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by Leo Jakobson | January 06, 2016
In 2011, two years before George Aguel joined Visit Orlando as president and CEO, the destination managed to hit a tourism milestone by becoming the first U.S. destination to break the 50-million-visitor mark. After just two years of his leadership, in 2014 the destination cracked 60 million visitors, another U.S. record.

So it comes as no surprise that the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) announced today that Aguel will be the recipient of one of its highest honors, the Albert E. Koehl Award for Lifetime Achievement in Hospitality Marketing for 2015.

The Koehl Award "recognizes individuals who have spent a major portion of their careers in the hospitality and travel profession and have contributed to the betterment of the industry in a significant and lasting way, over an extended period of time," according to HSMAI.

The award will be presented at HSMAI's 59th Annual Adrian Awards gala at the New York Marriott Marquis on Feb. 16.

"George is a key player in the hospitality and travel community, and is making innovative strides while representing the most visited destination in the country," said Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHBA, president and CEO of HSMAI, in announcing the award. "We couldn't be more excited to present George with this year's Albert E. Koehl Award."

Before joining Visit Orlando, Aguel enjoyed a long career at the Walt Disney Company, where he got to know both Orlando and the meetings, incentives conventions and events (MICE) industry very well during a 22-year run as senior vice president of worldwide sales and services for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. That was followed by a year as senior vice president of global corporate alliances and operating participants at Disney, before moving to the official tourism authority of the central Florida city.

A member of the Executive Committee of the U.S. Travel Association and a past chairman of chairman of Meeting Professionals International (MPI), Aguel's involvement in industry associations runs deep. He's currently on the board of the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and has served on many other boards. Aguel has been inducted into the Convention Industry Council Hall of Leaders and has received the Academy of Leaders Award from the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and the APEX award from Black Meetings & Tourism, among honors.