Professional Development

Your 2023 Convention Professional Development Committee (chaired by Keryn Means) is hard at work finding great teachers and speakers for our sessions in Puerto Rico.


AI in Journalism and PR
AI is on the rise, but can we trust it? It seems like you can’t go anywhere without hearing about platforms like Chat GPT. Learn about the pros and cons of using AI in your writing and destination materials, pitfalls to avoid and when AI is actually a blessing for your business. 

No Dumb Questions: Ask a Digital Publisher

Let’s dive into how DPC members make money through digital publishing (books, courses, tours, ad networks, affiliate sales, newsletters, social media, etc), and how they work with destinations, while maintaining integrity and exceptional storytelling. Bring your questions, as they are ready to give you answers, whether you are interested in starting a site, are an associate interested in working with digital publishers, or you are a member of the DPC ready to up your game. 

Travel Over 50: Meet the Female Audience you Have Been Ignoring Why is the travel industry ignoring women over 50, travel’s most important influencers and decision makers? Writers and destinations will want to sit in on this panel that will dive into how they can better attract women over 50 who can travel in the off season, care about sustainability, spend more, and stay longer. It’s time for active women over 50 to get noticed by editors and writers, plus destination reps as we address the issues and break the stereotypes of older travelers. Learn how to be more inclusive of women over 50 in their writing, how destinations can attract this important audience, and how to improve communications (imagery, diversity, mobility and accessibility) in your writing and branding

Covering the Caribbean: Panel Discussion
Dive into the beauty of the Caribbean, and the challenges writers and tourism boards have faced when covering this vast area. We will dig into the differences between the islands in a destination that is often and wrongly thought of as a monolith.

Diversity in Tourism
Now more than ever it is important to attract and represent BIPOC and disabled populations into articles about your destination, press trips and influencer marketing campaigns. Learn from a PR expert and BIPOC journalist about the ways to include these often overlooked segments of the travel sector.

This session will dig into how to find the writers and creators that will give your trips well-rounded representation, and how to approach, plan, and organize trips so that all voices are represented from businesses and experiences offered by underrepresented groups, to tell complete and inclusive stories that will resonate. It will also dig into the difference between representation and inclusion when it comes to diversity, the benefits of inclusion and a balanced publication, and how and why to hire a diversity editor or sensitivity reader.

Meet the Editors
In the annual convention’s most highly attended event, this panel brings together top editors from travel and lifestyle publications that are currently commissioning stories. They’ll discuss what types of stories they’re looking for, how best to get in touch, and, most importantly, pay rates. 

Podcasts: Are they right for your brand?
Hear from an expert who has been creating podcasts for brands and outlets for years. We are digging into the resources it takes to create a podcast that will not only bring new people to your destination or publication, but will inspire people to pull out their wallets when they have the best information in hand. Learn how to create your own, hire out a podcast, or simply get on someone else’s podcast to spread your message to a new audience.   

The Art of Negotiating
Tackle the “wonderful” world of negotiating, from contracts for freelancing, campaigns, copyright terms, deliverables, bringing a plus on a trip, payments and more. You will walk away with actionable items to start using right away, and sample responses to the most common (and even a few outrageous) requests. 

Introducing our first Keynote speaker:

Brad Dean, Chief Executive Officer
Discover Puerto Rico

With over 25 years of experience in the travel & tourism industry, Brad Dean assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer for Discover Puerto Rico in April 2018. Discover Puerto Rico is the Island’s first Destination Marketing Organization and supports the promotion of tourism to foster economic growth throughout the Island.

Beginning his career in Puerto Rico, he first worked as a financial analyst for General Electric, while also meeting his now wife on the Island. In 1993, Brad joined the Rank Corporation as Unit Controller for its Hard Rock Café chain. In 1995, he was tapped to open and lead the Myrtle Beach unit, which became one of the most successful in company history.

