Save the Date!

Thursday, June 13, 2024

The Ritz-Carlton, Marina Del Rey

Marina Del Rey, California

Click Here to see more photos from the 2023 WAVE Awards

Click Here to read our special 2023 WAVE Winner’s Guide and view our winner’s thank you videos


Every year, the editorial team at TravelAge West, headed by Editor-in-Chief Ken Shapiro, reviews hundreds of travel suppliers and products. Review methods include product analysis, on-site visits, a travel agent survey and online research. After careful consideration, a list of “Editor’s Pick” nominees, in a variety of categories are confirmed.

Click here to see a list of the 2023 Editor's Picks

Click here to see a list of 2023 WAVE Award Winners

WAVE Awards Voting

Nominees are then placed on an official WAVE ballot, which is printed in TravelAge West, posted online and promoted in email communications to travel agents throughout the United States.



The Editors Picks and WAVE Award winners are celebrated at a star-studded gala held in Los Angeles. The black tie gala brings together honorees and travel agents, and recognizes the outstanding qualities and services of the industry’s leading travel suppliers.

Excellence in Leadership

TravelAge West’s Excellence in Leadership Award celebrates a long-standing icon of the travel industry, and recognizes their lifelong commitment to the betterment of the industry.

Each year, TravelAge West honors individuals with the Excellence in Leadership Award. These exceptional industry leaders not only demonstrate outstanding leadership, insight and innovation, but also positively impact both their own organizations and the travel industry overall.

For 2023, TravelAge West is honored to present this award to three worthy recipients, Rodrigo Esponda Cascajares with the Los Cabos Tourism Board, Scott Koepf with Cruise Planners and Michele Saegesser with Viking.

Rodrigo Esponda Cascajares 
Los Cabos Tourism Board


Strategic planning, crisis management, destination marketing, public relations, sales, event planning … these are just a few of the skills Rodrigo Esponda Cascajares has honed over his 20-plus years in the travel industry. Add to that varied skillset his outstanding leadership as managing director of the Los Cabos Tourism Board, and you will start to see why TravelAge West chose him as a recipient of this year’s Excellence in Leadership Award.


Since 2016, Esponda has led the marketing, communication and branding efforts for the Los Cabos Tourism Board. Prior to that position, he spent 16 years at the Mexico Tourism Board, holding positions including regional director for North America; director, Canada; and director, Midwest USA. As regional director for North America during his last four years with the organization, he linked major tour operators, airlines and travel agencies as part of efforts to coordinate Mexico’s promotional efforts in both the U.S. and Canada.


In addition to these accomplishments, Esponda’s distinguished career has included time working for the National Trust Fund for Development. He has also shared his vast knowledge of the industry with upcoming generations by serving as a professor of tourism planning at New York University.




Scott Koepf 
Cruise Planners


If you don’t know Scott Koepf, you’re probably new to the travel industry in the West. With almost 40 years in retail travel — much of it based in Southern California — Koepf is an industry veteran and a fitting recipient of this year’s Excellence in Leadership Award.


Koepf is chief strategy officer at Cruise Planners, one of the largest and most-awarded travel companies in North America. His previous experience includes executive roles at Avoya Travel and the National Association of Career Travel Agents. He also had positions at Sabre Holdings and Nexion.


Koepf and Pam, his wife of almost 40 years, started in the travel business when they opened the fifth Cruise Holidays franchise in 1985. In 1989, he became president of Cruise Holidays International.


Koepf is also a motivational speaker who has focused on helping travel advisors reach their goals. For more than 20 years, he trained every Master Cruise Counselor in Australia and New Zealand through an annual program he conducted with Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Australasia. He was recently presented with a lifetime achievement award and inducted into the CLIA Hall of Fame.


Koepf is also known as “the Sales Coach” and, due to his passion for musical theater, the “Singing Salesman.”


Koepf and Pam now live in Temecula, Calif., where they enjoy the company of their three daughters and their husbands, as well as four grandchildren.


“I am honored and so grateful for the Leadership Award presented at one of my favorite annual events, the WAVE Awards,” Koepf said. “I am blessed to have spent almost my entire career in the travel industry, and I have always been driven to advocate for travel advisors. I am just giddy to receive this recognition for what I love to do.”




Michele Saegesser 


After 44 years in tourism and a career that has included some of the industry’s most recognizable brands, along with her own initiatives, it’s safe to say that Michele Saegesser has earned her reputation as a leader in travel — not to mention the well-deserved honor of a TravelAge West Excellence in Leadership Award.


Saegesser started her career with Disneyland Resort before moving on to Princess Cruises. In the 1980s, she worked onboard the “real” Love Boat, the Pacific Princess.


“Those were incredible times in the cruise industry,” Saegesser said. “Everything was possible. Being based on the Pacific Princess had its perks, including a gown allowance — $1,200 per month to buy gowns for hosting dinner tables. Pretty sure no one has that anymore.”


Other career highlights for Saegesser include being the first U.S. representative for Rocky Mountaineer, which led her to start her own business specializing in luxury trains.


Small-ship cruising was later added to her business model, and along came a little unknown line called Viking River Cruises. Her resulting 20 years with Viking have included two years living in Sydney while opening the first Viking office in Australia, and her current role as vice president of sales and national accounts for the company.


“When I started with Viking, none of us had any idea how to sell river cruising in the U.S.,” she said. “Viking had about 12 ships when I joined. Look at us now.”


Marketing Center

TravelAge West congratulates all its Editors Picks nominees and provides a variety of tools to help them promote their nomination.

Sample press releases and official WAVE Award logos are available to all nominees. Download your materials in our WAVE marketing center now.