Our Board of Directors exemplifies leadership, commitment, and vision. These seasoned professionals, hailing from diverse backgrounds within the hotel industry, converge to guide the Latino Hotel Association towards a promising future. Their expertise, pooled from years of experience, is the guiding light leading our community towards greater success.
With valuable leadership and insight, our diverse board ensures the highest standards of professionalism and effectiveness. Their understanding of the industry’s intricate fabric and deep-rooted connections play a pivotal role in ensuring LHA remains at the forefront of change and innovation.
Get to know the minds steering the ship, their stories, their visions, and their unwavering dedication to fostering the Latino community’s growth within the hotel industry.
Lynette Montoya, CEO of the Latino Hotel Association (LHA) since 2015, is focused on providing Latino entrepreneurs industry resources, education and training, and networking opportunities to build wealth through hotel ownership and investment.
Ms. Montoya has been actively involved in the hotel industry for more than 25 years, working as a hotel broker for properties throughout the United States. Ms. Montoya is the founder of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Santa Fe, New Mexico and served as its founding executive director. She is also a board member of Architecture 2030, a non-profit think tank tackling climate change through the design of the built environment. As director of economic development for the City of Santa Fe, Ms. Montoya was instrumental in many integral projects including the development and construction of a new convention center. Recently, as President of LHA, Lynette was instrumental in the strategic partnership with the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) a mutually beneficial professional relationship with the goal of enhancing and advancing Latino entrepreneurs.
Lynette serves on the Advisory Council of the California State University Hospitality and Tourism Management Education Alliance and volunteers extensively in her community, where she has been a key member of charities serving the homeless, battered women, and other vulnerable populations.
Ms. Montoya is also a member of the Board of Directors of Tourism Diversity Matters (TDM), which works to benefit the tourism industry through focus on four primary pillars: Apprenticeships, Workforce Development, Diversity Equity and Inclusion, Research and Data.
Lynette also has been an invited speaker at many hospitality colleges and universities as well as panelist and moderator for Castell@College. This important outreach allows for an intimate discussion to help lead the charge to advance Latinos with hotel ownership and generational wealth.
Walter Barela has over thirty-five years of experience in the hospitality industry with recognized international branded hotels and Boutique properties. He has earned a reputation for successful hotel turnarounds having taken under performing hotel properties and successfully renovated and re-positioned them to profitability and/or successful sale of the property. In 2000, Mr. Barela co-founded Peak Hospitality which serves in the various roles of hotel acquisition; development, asset management, project consulting and management of full and select-service hotels throughout the United States. Peak Hospitality’s focus is maximizing return on investment.
Michael “Mike” Garcia is President of Matthews Southwest Hospitality, LLC (MSWH) where he is responsible for spearheading the company’s hospitality division, focusing on the development of and investment in upscale hotels and resorts throughout North America.
While at MSWH, the hospitality group has completed the 755-room W/Element hotel in downtown Philadelphia and has begun projects including the 375-room United States Air Force Academy Hotel, 800-room Broward County Convention Center Headquarters Hotel and Convention Center Expansion and the Tribute Lakeside Resort.
Previously, Mike served as Chief Financial Officer and Chief Development Officer with Omni Hotels and Resorts, one of the country’s fastest growing privately-held hotel chains. During his 20-year tenure, Mike led Omni’s impressive growth within the convention center hotel and resort spaces with the addition of the Fort Worth, Dallas, Nashville, Louisville, Boston and Oklahoma City hotels and the acquisition of numerous resorts. Mike also has extensive experience in overseeing accounting and reporting, treasury, purchasing, risk management and capital project accounting.
He serves on the Catholic Charities of Dallas Endowment Board as well as the Advisory Council to the Dean of the University of Texas at San Antonio College of Business. Mike graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio with a BBA in Accounting and is a CPA.
Born with an entrepreneurial spirit, Mr. Henry has led Majestic Hospitality on assignments in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. Over the years, personal and business experiences have created his well-rounded perspective on the tourism industry and his ardent support of a triple bottom line philosophy. Working within the realms of luxury, boutique, and lifestyle hotels Christopher has a passion for creating unique destinations properties which harness and promote authentic local experiences. He is currently involved with projects in California, North Carolina, Scotland, and Belize. In addition to his activities with Majestic, Christopher is a minority owner of the recently launch Hemingway Hotels & Resorts which is developing its first property.
Prior to launching Majestic, Mr. Henry has worked for Prince Hotels & Resorts, Mauna Kea Resort, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Vista del Sol Health Services, and TS Architects. He was also a founding partner of Senior Wellness Group and Red Diamond Hospitality. While working at Four Seasons Hotel – Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, Christopher earned his Associate of Science degree in Food and Beverage Management from the California School of Culinary Arts. He then received his Bachelor of Science degree in Hotel and Lodging Management with a minor in Eco-tourism at Johnson & Wales University, Denver.