Three years later, Brad joined the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce as its Chief Financial Officer and in 2003, was named President and Chief Executive Officer of the Chamber. Under his leadership, the Myrtle Beach tourism industry enjoyed record growth and the organization was named Chamber of Commerce of the Year by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (2015), while also earning full accreditation from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Destinations International.

He serves in various leadership roles with a variety of organizations including the U.S. Travel Association, Destinations International and Meeting Planners International. He is a member of the National Council of State Tourism Directors and also serves as Vice-Chair of the United States Travel and Tourism Advisory Board. Brad has been active with many charitable organizations.

Brad was recently named State Tourism Director of the Year for 2021, by the National Council of State Tourism Directors of the U.S. Travel Association, recognizing the historic achievements in Puerto Rico tourism in recent years.

Originally from Illinois, Brad holds a Bachelor of Science in accounting from the University of Illinois and a master’s degree from Moody Bible Institute. He currently resides in San Juan, Puerto Rico with his family.

Introducing our second Keynote speaker:

Elaine Shehab, Founder
Chocobar Cortés

Elaine is the creative mind behind Chocobar Cortés. Together with her husband, Ignacio Cortés, CEO of Chocolate Cortés, she played with the idea of opening a chocolate concept for many years. After thorough research around the world, they set out to create a unique concept that celebrated the family’s rich history, where Chocolate Cortés played the starring role. Using her experience and passion for retail, she put together a successful team where design, history, ambiance, excellent food, and service helped create the Chocobar Cortés experience.


SATW is excited to offer the chance to participate 1:1 with an editor! Available to both Associate and Active members.

Danielle Hallock, Atlas Obscura

Danielle Hallock is currently the travel editor at Atlas Obscura, and has also been an editor at Culture Trip and a managing editor at Penguin Random House. Throughout her career, she’s crossed verticals to cover travel, news, food, wellness, sustainability, and writing for social justices.

Maya Kachroo-Levine, Travel + Leisure, digital

Maya Kachroo-Levine is the senior editor at Travel + Leisure, digital. She’s based in Los Angeles and edits and writes features, tentpoles like World’s Best Awards and It List, and timely stories at T+L, including all things luxury, hotel, aviation, and cruise.

Katherine LaGrave, AFAR

Katherine LaGrave is a deputy editor at AFAR focused on features and essays. Her work has been recognized in the Best American Food Writing and the Best American Science & Nature Writing. The Society of American Travel Writers named her the 2021 Travel Journalist of the Year. A graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, she is an adjunct professor at Fordham University. She lives in New York City.

Derrik Lang, Shondaland

Derrik J. Lang is the lifestyle editor at Shondaland, where he oversees coverage of travel, food, wellness, and everything else that sparks joy in readers’ lives. Previously, Lang was the deputy editor at Palm Springs Life and senior editor at American Way. For 12 years, he covered the entertainment industry as an Associated Press journalist, interviewing celebrities ranging from the Beastie Boys to the Beach Boys.

Starlight Williams, National Geographic

National Geographic travel editor Starlight Williams focuses her work on conservation, wellness, accessible adventures, and cultural and paranormal tourism. Before joining National Geographic as a research editor in 2018, Starlight worked as a staff reporter, covering education, business, and city government at Community Impact Newspaper in Texas and as a culture and festival contributor for The Times-Picayune and When not on the hunt for engaging pitches (send yours to [email protected]), you can find her on her yoga mat.

Catharine Hamm, Discover Silver Sea

Catharine Hamm is the interim managing editor for Silversea, an ultra-luxury cruise line. She also recently served as interim assistant vice president for communications and strategy at the University of Southern California. Before that, she was happily retired from about two decades of work as the travel editor for the Los Angeles Times, which was preceded by an equally chaotic couple of decades at five other newspapers. She is the president of the SATW Foundation, home of the Lowell Thomas Awards, and a past president of SATW. She counts New York, Virginia, Hawaii, the Philippines, Kansas, Missouri, and California as places she has called home, which she thinks should always include a cat or three.

Check back for more information about the professional development offered in Puerto Rico. Interested in being a speaker? Reach out to [email protected].