Seminar: Expert Travel – A Roundtable Discussion


March 7, 2016


Expert Travel – A Roundtable Discussion
Moderated By Manny Velasquez-Paredes, Publisher of Connextions Magazine

According to a recent survey by CMI, the leader in LGBT market research since 1992, the LGBT traveler makes between 6 – 7 trips per year. Are you a “Traveler” or a “Tourist”? Planning to go as far as Thailand or just a little upstate? Maybe you’re exploring a cruise for the first time? We’ll provide you with tips on how to be a traveler and travel like an expert, covering topics from enjoying a solo trip up to taking the entire family on a wild adventure!


Manny Velasquez-Paredes – Connextions Magazine
Manny Velasquez-Paredes (MVP) is a multicultural & diversity marketing professional, writer and speaker focusing on the Hispanic and LGBT communities. MVP is the Editor In Chief for Connextions Magazine, the Travel & Lifestyle Magazine for the LGBT Traveler, as a self-proclaimed social media junkie and avid traveler, he reports on the gay family’s perspective within the travel industry. It’s safe to assume that MVP loves to travel, having lived and studied in three different continents, and visited five continents overall. In 2003, he met the man who would later become his life partner, Jose, who is a history buff. MVP loves architecture and photography, therefore, their travels often revolve around these topics of interest, which has led them to experience some beautiful and off the path places. They became Domestic Partners in May 2011, a few months before New York approved marriage equality. In July 2011, MVP and Jose welcomed their two foster kids and they lived happily ever after, roaming the world as a family.



Denise Reichwein Lees – I Love New York 
A seasoned veteran of the Cruise & Travel Industry, Denise Reichwein Lees brings more than 27 years of experience to the travel & Tourism Industry.

In her current role as Director of Sales USA for MSC Cruises, Denise is responsible for managing the MSC Cruises USA North Field Sales team of 6 sales managers. Her primary focus is related to increasing brand awareness and overall sales in the region.

Denise previously worked for Royal Caribbean International for more than 7 years as a Business Development Manager in Eastern Pennsylvania.  While at Royal Caribbean, Denise worked on developing new business while building strong relationships with travel partners.  Developing a loyal following of travel partners has contributed to her success and ability to win the business, grow the business and share best practices and unique selling skills in her latest role at MSC Cruises.

In addition to her customer and sales skills, Denise brings with her over 20 years of travel agency experience, with unique expertise in Groups and Meetings & Incentive Programs within the cruise industry.  Denise has earned her MCC (Master Cruise Counselor) and is currently enrolled in the ECC (Elite Cruise Counselor) program along with being a Lifetime member of CLIA-EP (Cruise Line International Education Programs).  Denise is an alumni member of the Boyd School in Pittsburgh, PA class of 1987.  Denise also graduated from Norristown Area High School.

Denise is the recipient several industry awards; Sales Manager of the Year 2011, Presidents Challenge 2011, AAA E Penn Cruise Supplier of the Years 2011, 2010, 2009 & 2008.



Franklin Trapp – Board Member, Sullivan County Visitors Association | Producer, Forestburgh Playhouse | Proprietor, Forestburgh Tavern

Franklin Trapp is a member of the Board of Directors of the Sullivan County Visitors Association (SCVA).  In that role, he acts as an ambassador and champion of the beautiful Sullivan County Catskills, working to educate visitors and residents alike about all that region has to offer—natural beauty and related activities, varied cultural opportunities, food, spirits, and a rich history that make the Catskills a wonderful place to visit.  Franklin is also producer of the Forestburgh Playhouse, New York’s longest running professional summer theatre which celebrates its 70th anniversary this summer.  He is also proprietor of the Forestburgh Tavern, a rustic restaurant/bar that offers live entertainment and cuisine throughout the summer and fall, that has become a prime destination for events such as weddings, parties and business events.  Franklin is a former attorney and proud member of Actors’ Equity.



David Perry – Gay Travel Writer

As an accomplished journalist, writer and editor, David’s work appears in 19-and-counting publications, Instinct Magazine, The Huffington Post, the Edge Media Network, Connextions Magazine and among them. Covering travel, luxury, style, and adventure (with tech and science thrown in for color), David is a humor writer with a really, really, really well-used passport.



Ross Christianson – Gay Travel Budget Writer

Ross’ biggest desires are to learn more everyday and to teach people how to make their dreams come true. Now working in the service industry in Minneapolis, MN, Ross seeks to discover the world and show everyone else how easy it is, especially on a tight budget, while documenting his adventures for Connextions Magazine. Whether traveling or not, he is fun loving, outgoing, optimistic, adventurous, and a risk taker. Some of his favorite memories include skiing in the Austrian Alps, scuba diving in Thailand, and hitch hiking in Colorado. Ross has traveled to 25 countries thus far and cannot wait to experience what comes next!