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Changemakers ’23: The Industry Leaders Shaping How We Travel

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Changemakers ’23: The Industry Leaders Shaping How We Travel

How does real change happen in a $9 trillion global travel industry? Sometimes it starts with prompting from travelers themselves. Sometimes it’s spurred on by those with influence or bright ideas. But often, it’s industry leaders, working tirelessly everyday to shape the largest companies, non-profits, and design firms from within. That’s why, during Hot List season—when we celebrate the best new openings in travel, from the fresh hotels we’d plan a trip around to boundary-pushing dining, cruise ships, museums, and more—we’ve decided to introduce our Condé Nast Traveler Changemakers list: An esteemed collection of the founders and executives who are making real advances in the world of tourism. 

Read on to meet the CEOs, chefs, architects, and conservationists leaving a lasting impact on the way we travel in 2023 and beyond, from innovating lie-flat plane seats in economy to championing Indigenous land stewardship and spearheading sustainable hotel design. 

All listings featured on Condé Nast Traveler are independently selected by our editors. If you book something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Carlos Couturier

Cofounder, Grupo Habita

“When we embarked on our first hotel, Mexico City was a place people didn’t want to come to,” says Carlos Couturier, cofounder and managing partner of Grupo Habita, whose 15 properties are predominantly in Mexico. “[Our] first hotel was a love letter to everyone in the global community on the beauty and potential of our country, our city.”

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Fast-forward two decades and the hotel group has garnered a reputation as a powerhouse for incubating talent in architecture and interior design. On a global scale, Grupo Habita launched the careers of now–industry leaders Joseph Dirand, India Mahdavi, and Dimorestudio. Within Mexico there’s Frida Escobedo, now the designer behind the Met’s new modern and contemporary galleries in New York City—making her the first woman to design a wing at the iconic museum; Alberto Kalach, whose latest project (and third with Grupo Habita) is Hotel Terrestre in Oaxaca, a buzzed-about property that is 100 percent solar-powered and up for multiple design awards; then there are Jorge Ambrosi and Gabriela Etchegaray, whose firm Ambrosi Etchegaray has since designed the Guayacan Pavilion at the famed Fundación Casa Wabi in Oaxaca, which shelters endangered plant life.

But Couturier is responsible for creating an experience beyond architecture and design—Enrique Olivera, the Pujol chef who kicked off a culinary revolution in Mexico, was put in charge of food and beverage in 2007. Quintonil chef Jorge Vallejo and Máximo Bistrot’s Eduardo García are also alumni, later becoming forces in their own rights.

Couturier’s hotels allow guests to escape their daily lives, yet in the process he has redefined what a hotel can do for budding creatives. In the years to come, he’ll double down on this approach. Otro Oaxaca opens first, in June 2023; Hotel Sevilla in Yucatán will follow later in the year, in the heart of Mérida’s old city; then a “small and sexy” hotel by the ocean in San Agustinillo, Oaxaca, is on the books, before the brand charts course back to Mexico City, where it all began. —Ximena Beltran Quan Kiu

Hedda Felin

CEO, Hurtigruten

Can the cruise industry be environmentally friendly? That’s a question Hedda Felin, chief executive officer of Hurtigruten Norway, spends her time thinking about—and she and her team are committing to answering it with a resounding yes.

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