Travel industry leaders Elliott L. Ferguson, II, president and CEO of Destination DC, and Peter F. Herschend, co-founder of Herschend Enterprises, will be honored as the 2023 inductees into the U.S. Travel Association Hall of Leaders, the organization announced Tuesday.

"Elliott and Peter each have created a lasting impact across the travel industry while successfully leading organizations that better the communities they serve," said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman. "We are proud that both will receive U.S. Travel's highest honor this year in recognition of their invaluable contributions to strengthening travel."

Distinguished individuals are named to U.S. Travel's Hall of Leaders for "sustained, noteworthy contributions" that positively impact the travel industry and raise industry-wide standards.

Roger Dow, former president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, was the 2022 U.S. Travel Hall of Leaders honoree.

Ferguson, Herschend and Dow will be honored by the U.S. Travel board of directors at a dinner on November 15, 2023, in Washington, DC.

Elliott L. Ferguson, II 

Elliott L. Ferguson, II. Click to download.

Ferguson has served as president and CEO of Destination DC since 2009, having previously held the role of senior vice president for seven years. He also led U.S. Travel's board of directors as National Chair from 2019 through 2020, providing guidance to the industry through the dual challenges posed by the pandemic and the aftermath of the George Floyd murder. Ferguson emerged as a key voice, tirelessly advocating for federal assistance for travel organizations and businesses nationwide and leading critical discussions on race and racial equality in the workplace and throughout the travel industry. 

While leading Destination DC's work to generate economic development through tourism, he also focuses on giving back to local youth through Destination DC's affiliated nonprofit, the American Experience Foundation. The goal of the foundation is to expose students to the variety of careers in hospitality and tourism through real-world experience. 

Prior to joining Destination DC, Ferguson was vice president of sales at the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau for 10 years. 

Ferguson holds positions on the Executive Board of U.S. Travel and the Board of Brand USA, while also serving as chair of Event Leaders 100. He is immediate past chair of Tourism Diversity Matters and served on the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, among other leading Washington, DC, philanthropic community organizations. He also served with distinction in the Air Force National Guard from 1985 to 1992.

"Through his leadership and tireless dedication, Elliott Ferguson has elevated Washington, DC, as a top travel and tourism destination and helped create jobs and opportunity for DC," said DC Mayor Muriel Bowser. "Elliott has helped tell our story and share with the world what we already know: that Washington, DC, is the greatest city in the world. There is only one DC and only one Elliott Ferguson."

Peter F. Herschend 

Peter F. Herschend. Click to download.

Herschend and his brother Jack, along with their family and employees, grew a small cave tour in Branson, MO, into the internationally acclaimed Silver Dollar City®. More than 70 years later, the company, known today as Herschend Enterprises, is widely recognized as the world's largest family-owned themed attractions company. Its 12,000+ employees collectively entertain 15 million annual guests at more than two dozen entertainment brands across North America, including Dollywood, Silver Dollar City, the Harlem Globetrotters and many other beloved family attractions. 

Herschend is an advocate for tourism development across the United States and was an early proponent of what would become Brand USA, helping inform Senate leaders of the critical need to create and fund a national-level program to promote U.S. destinations. 

He is also a steward of his community, taking an active role in improving transportation systems, advancing environmental issues and shaping public education in Missouri. Herschend was instrumental in the development of key infrastructure projects, which improved access to major tourism sites across Missouri. He also founded the Ozarks Water Watch and the Upper White River Basin Foundation and has served on the Missouri Board of Education since 1991. 

"Peter is a true champion of Missouri who always works to do right by our state and people. Whenever our state is in need, he puts politics aside and always comes to the table with ideas, optimism and a level of persistence that is rarely seen in others," said Missouri Governor Michael L. Parson. "Peter's family has prospered thanks to his deep faith and plain-spoken wisdom, and in turn, our state has prospered thanks to his vision, patience and support for good people and causes."

A list of all previous Hall of Leaders honorees is available here.


U.S. Travel Association is the national, non-profit organization representing the $1.3 trillion travel industry, an essential contributor to our nation's economy and success. U.S. Travel produces programs and insights and advocates for policies to increase travel to and within the United States. Visit ustravel.org for more information.



Greg Staley

Head of Media Relations

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