Emerging Tourism Leaders Summit

From Learning to Leading

Join us on Tuesday 18 June 2024 at Melbourne Showgrounds to…

Hear from Industry Leaders

Connect with Tourism Colleagues

Learn your Leadership Style

About the Summit

Take your tourism, events and hospitality career from learning to leading. In this full-day conference we’ll be joined by industry leaders who will  share their leadership journey and their vision for the future of our industry. The program will include keynote presentations, masterclasses and networking with sessions on leadership and key visitor economy trends.

This will be an opportunity for emerging and established tourism professionals to connect with peers, learn from experts and help shape the future of this dynamic and ever adapting industry.

Official Summit After Party

Join us after the Summit for our official After Party in partnership with yATEC and The Brass Monkey. This brand new bougie cocktail hotspot is effortlessly cool, endlessly chic, and delightfully inclusive. Picture plush velvet seating, gleaming brass accents, and a vibe that’s as inviting as it is upscale. A night not to be missed!

You can grab a lift from the summit to after party if you purchase a combined ticket (included in ticket price), or if you can’t make it to the Summit simply get a ticket for the After Party and we’ll see you there!

After Party Details:
5.30pm to late – Tuesday 18 June
At The Brass Monkey, 388 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne 3000

A Taste of the Program

On the couch session with Felicia Mariani and Phillipa Harrison

Explore our future visitor economy workforce with Simon Kuestenmacher

Understand your leadership style with LiftUp Leadership in a masterclass session

Shape the conversation at our tourism futures panel with Matt Sykes at Regeneration Projects

Hear from young achievers on our VTIC Young Achievers panel

Hear what it’s like to manage one of Victoria’s most iconic tourist attractions with Sara Quon

Click Here To View The Full Program

Meet the Speakers

Felicia Mariani


Felicia has had a long and accomplished career in the tourism, entertainment, and events sectors across both the USA and Australia. Commencing her Australian career in Melbourne in the early 90’s, Felicia joined the team at Tourism Victoria responsible for launching the highly successful and internationally lauded “You’ll Love Every Piece of Victoria” campaign. Felicia leads Victoria’s peak body for the tourism and events industry. She has held senior management roles in Tourism Victoria and Tourism NSW, is a former CEO of Tourism Tasmania, and was Managing Director of the Australian Tourism Export Council. Felicia is passionate about the power of tourism and events to drive regional economies.

Phillipa Harrison

Managing Director – Tourism Australia

Phillipa is the Managing Director of Tourism Australia and is responsible for driving Tourism Australia’s strategies to create sustainable demand for Australia’s tourism experiences internationally, and working with the tourism industry to support the sector’s recovery. Phillipa first joined Tourism Australia in February 2017 as Executive General Manager International, to lead the organisation’s international operations for Asia, the Americas, Europe and New Zealand as well as Global Distribution and Partnerships. Prior to joining Tourism Australia, Ms Harrison spent six years working for Hamilton Island Enterprises and before that held a variety of globally-focused senior sales, marketing and product roles across ecommerce, retail and wholesale tourism platforms, based in both London and Sydney.

Sara Quon

CEO – Sovereign Hill

Sara Quon has been the CEO of Ballarat’s Sovereign Hill Museums Association since 2019.  Sara is passionate about the award-winning outdoor museum’s place in the cultural, economic and social fabric of Ballarat. She was the inaugural CEO of Tourism North East, the regional tourism board for the Victorian High Country and has worked in senior roles in major events, food export, innovation and strategy, both in Australia and internationally.  Ms Quon sits on the board of the Committee for Ballarat and the Executive of the Council of Australasian Museum Directors.  She was previously a board member of Outdoors Victoria and HotHouse Theatre and a member of the Federation University Business School Industry Advisory Group.

Simon Kuestenmacher

Director and Co-founder – The Demographics Group

Simon presents on demographic and global trends that are shaping Australia today and into the future and his observations are enjoyed by corporate, government and industry audiences alike. He is a columnist for The New Daily newspaper and a regular contributor to The Australian newspaper; and he is a media commentator on demographic and data matters. In his spare time Simon has authored three books on maps and runs what is by now the world’s largest Twitter account dedicated to maps and data. His social media posts reach over 35 million people every month. Simon ranks as one of the world’s top 10 influencers in data.


Aboriginal Learning Officer – Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria

Jakobi is a proud Djap Wurrung man of Western Victoria and Aboriginal Learning Officer at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria (RBGV). RBGV leads in nature-based educational programs focused on First Peoples culture, Science & STEM, Sustainability and Health & Nature connection. Jakobi is passionate about tourism and education, he strongly believes in harnessing the power of storytelling to engage people through traditional ecological knowledge and science communication. Through sharing culture, knowledge and stories, connecting tourists and students alike to land and water through plants and landscapes and exploring our own obligations to Care for the Country.

