Dr Jens Thraenhart is the Founding Partner of Chameleon Strategies, the 2nd Vice Chair of the World Tourism Organization’s UNWTO Affiliate Members, the former Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Tourism Marketing, Inc. (BTMI), the former Executive Director of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office, the founder of private-sector-led tourism marketing organization Destination Mekong, and a Board Member and former Chair of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).
In November 2021, Dr Thraenhart was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI), to lead the official national tourism organization of the island nation of Barbados in the Caribbean for a two-year contract. BTMI is responsible for promoting Barbados as a sustainable tourism destination and the ultimate Caribbean vacation island by implementing marketing strategies that help the responsible development of tourism. During his tenure, he led various successes, including the introduction of a sustainable tourism journey by hosting a Sustainable Tourism Stakeholder Forum, Barbados being recognized as winner of the Green Destination Award in the category of Climate Change & Environment, as well as being one of only ten destinations world-wide included in the new documentary by Sustainable Travel International “Sustainable Travel – Where Next”. Other achievements included the creation of a new innovative employment engagement program, a focused data and digital strategy, and a progressive financial budgeting and performance measurement process, linked to corporate and staff KPIs. Under his leadership, the organization has rebuilt tourism by staging world-class BTMI-owned events such as the Food and Rum Festival and Run Barbados, the largest marathon in the Caribbean. His unique video blog, showcasing the island destination, going into communities, visiting small businesses, and learning from Barbadians about the history and culture of the destination set him on a path to leadership success.
Previously, in 2014, the six governments of the Greater Mekong Subregion (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, PR China, Thailand, and Viet Nam) extended his contract for four consecutive terms to lead the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office as Executive Director. He developed the private sector-led regional tourism board, Destination Mekong in Southeast Asia, and was credited for establishing several innovative initiatives, including the Experience Mekong Collection, the collaborative campaign platform Mekong Moments, the Mekong Mini Movie Festival, and the MIST innovation and startup program.
Before his nearly eight-year tenure at Mekong Tourism, based in Bangkok, Thailand, he spent five years in Beijing, PR China, where he co-founded the award-winning travel technology and marketing agency Dragon Trail, and published the China Travel Trends books and website.
Previously, he has led marketing and digital strategy teams with Destination Canada and Fairmont Hotels & Resorts. In 1999, he founded Chameleon Strategies, which became an Affiliate Member of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in 2008. He has consulted for tourism ministries and hotel and travel companies all over the world, with a focus on strategy, sustainable development, marketing, and digital transformation.
Educated at top-ranked academic institutions, Dr Thraenhart completed his doctorate degree in tourism and hospitality management (DHTM) from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University with a thesis in tourism resilience, an MBA-accredited Master of Management in Hospitality degree (MMH) from Cornell University, and a joint Bachelor of Science from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and the University Center ‘Cesar Ritz’ at Brig, Switzerland. Dr Thraenhart was recognized as one of the travel industry’s top 100 rising stars by Travel Agent Magazine in 2003, one of HSMAI’s 25 Most Extraordinary Sales and Marketing Minds in Hospitality and Travel in 2004 and 2005, one of the Top 20 Extraordinary Minds in European Travel and Hospitality in 2014, honoured as one of the Global Travel Heroes in 2021, and recognized as one of the top 10 Most Influential Leaders in Travel and Tourism in 2022.
Active in global tourism, he serves as the 2nd Vice Chair of the UNWTO Affiliate Members Board (World Tourism Organization), sits on the boards of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), Barbados International Airport (GAIA), the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA), and Destination Mekong, and is part of the prestigious Sustainable Tourism Expert Panel (https://sustainability-leaders.com/panel/), He served as an Executive Board Member of the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association (HSMAI), Executive Board Member of the International Federation of IT in Travel & Tourism, and Board Member of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), and past Chair of PATA China.
Passionate about the opportunities and value that travel and tourism can bring to be a force for good, and an active advocate to foster climate resilience, Dr Thraenhart is an advisor of the Climate Friendly Travel Club. As founder of the Destination Film Forum, he is also a big proponent of the power of storytelling, having been recognized as one of the top 10 Most Influential Leaders in Travel in 2022 by Travel Vertical, ranking first in the category of Creativity and Brand Storytelling , and served on the Jury of the Cannes Lion International Film Awards in 2022. Passionate about innovative marketing, for the past 10+ years, he has curated creative campaigns on his blog TourismCampaigns.com.