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Barbara Karasek (l) and Luisa Laurelli (r).

The Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International(HSMAI) selected Barbara Karasek, CEO and Co-Owner, Paradise Advertising& Marketing Inc. (Paradise), as one of its “Top 25 Extraordinary Minds in Sales, Marketing, Revenue Optimization, and Distribution“ for 2023. This is the 21st year HSMAI has compiled the list, which annually recognizes exemplary achievement and leadership in the travel, tourism and hospitality industry 

Karasek joins an exclusive list of honorees and will be honored by HSMAI at a reception in New York City on February 13, 2024.

In addition, HSMAI has appointed Paradise Account Director Luisa Laurelli to its Rising Marketing Leaders Council, a professional development and advocacy group, composed of emerging young professionals that will help shape the future of HSMAI. 

“It is with great admiration that we celebrate HSMAI’s 2023 class of Top 25 honorees in hotel sales, marketing, revenue optimization, and distribution,” said Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHBA, President and CEO of HSMAI. “Through their creativity,dedication, and impact, these remarkable professionals not only excel in their respective fields but have set benchmarks of excellence for the industry and inspire us all.”

The 2023 “Top 25”honorees were judged by a panel of senior industry executives for their recent work based on the following criteria: creativity and innovation, cutting-edge sales or marketing campaigns, triumph in challenging situations, and/or efforts that resulted in dramatic gains.

Karasek embodies a multi-faceted 30 year career in sales and marketing and has touched tourism in nearly every role. Throughout her career she has worked and lived in eight countries and traveled to 20+ countries, and has held executive level brand marketing,sales, entertainment, operations, sponsorship, and licensing roles with the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, NASCAR, PGA TOUR, and Sea World Parks & Entertainment. 

Based in St. Petersburg, FL, Karasek serves as Paradise CEO, Chairwoman and Co-Owner, who,along with her husband Tony Karasek , acquired Paradise in 2018 from her advertising mentor Cedar Hames prior to his sudden passing. 

As CEO of Paradise, Karasek has grown a Florida-based and operated advertising and marketing firm into a nationwide agency of record with 45 staff in 11 states, and representing CVBs, tourism bureaus,economic development , hotels, museums, attractions, and air and transportation clients in three time zones. Through her leadership, Paradise has maintained its successful 21-year relationship with the agency’s first client, the Naples,Marco Island, and the Everglades CVB and has earned more than 450 lifetime industry awards, including nine HSMAI Adrian Awards in 2023. Under her leadership,Paradise expanded its public relations, digital, social media, influencer,content, sports marketing, EDI, and sustainability offerings to become a  true full-service, innovative marketing partner, and Paradise was recently named the partner agency for Destinations International’s (DI) Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) efforts.

During the initial 12 months of the pandemic and during several recent natural disasters, Paradise has donated over 6,000 pro bono hours of service to clients and businesses in those communities in need of a helpful marketing hand.

Karasek serves on the DI EDI Committee, the DI Global Leadership Committee, the EDI subcommittees for Accessibility and CEO Engagement, and was recently named to the Advisory Panel for the Tourism Academy. A founding Board Member for the American Marketing Association’s Jacksonville FL Chapter, Karasek previously served on the Board of Rethreaded, a non-profit supporting human trafficking survivors and serves as a marketing campaign judge for the National Grocers Association, Web Marketing Association, and Sports & Fitness Industry Association. Karasek is also an investor in CERES, a culinary-forward residential real estate development in Chattahoochee Hills, GA, which places food as the foundation for healthy, sustainable, abundant, and connected living.

“I am beyond humbled and very grateful to HSMAI for this incredible honor and for the tourism and hospitality industry, which I have indirectly been involved with for 25 years and directly been entrenched in for six years,” Karasek said. “I cherish every day that I get to work, travel, and innovate with our amazing team and serve as a partner for good for our clients and industry. I look forward to joining this distinguished group of extraordinary minds and continuing to impact livelihoods and communities through tourism for generations to come.”

Nominations for the Top 25 are reviewed by a panel of industry experts selected by HSMAI from among its membership and/or Board of Directors. HSMAI selects judges who have demonstrated exceptional leadership ability and have outstanding knowledge of the hospitality industry. Judges are held to the highest standards of integrity and commitment to honoring those individuals that have shown extraordinary leadership in our industry over the last 18 months. The entire judging process adheres firmly to these guiding principles and judges must recuse themselves from scoring any nomination that may present a conflict of interest. Nominations are scored on a scale of 1-10 for the results of their leadership for specific sales, marketing, and revenue management initiatives.

Having started her professional at Paradise as an intern five years ago, Laurelli has been one of the brightest stars at the agency, as the Brazil native has risen to her current role as Account Director, with significant account management duties. Her joyful, kind and pro-active approach has been lauded by both clients and teammates alike. “Luisa is one of the most impressive talents we have encountered,” says Paradise President Rudy Webb. “We have watched her grow and develop as our home-grown talent and can’t wait to see how she continues to develop. Her participation in the HSMAI Rising Marketing Leaders Council will only serve to further develop her leadership skills and leverage her talents to the benefit of our industry.”

About HSMAI

The Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) is committed to growing business for hotels and their partners and is the industry’s leading advocate for intelligent, sustainable hotel revenue growth. The association provides hotel professionals and their partners with tools, insights, and expertise to fuel sales, inspire marketing,and optimize revenue through programs such as the Commercial Strategy Conference,Sales Leader Forum, and Adrian Awards. Founded in 1927, HSMAI is a membership organization comprising more than 5,000 members worldwide, with 40 chapters in the Americas Region. Connect with HSMAI at hsmai.org.