Skip navigation

Q&A: U.S. Travel Association’s New Meetings Executive

Here’s how Aimee Misako Gabel will apply her planning experiences at a fast-growing association to the newly established role of senior vice president, events and education, for U.S. Travel.

On March 14, the U.S. Travel Association introduced Aimee Misako Gabel as the organization’s first senior vice president, events and education. “This new position will play a key role in shaping and transforming our signature events—including IPW, ESTO, Summer Summit, and Future of Travel Mobility—and also deliver new offerings aligned with our strategic priorities,” says Ellen Davis, the group’s executive vice president of business strategy & industry engagement.

Misako Gabel
 comes to U.S. Travel with a strong track record in meetings. For the past 10 years, she was chief experience officer at RE+, the largest renewable-energy event in North America. During her tenure, RE+ grew to become a top 50 trade show and was widely cited for the innovative ways it engaged attendees while quadrupling its revenue.

She also has a strong connection to the travel industry, serving on advisory boards for the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board, the City of Philadelphia, and the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas.

Aimee’s extensive experience in both event innovation and execution will play a critical role in our transformation, and her substantial trade-association background will ensure we remain laser-focused on serving our diverse membership and vibrant industry,” Davis notes.

MeetingsNet caught up with Misako Gabel right after she began at U.S. Travel to ask about how she will apply her experience to this new, elevated role.

MeetingsNet: You hold a master’s degree in organizational development from American University plus a certificate in strategy execution from Harvard’s Kennedy School. What did you learn in those programs that guides your approach to managing your meetings team, and your approach to building effective business events?
Aimee Misako Gabel: Ironically, the greatest lesson I learned in grad school was to be my authentic self. Women are often taught to hide themselves to get ahead. Yet I have the most impact when I show up as myself: curious, thoughtful, and vulnerable. At a time when we are often starved for real conversations, it goes such a long way to understand who you are and bring yourself into the dialogue on important issues.

Also, investing in your team is critical. Whether you’re at a multinational corporation, a statewide organization, or an association, the work is being done by people. Of course, people are complicated, and a lot of us are still a bit burnt out from the pandemic. But when you invest in people through thoughtful individual development, leadership training, and clear strategic goals, the work your people can accomplish becomes easier, more efficient, and even fun. So, take the time necessary to develop the hard and soft skills in your team and your product will thrive.

MeetingsNet: What are a few lessons you took from your 10 years at RE+ that will help maximize the impact of the events you oversee at U.S. Travel Association?
Misako Gabel: Much like travel, renewable energy is an evolving industry, so it was critical to constantly keep our eye on the future. At RE+, we would beta-test new markets in small doses through our education program. If that segment grew, then so would the programming, as well as the trade show, the networking, and other elements. We would weave that throughout our strategic goals, and we grew the [educational offerings for the] energy-storage market from two sessions in 2013 to fully half of our entire show in 2023. There were some markets we beta-tested that didn’t perform as well as others, so we adjusted accordingly in each instance. Here at U.S. Travel Association, you will see us beta-test new ideas in upcoming events.

MeetingsNet: U.S. Travel members are well-traveled. What will you have to do with event elements beyond the meeting rooms and the show floor to make sure your attendees have experiences that keep them coming back in future years?
Misako Gabel: Innovation drew me to U.S. Travel. We are creating high-impact, high-quality events that will deliver even greater value to our members. People want to make connections that can help them solve challenges. I love a “wow” moment as much as the next person; our ability to surprise and delight as well as dig deep and solve problems will be the key to continued growth. 

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.