Cornell/AH&LA Women in Senior Leadership Panel

Noël Irwin Hentschel, chairman & CEO, AmericanTours International; Dayssi Olarte de Kanavos '85, founder, president, & COO, Flag Luxury Group; Michelle Russo '87, president, HotelAVE

Noël Irwin Hentschel, chairman & CEO, AmericanTours International; Dayssi Olarte de Kanavos '85, founder, president, & COO, Flag Luxury Group; and Michelle Russo '87, president, HotelAVE.

The Cornell University School of Hotel Administration (SHA) and the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) co-presented the second edition of the Cornell/AH&LA Women in Senior Leadership Panel on April 13 at the Willard InterContinental in Washington, D.C. 

Three women known for their strategic planning and forward thinking shared stories of how they got started and have since grown their businesses in the ever-evolving hospitality industry. Their anecdotes and advice shared common themes:

Start with a great idea

Find a niche and fill it: "It's a great time for young entrepreneurs to make their mark with boutique hotels," shared Dayssi Olarte de Kanavos '85, president of Flag Luxury Group, which develops luxury resorts, hotels, and residential real estate.


"To be an entrepreneur you don't necessarily need to have your own business," advised Michelle Russo '87, president of HotelAVE (Hotel Asset Value Enhancement), who, while setting out to become a hotel owner herself, unintentionally started an advisory practice. With little capital required to start, she was able to develop a client roster before bringing on staff.

Relationships are vital

Noël Irwin Hentschel, chairwoman and CEO of AmericanTours International, stressed that even after nearly forty years in the group travel business, "one of the most important elements then, and still is today, is relationships."

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