Wendy Kallergis is a renowned figure in the hospitality industry, serving as the President and CEO of the Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association (GMBHA). She has an extensive background in the industry, having worked for various prestigious hotels and resorts, including The Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons. Her expertise and commitment to the industry have garnered numerous accolades, including the South Florida Business Journal’s Influential Business Women Award and the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Women in Lodging Connect Leader of the Year Award. Wendy continues to be a driving force in the hospitality industry, advocating for social justice and empowering workers.
Wendy Kallergis grew up in a family of restaurateurs and learned from an early age to appreciate the power of food and the importance of hospitality. Wendy and her sister were raised in the kitchen, and it wasn’t long before they were put to work. As she grew older, Wendy’s passion for hospitality only intensified. And so, at just 11 years old, she began working alongside her sister at her parents’ restaurant, Checkmate Steakhouse. It was hard work, but it was also exhilarating and she found herself excited by the fast-paced and dynamic environment of hospitality.
After completing a Bachelor of Arts in the French Language from George Washington University, however, Wendy wasn’t content with theoretical knowledge; she wanted to learn how to cook like a true French chef. And so she enrolled in the prestigious Cordon Bleu L’Ecole de Cuisine, where she spent two years honing her skills in the kitchen. It was a grueling experience, with extended hours, intense pressure, and exacting standards. But Wendy was up to the challenge and emerged victorious from the program.
Wendy knew that to truly excel in the hospitality industry; she had to challenge herself and continuously pursue professional development opportunities. And so after completing her studies at Cordon Bleu L’Ecole de Cuisine in Paris, she continued to seek educational experiences that would expand her knowledge and skills.
One such opportunity came from the Modern Gourmet Cooking School in Annecy, France. There, Wendy obtained not only a Diplome Professional Chef but also a Diplome Professional Teacher, further solidifying her position as an expert in the field.
Reflecting on her journey in the industry, Wendy credits her passion for French cooking as the driving force behind her success. She says, “During my senior year at George Washington University, I became the head chef of a catering company in Georgetown after returning from Paris. When I relocated to Miami, I aspired to continue cooking professionally, but at that time, it was challenging for women chefs to secure employment in Miami.” She continued, “So, I began teaching cooking classes at a local school. Eventually, I worked at various restaurants and hotels and later transitioned into catering management.”
Her extensive catering career included serving as Catering & Convention Services Manager for the Hotel Inter-Continental and Assistant Director of Catering at the Biltmore Hotel. Wendy also worked with high-end establishments such as Gene’s Catering, The Mayfair House, Delano, and The Grand Bay Hotels, where she supervised hundreds of weddings and special events, including two Super Bowls and several Lipton/Ericsson Tennis Tournaments.
But her expertise in managing high-end establishments was truly demonstrated during her six-year tenure as General Manager of the Miami City Club. Under her leadership, the club became a premier destination for business professionals and socialites alike, with a reputation for exceptional service and attention to detail.
Reflecting on her experiences in the industry, Wendy says, “Hospitality is all about creating unforgettable experiences for people, whether it’s through food, drink, or the overall atmosphere. It’s a challenging industry, but also incredibly rewarding when you see the joy and satisfaction on your guests’ faces.”
After gaining extensive experience in the hospitality industry, Wendy continued to expand her career by joining the Miami Beach Chamber. As the President and CEO of the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce, Wendy led the organization to become a dynamic force in the community, promoting economic growth and development, advocating for business-friendly policies, and providing valuable resources to its members. One of her key initiatives was the launch of the Miami Beach INcard, a discount card program that aimed to promote local businesses and incentivize residents and visitors to shop, dine and explore the city.
After serving as the President and CEO of the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce for over a decade, Wendy Kallergis took on her next challenge in the hospitality industry. She became the President and CEO of the Greater Miami & the Beaches Hotel Association, the largest hotel lodging group in Miami-Dade County. It is a collective of 180 hoteliers and 300 allied members located throughout Miami-Dade County. Its mission is to foster unity and collaboration among travel, tourism, and hospitality industry professionals and government and business leaders on local, national, and international levels. Through education, advocacy, and networking, the GMBHA strives to elevate the quality of visitor experiences across the region.
Under Kallergis’ leadership, the GMBHA launched several initiatives, including the Sustainable Hospitality Council, which aims to promote environmentally sustainable practices in the hospitality industry. She also led the effort to bring the 2020 Democratic National Convention to Miami, showcasing the city’s capabilities as a world-class destination for major events.
Furthermore, Wendy has also demonstrated her ability to showcase Miami as a world-class destination for major events. She led the effort to bring the 2020 Democratic National Convention to Miami, an event that showcased the city’s capabilities as a top-tier location for major events.
Wendy’s passion for the hospitality industry goes beyond simply filling hotel rooms. She understands the value of cultural tourism and how it can benefit both hotels and destinations. She explains, “Hotels are always looking for opportunities to fill their rooms. Cultural tourists spend more money and stay longer at a destination. Research has shown that one in three tourists attend an arts event or performance while traveling. Pairing hotel nights with tickets to festivals, performances, and museums makes perfect marketing sense. ” She continued, “Creating unique experiences such as private museum tours and meeting artists for a hotel’s most sought-after guests is a mutually beneficial and profitable opportunity that encourages innovation and valuable relationships.”
To offer guidance to budding professionals entering the industry, Wendy emphasizes projecting professionalism and confidence, regardless of attire or location. She explains, “I always believe that budding professionals should project professionalism and confidence, whether they are in their pajamas or business attire. It’s a powerful feeling to be in your own space. We’re all going through a difficult time, but there’s a lot of opportunity for growth and exchanging ideas, especially with budding professionals from different countries. So, get up, get dressed, and enthusiastically tackle your day. And remember, I’m here to support you in any way I can through webinars or motivating conversations. Don’t let fear hold you back; embrace the challenges, and make the most of the opportunities that come your way.”