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Our experts can help you plan all kinds of special events and meetings in Norfolk. Here you’ll find highly experienced professionals who can help you with meetings of all sizes and destination services. We are experts in all things Norfolk and can get you what you need.

Sales Team – Meetings & Conventions

Our Sales team is a diverse group consisting of meeting and conventions managers and tour and travel group managers, each assigned to various territories and markets nationwide. Some are based in Washington D.C. and Chicago. Meeting-focused managers seek association and corporate convention business, while tour and travel managers concentrate on military reunions, tour operators, and student groups for day-lead business.

Dawn Whittaker

Director of Sales

Dawn’s career began at Universal Studios in Orlando, FL over 20 years ago. She has worked in many cities and states along the Southeast coast, in a variety of roles on the hotel and destination management side of the industry. Dawn’s unique experience has afforded her the opportunity to understand the needs of the clients, while also creating memorable events. She is a natural communicator and relishes the chance to showcase Norfolk, while gaining lifetime friendships in return. Not originally from the area, her admiration with Norfolk grew from the rich history, diverse ethnicities and expanding culinary scene. When not working, Dawn enjoys weekly date nights with her husband, family time, cooking and traveling.

Rita Matthews

Sales Manager

Rita manages group sales for the association and corporate market segments throughout the Southeast. Vertically, she also acts as sales liaison to the Kellen Company. Rita began her hospitality career 20 years ago in Coastal Virginia and is recognized as a trusted industry leader, mentor and friend. After 16 years in hotel sales, Rita made the change to destination management. She loves being an ambassador for Norfolk, and site visits are her favorite! The fast pace, highly social and visible aspects of the job make it a perfect match for Rita’s personality and skill set.

Vianetta Johnson, CMP

Sales Manager

Vianetta has worked in the hospitality industry for over 25 years. She handles the Northeast territory and all markets including multicultural, transportation and shipping. Vianetta enjoys building relationships and believes clients buy from their friends or those they like. Her favorite scene in Norfolk is the amazing waterfront. “If you love the water, you will love the city,” she says. Vianetta is proud to call Norfolk home and is thrilled about its growth over the years. She’s a foodie and loves to recommend hidden jewels found throughout the city to her clients. In her spare time, you can find Vianetta salsa dancing or spending time with family.

Wayne Callis, CGMP

Sales Manager

Wayne oversees the government and military group markets for VisitNorfolk and is a Certified Government Meeting Professional. He enjoys connecting with his clients and making them feel at home while showing all Norfolk has to offer for meetings, conferences and events. Wayne is a native of the city and a great resource on Norfolk’s rich history, restaurants, venues and events. He loves Norfolk for its water views, friendly people and cuisine. His favorite neighborhood is Ocean View where he grew up, but he enjoys all of the different neighborhoods for their own style and flair.

Sherri Thadeus

National Account Manager

Sherri primarily handles the association market out of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. She knew from the start she would always be in the hospitality tourism industry as it’s been her passion for over 25 years. She is a natural for the convention and meeting industry and has a keen ability to match her clients’ needs with the right destination package for any size group. She enjoys sharing her enthusiasm of Norfolk and its waterfront charm with those in the group business industry. When not working, Sherri enjoys kayaking, biking and walking with friends and family as well as volunteering at the local food bank.

Aileen Laracuente

National Sales Manager

Based in Chicago, Aileen’s focus is groups from associations, corporations, faith-based, fraternal, medical, and pharmaceutical accounts in the Midwest and Northwest. With over 20 years of experience in business development and consultative sales strategies, she helps connect meeting planners with destination partners that best fit their meeting’s needs. She fell in love with Norfolk after her first visit and soon came to enjoy the variety of experiences Norfolk has to offer. “Norfolk embodies so many of my passions: history, art, diversity and food,” she says. “I was impressed with the city’s walkability, waterfront and the vast array of culinary offerings.” During her free time, she enjoys walks along the Chicago lakefront with her husband, checking out the culinary scene and cooking.

Sales Team – Tour & Travel

Melissa Hopper

Associate Director of Tour & Travel

Melissa has worked at VisitNorfolk for over 20 years with her career first starting as a visitor advisor while attending Old Dominion University. She has held positions in Visitor Services and Convention Services and is a 15-year veteran sales team member. Melissa loves selling Norfolk because there is always something new to offer and experience. Her sales territories include domestic/international tour and travel, online travel agents, military reunions and leisure. Growing up in Coastal Virginia, Melissa has always loved showing off her hometown to clients. Expect to visit a few of her local favorite childhood spots when you schedule a site tour!

Dana Howe

Consumer Sales Manager

Born and raised in the area, Dana considers herself to be a true local. She is married to a retired U.S. Navy senior chief and is mom to three kids, two of which have paws. Dana considers herself fortunate that both her daughter and husband are able to experience the same traditions that she cherished growing up in the area. Dana has been working in the city for over 25 years. Two of the many things that she loves about her job are the people and friends met along the way and watching the city transform over the past quarter of a century. Dana proclaims, “What a ride it has been,” and she’s loving every minute of it!

Destination Services Team

Catherine Williamson, CMP, VDP

Director of Destination Services

Catherine’s background in hospitality and tourism spans over 20 years with various roles at hotels, resorts and DMOs. This experience allows her to directly relate to your needs as a meeting planner. Her Southern hospitality and relationships she has built throughout the community will make planning your meeting in Norfolk a breeze! She oversees events and FAMs and works with markets that include corporations, government and Virginia and Southeastern associations. She believes Norfolk’s rich history, diversity and arts and culture make it a truly unique destination. You will find her with her family on the water, biking to festivals and enjoying local cuisine when she’s not working!

Jennifer Lopez

Senior Destination Services Manager

Jennifer Lopez has been building relationships in the hospitality industry for over 15 years. She services sports, multicultural, AAA, military, family, religious and association groups between 40–1,500 people. She also plans and executes a number of events and group tours for VisitNorfolk. Her passion for Norfolk is driven by its “small-town” charm, attractions, amazing dining and diverse history.

Rosanna McNeal

Destination Services Manager

Rosanna McNeal has over eight years of hospitality experience in convention execution and event management for social, government, corporate and educational markets throughout the Southeast. With this solid foundation, she continues to seek out new, innovative approaches that assist in creating memorable moments for a variety of meetings, events and FAMs for VisitNorfolk. A Navy wife, Rosanna has called Norfolk home for the last three years. Her fascination with Norfolk stems from its deep-rooted history, art, amazing local dining and unique experiences.

233,669 Lead room nights produced
55+ Industry Trade Shows, Meetings & Events
The economic impact of the groups booked in FY23 $130,554,140.72

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