MeetingsNet’s 2022 Changemakers list recognizes outstanding meeting professionals for their efforts to move their organizations and the industry forward in unique and positive ways. Find the full 2022 Changemakers list here.
Gary Murakami, CCTE, GTP, GLP, CMP, CMM, DES
Vice President of Sales & Industry Relations,
Teneo Hospitality Group
For mentorship of marginalized event-industry professionals and being an overall force for community and healing during challenging times
Gary Murakami is known throughout the industry for his expertise in hotel and convention management. He’s been in the business for more than two decades and currently handles a portfolio of more than 350 hotels and resorts as vice president of sales and industry relations at Teneo Hospitality Group. But his expertise in hospitality sales and convention services is just the tip of the iceberg.
Murakami is known throughout the industry for his community building, mentorship, and support for the underserved and underrepresented, qualities that are especially important as the meetings industry begins to recover from years of Covid disruption.
“Our industry will never now forget the power of human connection,” he says. “Reflecting on the pandemic, many of us came to understand and appreciate the influence and social and economic impact of our industry. Given an uncertain future at the time, many felt a sense of loss and hopelessness, and even a questioning of one’s purpose. Often, the greatest negative impact fell to people in underrepresented communities who did not have a platform or resources.”
As a volunteer leader for many different organizations, including Corporate Event Marketing Association, Professional Convention Management Foundation, LGBT Meetings Professionals Association, as well as Meeting Professionals International Northern California Chapter, Murakami continually looks for ways to engage.
One project that particularly resonated with his spirit of community came about during his recent tenure as chapter president of MPINCC. “I became increasingly motivated and inspired in a mission and journey to assist our local industry to find a sense of community, belonging, and inclusion, tenets of my strong belief in elevating diversity, equity, and inclusion within our meetings and events industry,” he says.
In partnership with Odyssey Teams and the leadership of the board, chair, and committee volunteers, the MPI chapter embarked on a special initiative, a “Journey of Gratitude,” that provided opportunities to engage together virtually. Every participant created and uploaded one square of a large mosaic. The image, representing hope and pride in the industry, was unveiled at a chapter event. “Our inspiration was to bring our community together to understand the power of our industry’s unique and distinct collective voice,” Murakami says.
Mentorship is another vital strand of Murakami’s DNA. “On my morning walk the other day, a quote etched in a monument in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco—‘Lift Every Voice’—was a reminder of the importance of giving back and finding opportunities to lift our entire community of event professionals,” he says. “As an Asian American growing up in our industry, the early-career years were absent of visible senior industry leaders who ‘looked like me’ and others from marginalized communities, including women.”
As he grew in his career, it became a passion and obligation for him to support others who didn’t have a voice. “The talent and contributions of these individuals were often overlooked, so it was important to articulate their impact,” he says.
“Change happens when we make intentional opportunities. I volunteer in organizations that help create more equity and inclusion in our industry—MPI’s DEI Advisory Committee, the Events Industry Council Equity Task Force, LGBT Meetings Professionals Association, and IGLTA Foundation are some of them. When we commit our time, passion, and energy toward creating opportunities, we increase the visibility of diversity for our industry’s growth.”