by Sarah J.F. Braley | October 01, 2004

Since 1985, when the Washington, D.C.-based Convention Industry Council created its Hall of Leaders, 86 people have achieved the highest accolade of the meetings industry as inductees. The selection process starts with nominations from either CIC member organizations or the general industry community; the inductees are then chosen by a selection committee. M&C sat down with the 2004 crop of six including the eighth woman to make the list to learn what makes them great.

George AguelGeorge Aguel
Senior Vice President, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Lake Buena Vista, Fla.; 30 years in the meetings industry

Why you?
I guess it’s about how much you’ve given back to the industry. Volunteering at the industry level is something I learned and was given great advice about many years ago. And I’ve had the good fortune to be with two organizations [Disney for 14 years and Opryland for 12] that have supported me and allowed me to follow this philosophy.

What have you brought to the industry?
Hopefully I’ve been able to leverage what I’ve learned from these organizations to function as a leader and apply the development that I’ve gained over the years to the benefit of the organizations for which I’ve served as a volunteer leader.

What is the biggest change you’ve seen in the industry?
There has never been an experience like what we went through after 9/11. That really tested us. It was something we never trained for or were prepared for. It tested our leadership and our resolve, but we were able to respond to it and come back.

If you could change one thing in the industry, what would it be?
I would make sure both the planner and supplier sides were working on much more of a strategic level and not just a tactical level, so they can act in more than just a simple rates-and-dates approach. The two sides should look at how they can help each other advance, not just at “what can you do for me?”

What was your first job in the industry?
I worked in my dad’s steak restaurant, followed by such glamorous jobs as houseman and front desk clerk.

What advice would you give someone entering the industry?
Seek out some mentors whom you can learn from and maybe even emulate. Be sure to get involved, get very involved. The benefits that will come back to you will far outweigh the investment of
your time. 

How has the industry changed you?
I was a shy, quiet guy in my early years. I could never in my life envision being a very social type of person or standing up in front of large audiences.