plan elements you should focus on, hear from a community who recently completed their strategic plan and find out how partnering with AOT can help offset your costs for this important work.

Speakers: Trever Cartwright, Partner, Coraggio Group

Jamie Daer, Director of Advertising, Arizona Office of Tourism

Heather Hermen, Owner, Front Burner Media

Moderator: Alix Skelpsa Ridgway, Director of Government & Community Relations, Arizona Office of Tourism

Sponsored by Near

How to integrate the Appreciate AZ and Leave No Trace philosophy into your marketing programs

Join us as Andrew Leary, National Outreach Manager for the Leave No Trace, Center for Outdoor Ethics, leads a panel discussion and workgroup activities on how destinations, organizations and attractions can incorporate the Appreciate AZ Leave No Trace philosophy into their marketing programs. Attendees will learn tried and true tactics that can help promote responsible outdoor recreation.

Speakers: Beth Keune, Leave No Trace State Ambassador, Arizona Game & Fish Department
Sherry L. Rupert, CEO, American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association
Candance Carr Strauss, President and CEO, Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau 

Moderator: Andrew Leary, National Outreach Manager, Leave No Trace

Sponsored by Sedona Chamber of Commerce

COVID-19 forced us to rethink how we conduct public relations, pitch travel writers and work with media. During this session, we will hear from a PR professional, content strategist, travel writer, and winery owner. We will learn how they pivoted during the pandemic with regards to new missions, strategies, events and activations and what they see going forward as future trends and long-term changes in their respective industries.

Speakers: Roger Naylor, Award-winning travel writer, RogerNaylor.com

Kris Pothier, President Arizona Wine Growers Association, Owner,  Chateau Tumbleweed

Rachel Semik, Content Strategist, Tempe Tourism

Moderator: Janet Mick, President and Founder, IT Public Relations

2020 and 2021 have been the most challenging years for the global travel industry. However, positive news is on the horizon with opening borders and a favorable exchange rate in the coming years. We will unveil the latest trends as well as 5 winning tactics that you can do now to bring international travel from Europe, Mexico and Canada into Arizona.

We will answer the following questions:

  • What type of traveler is the first one who would consider visiting Arizona?
  • What countries would visit specific seasons in Arizona?
  • What type of Arizona attractions will be most appealing to international visitors
  • What can DMOs, hotels, attractions to do support tour operators?

Speakers: Adam Bridgeford, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Herrmann Global

Florian Herrmann, CEO, Herrmann Global

Moderator: Jessica Remington, Sr. Manager of Travel Industry Marketing, Arizona Office of Tourism

Sponsored by Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport

  • 12:00PM Conference Lunch: What to Start, Stop & Continue as We Travel Forward

Sponsored by Off Madison Ave.

The global pandemic drove changes both to our industry and our organizations. As our destinations look to emerge stronger and more resilient, there is one central question leaders need to ask at this moment: What does your destination need to do to support the changes that came with Covid-19?  Hear from a panel of leaders in the tourism and hospitality space as they share what the insights and lessons learned during the last eighteen months and more specifically what their organization is going to start, stop and continue doing as they reenter the new normal.

2:00PM Concurrent Breakout Sessions

A Cookieless Future: What Does the Third-Party Cookie Ban Mean for You

Amid consumer privacy concerns, Google’s and Apple are cracking down on who and how advertisers can track consumers in the digital space. But that tracking and information is exactly what has enabled rich targeting opportunities for advertisers like us. So what do we do now? During this session, you will learn from our panel of experts how to navigate these industry changes so you can make better, more informed decisions about your digital strategy.

Speakers: Lindsey Birkett, Regional Vice President, Goodway Group

Tina Kelly, Chief Marketing Officer, Casual Astronaut

Paul McLeod, Director of Analytics, Simpleview

Moderator: Keri Bieber, Media Director, Off Madison Ave.

Sponsored by Casual Astronaut

The Importance of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Destination Marketing

Travel is one of those experiences that can be inherently free of boundaries – free from racial, religious, gender or expression boundaries. While we market diverse destinations, our destination marketing does not always reflect the diversity in our population. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are vital components of successful destination marketing. Join us for a thought-provoking session where we will discuss the importance of DEI in destination marketing and ways to implement DEI within destination marketing through different lenses.

Speakers: Greg DeShields, Executive Director, Tourism Diversity Matters

Angela Hughey, President & Founder, One Community

Moderator: Debbie Johnson, Director, Arizona Office of Tourism

Sponsored by Tempe Tourism Office

Outdoor Recreation and Tourism: What your local land manager wants you to know

Arizona has unbelievable outdoor recreation resources ranging from urban to rural and for all levels of experience. But what does it take to manage these natural resources and visitation, what changed during the pandemic, and how can we connect the dots between tourism marketing and recreation? This panel of experts from AZ State Parks and Trails, Maricopa County Parks and Recreation, and AZ Game and Fish will share their stories, expertise and plans for the future of the lands they manage.

