HSMAI Awards Bjorn Hanson and Lee Pillsbury with Lifetime Achievement Honors

November 19,2019

The Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association (HSMAI) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2019 HSMAI Lifetime Achievement Awards in marketing and public relations. Bjorn Hanson, Ph.D., will be honored with the Winthrop W. Grice Award for Public Relations. Leland “Lee” Pillsbury, managing director of Thayer Ventures, will be recognized as the recipient of the Albert E. Koehl Award for Hospitality Marketing. HSMAI will celebrate Bjorn and Lee at the Adrian Awards Dinner Reception and Gala on January 21, 2020, at the New York Marriott Marquis.


The HSMAI Lifetime Achievement Awards recognize 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.


“Bjorn and Lee both have illustrious careers, and HSMAI is proud to recognize their contributions to the growth, development, and success of the hospitality and tourism industry,” said Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHBA, president and CEO of HSMAI. “We are honored to presenting Bjorn with the Winthrop W. Grice Award for Public Relations for his many years of leveraging publicity to advocate for the hospitality industry and its place in the economy and fabric of the United States. We honor Lee with the Albert E. Koehl Award for Hospitality Marketing in recognition of his many contributions as an innovator in hospitality marketing, distribution, and technology.”

Bjorn Hanson is the executive vice president of the entity that owns The Pierre hotel in New York and is a director of Summit Hotel Properties. He is the recipient of numerous notable awards, including, One of the 33 Most Influential People in the Travel Industry by Travel Weekly, One of the 25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry by Meeting News, One of the Lodging Industry’s Innovators by Lodging, and more.


In addition to these accolades, Bjorn founded the Hospitality & Leisure practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he served as Global Industry Leader of Hospitality & Leisure. He was responsible for hospitality & leisure audit, tax, and advisory services, globally. Bjorn then retired from PwC in 2008 and joined the full-time faculty of New York University (NYU). In 2010 he was appointed dean of the New York University Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management. Bjorn was also appointed co-interim dean of one of New York University’s 18 schools and colleges. After 10 years he retired from New York University.


Today, Bjorn is a member of the Editorial Board of the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly and is a Reviewer for The Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research, and serves an active researcher and consultant specializing in expert witness testimony for major hospitality industry matters.

Leland “Lee” Pillsbury is a managing director of Thayer Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on early-stage investments in technology companies targeting the travel and hospitality industry. Lee was also a founder and chairman of Thayer Lodging Group and was CEO from its founding in 1991 until its sale to Brookfield Properties in 2014. In addition, he is also was the founder of TenX Healthcare, a corporation focused on transforming the patient journey through surgery. He began his career at Marriott, where he rose to become executive vice president and head of the strategy for lodging.


Lee has been involved in the purchase and sale of over 70 companies and played a major role in the launch of over 20 new companies. He now serves on the Boards of Directors and Advisory Boards of several companies Thayer Ventures has investments in.


In recent years, Lee was named Hospitality Executive of the year by Penn State University and Entrepreneur of the Year by Cornell University in 2016. He is a member of Cornell’s Board of Trustees and serves on its Executive Committee, Investment Committee, and chairs its Buildings and Properties Committee. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University and an MBA from JL Kellogg Graduate School at Northwestern.


Tables and tickets for the HSMAI Adrian Awards Dinner Reception and Gala are still available for purchase. For additional information on the HSMAI Adrian Awards and the HSMAI Lifetime Achievement Awards, visit www.adrianawards.org.


Co-located with the Adrian Awards, HSMAI’s Marketing Strategy Conference, on January 22, at the New York Marriot Marquis, is designed to provide practical information, insights, and strategies to drive revenue and engage guests before, during, and after their stays. For registration and more information, visit www.marketingstrategy.hsmai.org.



The Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) is committed to growing business for hotels and their partners and is the industry’s leading advocate for intelligent, sustainable hotel revenue growth. The association provides hotel professionals and their partners with tools, insights, and expertise to fuel sales, inspire marketing, and optimize revenue through programs such as the Marketing Strategy Conference, Adrian Awards, and HSMAI ROC. Founded in 1927, HSMAI is a membership organization comprising more than 5,000 members worldwide, with 40 chapters in the Americas Region. Connect with HSMAI at hsmai.org, HSMAI Facebook, HSMAI Twitter, and HSMAI YouTube.


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