Taryn Elder


Taryn is a former media broadcaster turned senior content director, with 15+ years of experience working for some of Australia’s biggest tourism, sports and major events brands. Passionate about all things travel and events, Taryn has a wealth of experience working directly with tourism organisations and operators on innovative campaigns, social media and content projects. Taryn oversaw the transformation of Visit Victoria’s social and digital media channels, managed the commercial distribution of AFL’s Media’s multi-million dollar content program, relaunched Cricket Australia’s digital media strategy and has worked on hundreds of content projects that have reached millions of fans globally.

Alex Dugdale

Director – Lift Up Leadership

Alex focuses on transforming frontline managers into effective leaders at his organisation LiftUp Leadership. Leveraging two decades of sales, customer success and leadership development experience, he supports people in defining and achieving their leadership goals while empowering their direct team to perform at their best. Alex has Global Fortune 500 Company experience, consulting C-Suite and has trained hundreds of leaders in more than 30 countries specialising in helping managers build and forge their leadership philosophy.

Matt Sykes

Founder and Chief Regen Officer – Regeneration Projects

Matt’s professional background includes business consultancy, landscape architecture, environmental advocacy and tourism development. He grew up at the intersection of Boonwurrung and Gunaikurnai Country in Gippsland, Victoria, Australia. Learning from First Nations Elders as well as Western eco-pioneers has shaped Matt’s unique approach to business. He has the ability to move between big systems-level thinking and grassroots localised action, always looking for a practical starting point and clearly communicating the steps forward.

Madeleine Sawyer

Tourism Midwest Victoria

As a proud advocate of tourism as a profession, Madeleine has taken on roles across the industry in the accommodation sector, the caravan and camping industry, in research and industry development. She is passionate about the important role that the visitor economy plays in telling the story of a region, culture and people, all the while enriching the lives of the community when developed and managed in a sustainable manner. In her current role at Tourism Midwest Victoria, she is working to empower and advocate these benefits for the Ballarat region through tourism product and industry development.

Izabelle So

Digital Marketing Officer – Bendigo Tourism

Since commencing work in the tourism industry in 2014, Izabelle has played a key role to help position Bendigo as a leader in regional Australia. Izzy has been integral in coordinating Bendigo’s digital promotions of its major events and exhibitions and has worked closely with local businesses to build the digital capacity for the region. Izzy has made a big impact across the Bendigo region by successfully project managing the region’s new website platform, developing six tourism websites. Izzy is the winner of 2019 VTIC Young Achievers Awards and has been a part of the multiple awards winning team in Bendigo.

Ryan Smith

Founder and Chief Access Officer – The Access Agency

Ryan Smith is the Chief Access Officer and founder of The Access Agency – an accessible and inclusive tourism consultancy. He is a qualified Access Consultant, has a degree in Design and is a widely travelled wheelchair user. Ryan collaborates with operators, regions and government to raise the profile of Accessible Tourism, to build capacity and to guide organisations in best practice and innovation for the visitor economy. He has conducted various in-person events and is the acting chair of a not-for-profit disability organisation. Ryan was also a judge for the 2023 Victorian Tourism Awards and has written for Architecture Australia’s Victorian Chapter on the future of accessible hotels.

Michelle Dall’Ava

Victorian Tourism Industry Council (VTIC)

Michelle is the Head of Industry Development & Policy Advisor at the VTIC. Originally from Brazil, she spent 14 years living in London before relocating to Australia. Making a career shift in her late 20s, Michelle pursued a Bachelor Honours’ degree in Tourism and Business, earning recognition through academic awards, including the Young Achiever Award in 2018. With key skills in industry development, stakeholder management and strategic planning, she thrives in environments that foster growth and enable her to realise her full potential in facilitating industry leadership and excellence. Her unwavering passion and dedication are evident in her commitment to driving the growth and ongoing success of VTIC and the visitor industry in Victoria.

Ebony Flett

Red Hill Candle Co

Over two decades of working in tourism, hospitality, and events lead Ebony Flett to establish Red Hill Candle Co in 2016. Ebony’s diverse professional background includes local council and private sector experience across multiple countries. A passionate advocate for the industry, Ebony is committed to inspiring future leaders  through her journey of adaptability, resilience, and innovation.

Julia Antonetti

Sustainable Destination Development Officer – Tourism Midwest Victoria

Julia is in the business of memorable encounters and special places. In her role as Sustainable Destination Development Officer she supports tourism and hospitality businesses to deliver exceptional visitor experiences. Her passion and exuberant energy, coupled with her drive for high quality service delivery, is an inspiration to many local business operators and aspiring tourism professionals. Julia was the recipient of VTIC’s 2022 Young Achiever Award at the Victorian Tourism Awards.