Speakers: RJ Cardin, Director, Maricopa County Parks and Recreation

Scott Lavin, Wildlife Recreation Branch Chief, Arizona Game & Fish Department

Dan Roddy, Park Manager, Lake Havasu State Park

Moderator: Adam Milnor, Recreation, Heritage, and Lands Staff Officer, US Forest Service

Sponsored by Sedona Chamber of Commerce

JC Thompson, COO and Chief Disrupter at Aspire, will walk through the mindset required to lead your team through the next 12 months and beyond. The foundations outstanding performing organizations (and individuals) are focused on to drive positivity and performance through their organizations.  Including:  Mindset as a competitive advantage, Aspire Performance Model™. The Competency Set™, Motivational Switch™, Uncertainty = Opportunity, Leading and inspiring people to fanatically engage, and Navigating change and uncertainty.

Speaker: JC Thompson, COO and Chief Disrupter, Aspire

3:30PM Concurrent Breakout Sessions

This workshop led by the expert team at Coraggio Group, will be geared towards rural destinations. Learn which essential strategic plan elements you should focus on, hear from a community who recently completed their strategic plan and find out how partnering with AOT can help offset your costs for this important work.

Speakers: Trever Cartwright, Partner, Coraggio Group

Jamie Daer, Director of Advertising, Arizona Office of Tourism

Heather Hermen, Owner, Front Burner Media

Moderator: Alix Skelpsa Ridgway, Director of Government & Community Relations, Arizona Office of Tourism

Sponsored by Sedona Chamber of Commerce

Increasing accessibility is near the top of the priority list for many hotels, resorts, destinations and attractions. It isn’t just the right thing to do based on human dignity, inclusiveness and legal requirements, but embracing access for all visitors is a smart business decision too. With so many priorities competing for staff time and capital investment, figuring out where to start can be a challenge. But it doesn’t have to be. There are lots of ways to increase accessibility and promote what you’re already doing. Our panel of experts will provide insights, strategies and practical ideas on what you can do right away and in the future to attract this substantial, yet often overlooked, segment of travelers.

Speakers: Alison Brooks, Director, Group Services & Special Projects, Visit Mesa

Brett Heising, Founder and CEO, brettapproved

Jake Steinman, Founder/CEO, TravelAbility, North American Journeys

Moderator: Marc Garcia, CEO, Visit Mesa

The COVID-19 pandemic forced us all to pivot and respond faster than ever before, and we relied on research to guide us through this uncharted territory. During this session, you will hear from experts who provided groundbreaking insights and strategic guidance during one of the tourism industry’s most difficult periods in history and what metrics will guide us moving forward.

Speakers: Erin Francis-Cummings, President & CEO, Destination Analysts

Laura Libby, Senior Vice President, Miles Partnership

Simon Caballero, Tourism Data Specialist, Near

Moderator: Colleen Floyd, Director of Research, Arizona Office of Tourism

Sponsored by Simpleview, Inc.

It’s no secret TikTok has transformed the social media landscape. As platforms like Facebook and Instagram strive to keep up, videos on social media will be more important than ever in the coming years. In this 1-hr panel, we’ll talk about effective strategies for videos on social media. From TikTok to IGTV and all other videos in between, you’ll learn the best practices and approaches to video for your marketing efforts. All levels welcome.  

Speakers: Lacy Cain, CEO, Wildjoy

Li Ciu, Marketing Manager, Arizona Snowbowl

Andra Dan, Senior Manager, Marketing & PR, Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock

Tawnya Decker, Strategic Marketing Manager, Drink in AZ

Moderator: Shelby Bair, Social Media Manager, Off Madison Ave

  • 6:00PM Governor’s Tourism Awards Gala

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

8:00AM Continental Breakfast Sponsored by Visit Tucson

9:00AM General Session: Visit Arizona Initiative Overview, Debbie Johnson

Governor Ducey recently announced the Visit Arizona Initiative – a grant program aimed at accelerating tourism recovery, job creation and economic development across the state of Arizona using federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds. Join Debbie Johnson for the Visit Arizona Initiative Overview which will include details about the four grant programs offered, eligibility, specific guidelines and the application processes. Q&A will follow the presentation.

9:45AM Morning Break Sponsored by Arizona Game & Fish Department

10:00AM Industry Topics Working Sessions

The travel industry is facing many challenges, some pandemic related, some not. As our destinations look to emerge stronger and more resilient, how do we work together to address the issues facing us today?