Benito Irastorza has been developing real estate for more than 25 years. His attention to detail and his ability to identify emergent submarkets has been paramount to the success of the company. His firm has implemented an impressive array of projects including upscale residential communities, select-service hotels, and multifaceted office and retail complexes.
For over 15 years, his company has focused on commercial projects in Doral, including the 103-room Best Western Inn & Suites, the 92-room Baymont Inn and Suites, the 55,000 square-foot Doral 107 Shoppes and Professional Center, and the 90,000 square-foot mixed-use Doral Park Centre. His firm also currently owns and operates a 155-room Best Western Airport Suites south of the Fort Lauderdale Airport and a 103-room Four Points by Sheraton in Coral Gables.
Benito is well-versed in all facets of commercial real estate, which has enabled him to have a vertical control of the business. This shrewd understanding has enabled him to make the appropriate strategic decisions, regardless of the asset’s stage within the investment cycle. Aside from his occupational background in commercial real estate development, he has also developed over 200 residential homes.
Benito sits on the Board of Directors for the Latino Hotel Association and the Doral Building Department Advisory Task Force. Benito graduated from Florida International University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Architecture and completed studies in the Urban Planning and Development Master’s Program.
Mike Lakusta, CEO & Founding Partner, EthniFacts, LLC – Mike is a 40-year veteran of the Consumer Products Industry having worked on the development & growth of many brands during his management career with Procter & Gamble, E&J Gallo Winery, and major wholesalers in the adult beverage industry. As SVP of International Business Development & Multicultural Marketing for a multi-billion dollar beverage company, Mike worked with and advised major beverage suppliers both domestically and internationally. He was a founding member of the Curriculum Committee of the Wine and Spirits Institute at the Conrad Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston.
Mike has traveled extensively internationally building relationships with Suppliers and Distributors and gaining a deep understanding of the multi-national consumer in an effort to build and develop tools to achieve leadership in the cultural marketing arena. His service on multicultural marketing & inter-industry steering committees confirmed the common frustration with lack of accurate multicultural research and actionable insights that led to the founding of EthniFacts.
EthniFacts is an innovative research firm focused on the intersection of personality and culture and how they drive consumer behavior. Applying expertise in psychometric and statistical sciences, innovative demographic tools, and deep cultural observation and interpretation, EthniFacts delivers actionable understanding of today’s dissonant consumer environment to their clients. Recent clients include Coca-Cola, AT&T, Telemundo, Bacardi, Diageo, NBCUniversal, Nielsen, MRI-Simmons, BanCoppel, Anheuser-Busch, Lowe’s, Major League Baseball, Northwestern Mutual, and many others.
A professional in the real estate industry for more than 15 years, Eddy is armed with an arsenal of intellect, class, and experience that shines through to each of her clients and colleagues. Eddy started her Real Estate career as an investor along with her father. Together, they would invest in value add properties, fix them up and sell then for a higher value. Eddy took this opportunity and started working with developers and very well-known investors in the industry to learn more about the business. Eddy’s enthusiasm and passion for Real Estate led her to start working commercial investments deal, which lead from multi-family, retail, development and hospitality. In 2014 Eddy became part of the very well-known Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services. Eddy was hired by the firm and became part of the National Hospitality Group of Marcus & Millichap. In a very short time, Eddy has developed great relationships with some of the best known clients in the industry.
Eddy loves real estate because of the challenges the industry presents. No two transactions are the same, and Eddy thrives off the opportunity to help her clients in whatever situations are presented to them. A master in the art of negotiation, with Eddy there are no problems, only opportunities to find a solution. Eddy is supported by a team of well-trained and specialized staff that provide the highest level of customer service to her clients. Eddy is a devoted and dedicated agent to her clients. Eddy will go above and beyond to meet her client needs. Her reputation speaks for itself. Her clientele is anywhere from small business owners, corporate institutions to worldwide national funds, which indicates the trust people have in her integrity, devotion, experience, and know how.
Brian Resendez serves as a Senior Advisor with Sperry Van Ness | Bluestone & Hockley in Portland, Oregon. He specializes in the sale of hospitality properties in the Pacific Northwest, United States by serving the needs of hotel owners.
An accomplished real estate broker since 2004, Brian began his real estate career in finance and by assisting with the acquisition of investment single family and multi-family property sales. He then started working in hotel brokerage in 2007 and has since become one of the leading experts in the local community for hotel sales and acquisition. He has been involved in the Purchase and Sale of multiple hotel properties in Oregon and Washington including branded and non-branded assets.
Brian holds a Bachelors and a Master’s Degree from the University of Houston Hilton College in Hotel and Restaurant Management and Lodging Administration. He also holds two Certifications from the Cornell Hotel School of Hotel Administration in Hotel Real Estate Investment and Development.