Renata Bernarde

Career Consultant

Renata is a career coach, podcast host, and HR consultant. With extensive experience as a corporate executive, she helps professionals navigate career transitions and achieve their goals. She is the host of “The Job Hunting Podcast,” where she shares insights and interviews experts on career advancement. Renata offers a range of services, including executive and group coaching, LinkedIn audits, and career courses, designed to empower individuals in their job search and career development. She also teaches at Monash and is an Enterprise Fellow at The University of Melbourne.

Robyn Nixon

Intrepid Travel

Robyn’s career path has been anything but conventional. After working professionally in theatre for 14 years she entered the travel industry in 1991. She and a friend started a small group adventure travel company taking travellers to India. It was here that she met Darrell Wade, Co-founder of Intrepid Travel, who convinced Robyn to leave New Zealand and work for Intrepid in Melbourne. During her 25 years with Intrepid Robyn has headed up many different areas of the business and this diverse experience means she is well equipped to take up the newly created position of General Manager Special Projects. Over the past 2 years Robyn has directed her focus to providing a clear strategic direction to Intrepid’s Polar product including partnerships with WWF Australia and BBC. Robyn is currently also working on a new project that will see Intrepid grow our product and brand among Australians who want to travel at home in their own backyard.

Brendan Saunders

Acting Manager Business and Industry Experience – City of Greater Geelong

With over 12 years of diverse experience in Australia’s visitor economy and local government sectors, I’ve dedicated my career to enhancing some of Australia’s most iconic landmarks and destinations. As Business Manager at Victoria’s largest Regional Tourism Board, and now Manager of Economic and Cultural Development at the City of Greater Geelong, I’ve led the development of key plans including the Geelong Major Events Strategy and Sustainable Destination Master Plan. In 2019, I received the Lynette Bergin Fellowship, researching sustainable tourism beyond profit. This inspired me to infuse purpose-driven principles into our strategies, ensuring community, environment, and economic benefit are equally prioritised in long-term planning.

Rachella Thomas

Event Consultant

Rachella is an award-winning event management consultant specialising in major events and festivals. With 24 years’ experience creating world-class events for high-profile clients and international brands, Rachella is the go-to consultant for organisations looking to improve their event planning strategy. Throughout her career, Rachella played a leading role in the success of renowned events such as Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Commonwealth Games’ Queen Baton Relay, Royal Melbourne Show, Australian Open, Truffle Melbourne Festival, Moomba Festival, Australia Day, and Jayco Herald Sun Tour. In 2020, Rachella founded Event Kit, an online shop affordable and on-demand event planning templates.

More Speakers To Come.

Choose Tourism Careers Expo

The Summit will be taking place alongside VTIC’s Choose Tourism Careers Expo. All attendees at the summit will have the opportunity to explore career opportunities and connect directly with employers during breaks on the day.

Your Questions Answered

I’m from regional Victoria, is there any support for me to attend?

Yes! We are offering regional Victorian’s tickets at member prices. Get in touch with your local regional tourism board for the offer code.

You can also get in touch with us via info@youngtourismnetwork.com.au.

Is there a student discount?

We’ve designed the pricing with students in mind so we don’t have a discount on the ticket price specifically for students.

If you’re a student with one of our education provider partners, we do offer a discount to sign up as a member. Talk to your education provider to see if they are a partner!

I hear there’s an after party for this event?

You heard right! 

We’ll be holding an after party in the city following the conference and we’d love for you to come along. There will be entertainment, drinks, food and a chance to talk about what you learnt at the summit.

We’ll be announcing more details soon.

What’s the best way to get there on the day?

  • Complimentary parking is available onsite.
  • By tram – take route 57 tram and disembark at stop 32 (Showgrounds Village Shopping Centre)
  • By bus – take bus no.472 or no.404
  • Pop in for an hour or stay for a while – it’s free to attend.

Is discounted accommodation available for attendees?


Brady Hotels are offering the Young Tourism Network 30% off our best available rates valid for stays in June 2024. See how to claim your discount in your confirmation email for your ticket.

I’m booking my ticket through my workplace, can I pay using a purchase order and invoice?

We are happy to work with you to do this, please get in touch with us via email info@youngtourismnetwork.com.au and we can organise an invoice for you.

How do I get the Summit approved (and paid for) by my workplace?

It can be tricky to approach your manager about attending professional development opportunities. We’ve put together a template for you to use to approach your workplace about attending the Summit and asking for it to be paid for as part of your professional development.

You can use this template as a base to apply for any professional development down the track too!

Applying for Approval for Professional Development Opportunities.docx

What are you waiting for?

Register below to take your career from learning to leading at the upcoming Emerging Tourism Leaders Summit.

Principle Partners

Choose Tourism – an Australian Government initiative.

Silver Partners

After Party Partners