Thought starters will be prepared on four topics and the audience will be polled to choose two. We’ll then move to breakout sessions to discuss challenges and opportunities. Topics to include: DEI, Sustainability, Workforce Development and Meetings/Business Travel

Moderator: Angie Briggs, US Travel Association

11:00AM General Session: Topic Wrap-up & Conference Closing  

This session will be our last chance to share on the discussions we had during the working sessions and wrap-up with key learnings and collaboration points to assist us in emerging stronger as an industry.  We will close the conference and look forward to the 2022 event.

Sponsored by Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation

2021 Keynote Speaker

Tamsen Webster

Tamsen Webster has spent the last twenty years helping experts drive action from their ideas. Part message strategist, part storyteller, part English-to-English translator, her work focuses on how to find and build the stories partners, investors, clients, and customers will tell themselves—and others.

Tamsen honed her expertise through work in and for major companies and organizations like Johnson & Johnson, Harvard Medical School, and Intel, as well as with startups that represent the next wave of innovation in life science, biotech, climate tech, fintech, and pharma. She’s a professional advisor at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship and a mentor for the Harvard Innovation Labs. She’s also served for over eight years as executive producer and idea strategist for one of the oldest locally organized TED Talk events in the world (TEDxCambridge).

She was a reluctant marathoner… twice, is a champion ballroom dancer (in her mind), and learned everything she knows about messages, people, and change as a Weight Watchers leader. True story.

Rohit Bhargava

Rohit Bhargava is a leading authority on marketing, trends and innovation. He is the Founder of the Non-Obvious Company and previously spent over 15 years advising large organizations on digital and marketing at 2 respected global agencies: Leo Burnett and Ogilvy.

Rohit is widely considered one of the most entertaining and original keynote speakers on marketing disruption and innovation in the world. He is the #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling author of six books on topics as wide-ranging as the future of virtual work, building a human brand with personality, and why leaders always eat left-handed. He has been invited to deliver sold-out keynotes and workshops to change the way teams and leaders think at the World Bank, NASA, Intel, LinkedIn, MetLife, Disney and hundreds of others. Rohit also teaches a popular course on marketing and storytelling at Georgetown University in Washington DC and writes a monthly column on trends for GQ magazine in Brazil.

2021 Speaker Lineup


Jay Acunzo

Jay Acunzo is a globally touring keynote speaker, author of the book Break the Wheel, and a sought-after podcast and docuseries host and producer.

When he’s not traveling the world speaking (often virtually) or sharing innovation stories on a show (like his podcast, Unthinkable), Jay runs Marketing Showrunners, which provides insights and education for makers and marketers who want to find their voices and make a difference through refreshingly original podcasts and video series. Subscribers hail from organizations like Red Bull, Amazon Prime Video, the BBC, the New York Times, Mailchimp, Salesforce, Zendesk, Roku, Shopify, and thousands of small businesses and startups.

Sponsorship Information

Become a Governor’s Conference on Tourism sponsor and take advantage of a full spectrum of cost-effective opportunities.

The a la carte sponsorship program for GCOT 2021 allows organizations to choose the exposure opportunities that best matches their budget and promotional needs. All sponsorship levels are cash-only participation and may be a cooperative partnership between no more than two organizations, each contributing an equal amount.

Download the 2021-Sponsor-Fillable-Form

2021 Sponsors

12News.com – Premion


American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Assoc.

Arizona Highways

Arizona State Parks & Trails

Cactus League Baseball Association

Casual Astronaut

Certified Folder Display Service, Inc.

Discover Gila County, Inc.

Goodway Group

Grand Canyon West

Meredith Corporation

National Park Trips – Grand Canyon Journal

Navajo Nation Shopping Centers, Inc.

Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport Authority

Relic Agency



State Farm Stadium

Tempe Tourism Office

The Arizona Republic / LOCALiQ

The Wander Media Group

Contact Us

Have a question? Please complete the form below and we’ll get back to you soon.

AOT Partners

Want to stay up to date on information from the Arizona Office of Tourism and their Arizona Governor’s Conference on Tourism?

Sign Up for AOT’s Partner Portal!

AOT has launched a new partner portal for tourism businesses across Arizona. Our Partner Portal is free of charge and allows us to maintain accurate records of businesses and partners across the state and provide enhanced services and opportunities.

Through the Partner Portal, partners are able to:

  • Add and manage multiple contacts at a single business or organization.
  • Create and edit business listings for consideration on VisitArizona.com.
  • Add the URL to your COVID-19 safety page for consumers.
  • List deals and promotions.
  • Upload photos and access AOT’s image library.
  • Create consumer events listings to publish on VisitArizona.com.

You can create an account and access the partner portal using this link: arizona.idss.com/extranet.

We have printable step-by-step instructions available here.