First Round of TBEX North America 2021 Speakers Announced

Brian Cicioni

Brian is a travel. writer and NYC tour guide who has traveled to 55 countries as well as every state except for Alaska. 

Brian writes for his own blog,, and contributes to outlets such as CheapTickets, Matador Network, and USA Today 10 Best. 

Brandy Evans

Brandy is a favorite speaker at TBEX.

She celebrated 19 years with the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau in January 2020.

Brandy is passionate about growing tourism and raising visitors’ and the community’s pride in Shreveport-Bossier, Caddo and Bossier Parish as a premier tourist destination.

Some of her professional accomplishments include winning several awards: Top Women in Travel Award Outstanding Woman in Hospitality, Best of Show by International Association of Convention and Visitor Bureau’s publicity campaign “Be a tourist in your own hometown” and two International Association of Convention and Visitor’s Bureau’s Idea Awards for public relations efforts and casino coop marketing.

She has also won multiple Davey Awards and Addy Awards. She was a 2012 Athena Leadership Award Finalist. This award recognizes an individual who has attained and personifies the highest level of excellence and creativity in their profession, while continuing to devote time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in the community.

Over the years, Brandy has mentored more than a dozen young professional women through a communications internship program that she established at the tourist bureau. Some of those young women have gone off to be executives at other tourist bureau’s, college professors, advertising account executives, and marketing firm owners. To further bridge the gap between academics and professional work environments.

Jada Durden

Jada is a social media influencer, blogger, and freelance writer based in Shreveport, LA. In her blog, Loving This Life! Jada covers travel, dining and entertainment.

Jada also works with several national and local brands including Kia, Aloft Hotels, Mitsubishi, Mazda, and W Hotels. Loving This Life! Jada is recognized as a “Popular Louisiana Blogs” by

Jada’s articles have been published in The Huffington Post, USA Today, Shreveport Times, and several other publications. Jada’s work has earned her the 2016 Media Partner P.R.I.D.E. Award presented by the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau, Best Blogger Award by SB Magazine, Communicator of the Year nominee by PRAL NW, and Best of NWLA Finalist for Best Blogger. Jada is always on the quest of implementing new ways to promote inclusivity and diversity in the Shreveport-Bossier region.

Jen Ruiz

Jen Ruiz is a lawyer turned full-time travel blogger and author.

Jen's book, “The Affordable Flight Guide,” is a #1 Amazon Bestseller and Readers’ Favorite Award winner. She is also a TEDx speaker and has been featured by The Washington Post, Huffington Post, ABC News, CBS This Morning and Business Insider. She documents her adventures on her blog, Jen on a Jet Plane, where she helps young professionals travel for less and experience more.

Leslie Walker

Don’t let her over 25 years of experience in destination marketing, convention logistics, hospitality management and campaigns fool you, Leslie Walker refuses to fall into the “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” trap.

Maybe late to the game (but in the game nevertheless) Leslie discovered the power and just plain good sense of working with online content creators; actively pursuing them to engage with her destination, whether on their own or in great numbers. In the world of tourism, Leslie most recently worked with the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau as a Convention Sales Manager.

These days she’s a Community Engagement Manager for a Huntsville, Alabama-based nonprofit, has a horrible time saying “no” to those who ask her to guest blog or volunteer, does an absolutely shameful job maintaining her own neglected travel blog and is a co-founder of Tourism Worx, a destination/content creator consultancy.

Maria Haase

Maria is Editor-in-Chief of several online publications focused on various travel niches. A self-proclaimed serial expat, blogger turned publisher and spicy food aficionado,

Maria grew up in Germany and now splits her time between the United States and Europe.

The travel bug bit Maria early in life; she has lived in and traveled extensively to all corners of the world. In the past 13 years she has called three continents her home, traveled to almost 40 countries and eaten far too many sticks of mystery meats on the way. Europe holds a special place in Maria’s heart. Her mission has always been to show others her home from a local’s point of view and encourage them to discover the world through traveling and experiencing life outside their comfort zone.

Rob Taylor

2TravelDads is the original LGBT Family Travel Blog, blazing the way for other two-dad and two-mom families to travel to previously overlooked destinations or places we as gay people would normally avoid. We share the struggles we've faced and the surprising gems and welcomes we've had along the way. Traveling as a family is one thing, traveling as an LGBT family is completely something else.

2TravelDads Podcast came from having too many travel stories and travel tips to include in our blog. And we also realized that you lose 80% of our personality when we just type out what we're doing or what we love. So the podcast was born. Banter, opinions and funny moments make it so much more fun to share the places and things we love!

Nora Dunn

Nora Dunn traveled the world full-time for 12 years, and she continues to travel for half of each year. On her website she teaches people how to travel full-time in a financially sustainable way, in addition to sharing her (at times brutally) honest travel tales and cultural insights. 

Nora is one of the “OG” travel bloggers, and has been featured online, in print, and on tv around the world. In her “former life” as a financial planner, she was a specially trained media professional and represented a large national brand across all media platforms. 

Sherry Smothermon-Short

Blogging for 7 years at Cub Scout Ideas taught Sherry Smothermon-Short a lot about blog analytics including the fact that many bloggers are intimidated by data.

In early 2019, Sherry started Painless Blog Analytics to help experienced bloggers understand how to use their blog's data to improve their results by providing information, resources, training, and services. Sherry previously served as the Scouting Content Expert for The Spruce (formerly

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