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A Practiced Leader Gives Back

Casandra Matej heads Visit Orlando with three decades of experience and a love for her new home city

By Linden M. Bayliss

Visit Orlando’s President and CEO Casandra Matej || Courtesy of Visit Orlando

Visit Orlando’s Casandra Matej is no stranger to the travel and tourism world. Prior to joining Visit Orlando in February 2021, Matej had spent 10 years as president and CEO of Visit San Antonio in Texas—before that holding leadership roles at Visit Dallas, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide in Dallas, and Hyatt Regency Dallas. She is Visit Orlando’s first female CEO in the organization’s 37-year history and has been named one of the 50 Most Powerful People by Orlando Magazine and a Game-Changer by the Orlando Business Journal.

Matej says she is a proud alumnus of the University of Texas at Austin when asked of her beginnings, adding an enthusiastic “Hook ’em Horns!” While Texas certainly holds a special place in her heart, Matej loves her current home and is thrilled about all it has to offer—including, of course, Orlando’s many theme parks. “Our world-famous theme parks are an integral part of the story of our destination we share with meeting groups,” says Matej. “They are filled with group event options. We have seen groups integrate the Disney fireworks, host a dessert party on a private lawn at EPCOT, or take advantage of the many venues inside of CityWalk at Universal Orlando Resort.”

Matej notes that while theme parks play a key role in marketing Orlando, there is so much more to the city. She notes that Orlando is home to the 7.1-million-square-foot Orange County Convention Center, art museums and performing arts centers galore, and some impressive wilderness-viewing opportunities with airboat rides over Florida’s beautiful wetlands, springs, and lakes—plus activities like swimming with manatees. “For 2023 and beyond, our convention sales team booked more than 1,500 in-house and citywide events in Orlando, and we recently hosted the NFL’s Pro Bowl Games and the Olympic Marathon Trials,” Matej says with pride. “We have a lot to look forward to in 2024.”

What keeps her waking up every day to be there for Florida and her team? “One of the most important aspects of the travel and tourism industry is the positive impact it has on the destinations it serves,” says Matej. “This is the big ‘why’ of what I do—to give back to the community I call home.”