Previously, Brian worked as a hospitality manager in Central America and the United States with Westin, Doubletree and several Ski and Golf Resorts. Brian also worked as a loan officer and brings strong knowledge of real estate finance to make transactions work in today’s difficult lending environment.
As President and CEO of Driftwood Acquisitions and Development (DAD, LP), Carlos J. Rodriguez has successfully built on his 30+ years of experience in finance, real estate and the lodging industry. When his Wall Street investment-banking career was cut short due to a death in his family, Rodriguez moved to his native Costa Rica to head up the Aurola Hotels group (1986 – 1996). Between 1991 and 1995 Rodriguez also served the Costa Rican government as Vice Chairman of the country’s pension, hospitals and social security system and represented his country as its Director of the Central American Bank of Economic Integration (1990-1991). In 1996, Rodriguez relocated to Miami, FL with his family to form Cardel Hotels, a development company, and Cardel Hospitality Group, specializing in hotel management. After opening several successful hotels in the area as well as developing a bank and two restaurant parcels, the Miami Doral-Airport West Chamber of Commerce named Rodriguez its “Entrepreneur of the Year” in 2000.
In 2003, he merged the Cardel Group with Driftwood Hospitality Management where, as Executive Vice President he oversaw lodging real estate development and acquisitions. With his Driftwood Hospitality partners, he co-founded the group of DVI Cardel Investment Funds in 2006, specializing in hotel properties. His hotels have won numerous awards and accolades across all of the major hospitality franchises. In 2015, he and his son Carlos Jr. developed the blueprint for Driftwood Acquisitions and Development, designed to combine the best attributes of private equity funds, REITS and high-net worth family offices as a vehicle for highly profitable U.S. hotel investments. Since 2015, DAD has acquired 20 hotels with over $1 BN in assets and has several others in various stages of development. Rodriguez holds a degree in Finance from Vanderbilt University and an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.
Senior has 36 years of global experience developing over $50 billion of real estate across more than 1,500 hotels, casinos, and branded residences. As President of Global Development and Chief Development Officer for Caesars Entertainment, Roca grew the company’s casino and hotel footprint across multiple continents and launched a new hotel brand: Caesars Republic. During his tenure at Caesars, Roca executed 10 hotel and casino deals and was responsible for activating more than 400 acres of non-profit generating, raw land adjacent to Caesars’s Casinos. Immediately prior to joining Caesars, Marco was Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer for Hard Rock International, building the company to a dominant global entertainment brand by executing 36 new hotel and casino licensing agreements and developing a new hotel select-service brand: Reverb by Hard Rock. Marco has also served in other executive roles with Realogy, Wyndham, Starwood, Marriott, and Hilton. Through his career, he was engaged in the creation of the following brands: Holiday Inn Express, Microtel, Aloft, and Wyndham Garden.
Roca is fluent in English, Spanish, French and Portuguese. He holds a B.S. in Industrial Psychology from University of The Americas in Mexico and a Master of Science in Management and Organizational Development from the United States International University in Mexico City.
MJ is a fourth-generation, bilingual hotel executive with a global perspective. Marco is a citizen of the United States, Mexico, and France, he has traveled to all seven continents, and he has business experience on five of them. Marco previously worked with Trust Hospitality, where he was most recently Vice President of Business Development and Corporate Strategy. At Trust Marco was promoted twice in three years and focused on executing hotel management contracts while also leading the firm’s investment and corporate strategy teams. Marco previously worked as a hotel valuation consultant with Horwath HTL and on Wall Street as an analyst with J.P. Morgan’s Real Estate and Lodging investment banking group.
Marco serves as a board member for the Latino Hotel Association and is Chair of Urban Land Institute’s Florida and Caribbean Hospitality and Recreational Development Council. He has been awarded Hotel Management’s 30 Under 30 award and has been published in the same magazine on several occasions. Marco has been a featured speaker at several conferences including as the keynote speaker on hotel feasibility/investing at Latino Hotel Association Conference 2019 and as a panelist at MexHIC, GRI Latin America, NABHOOD, and Makers Entrepreneurship Forum. In his educational years, Marco graduated the University of Georgia’s Honors Program with a degree in International Political Economy, where he earned a 3.9 GPA, was elected President of the Honors Program Student Council, was Editor-in-Chief of Georgia Political Review, and was elected President of Blue Key Honor Society. Marco additionally scored in the top 1% of all SAT testers and started several charitable organizations.
Rita Santillanes- Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer for Peppertree Hospitality Group. PHG owns and operates several Best Western Plus hotels, plaza shopping centers, and quick service restaurants. Rita sits on many boards such as the Latino Hotel Association, Visit Spokane, Spokane Sports Commission, Public Facility’s District, and has been a Best Western Governor for over 20 years.