Paco Saldaña, director of guest services at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, was selected as the national “Face of Travel,” the U.S Travel Association announced today.
Saldaña was chosen as the individual who best represents the vitality and importance of travel in America by more than 16,000 votes. He will serve as an official industry spokesperson, sharing his message with media, policymakers and other stakeholders.
He participated in a morning press conference at the Newseum in Washington D.C. as his first duty as a travel ambassador. He was scheduled to meet with members of Congress on Capitol Hill this afternoon, before joining officials at the U.S. Department of Commerce.
“Paco is a great representative of the 7.7 million Americans whose jobs depend on travel,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “As a front-line worker whose family depends on the success of this industry, Paco is uniquely capable of addressing the consequences of the downturn, and the benefits of increasing travel to and within the United States.”
A year after emigrating from Mexico City, Saldaña joined The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island as a server attendant in 1996. He learned English and achieved a variety of leadership positions, earning his U.S. citizenship along the way.
“I came to this country in search of the American dream, and as an employee of The Ritz-Carlton, I’ve been given the opportunity to achieve it,” said Saldaña. “But like millions of others working in the travel industry, these aspirations will be cut short if we continue to suffer from a downturn in business.”
The U.S. Travel Association launched the “Faces of Travel” contest in April. Hundreds of tourism employees submitted videos illustrating the impact of business travel on themselves and their communities. An expert panel narrowed the submissions to six finalists, with the final decision made by an online vote.
“All of our ladies and gentlemen are very proud of Paco,” said Simon F. Cooper, president and chief operating officer of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C. “He represents the hopes and dreams of millions of hospitality workers around the world that a successful career is possible through hard work and dedication to serving our guests. I am sure he will be a wonderful advocate for the travel industry with his own inspiring story.”