Boston University School of Hospitality Administration 2024 Hospitality Leadership Summit Highlights Experience Innovators

(Boston, MA) February 12, 2024 – Boston University School of Hospitality Administration (BU SHA) is proud to announce the annual Hospitality Leadership Summit on Thursday, April 4, 2024 at Boston University’s Computing and Data Sciences Center, Boston’s largest fossil fuel-free building. The Summit brings together students, faculty, and industry colleagues for a day of inspiration and networking around a shared passion for creating memorable experiences. The featured speakers are luminaries lauded for bringing to life exceptional events and experiences: Bryan Rafanelli, Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Rafanelli Events, and Bashar Wali, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Practice Hospitality. To cap off this exhilarating day, the 2024 ICON Award will be bestowed upon the industry leader who has significantly transformed the paradigms of hospitality. The ICON Awardee will be announced in the coming weeks. 

Further highlighting “Experience Innovation” in hospitality, the Summit features the final round of the  $100K Poyiadjis Hospitality Innovation Competition. Boston University student teams get their chance to reimagine the future of hospitality by pitching their ideas for a chance to win a total of $100K in cash prizes across three tracks: Open Track, Social Impact, and Student Wellbeing. 

“The 2024 Hospitality Leadership Summit is designed to spark ideas and catalyze the entrepreneurial spirit,” said Arun Upneja, Ph.D., Dean of Boston University School of Hospitality Administration. “The Summit encapsulates our school’s mission to inspire and equip our students through a robust and inspirational educational experience to feel empowered to become future industry trailblazers.” 

Summit Speakers   

The Summit gives stage to acclaimed hospitality leaders: Bryan Rafanelli, Founder and Chief Creative Officer, Rafanelli Events, and Bashar Wali, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Practice Hospitality. Following each talk will be a Q&A with the audience. 

  • Bryan Rafanelli’s exquisite sense of style, attention to detail, and ability to transform clients’ visions into unforgettable celebrations have made him the go-to planner for the nation’s most exclusive and high-profile events. From White House State Dinners to President Biden’s granddaughter Naomi Biden’s wedding, and Chelsea Clinton’s wedding, he has orchestrated countless unforgettable celebrations. Recognized by esteemed publications, Rafanelli was honored as one of the Top Wedding Planners in the U.S. by Brides, Martha Stewart Weddings, and Harper’s Bazaar, one of the World’s Best Event Planners by Departures, and “Man of the Moment” by Town & Country. 
  • Bashar Wali: A born leader and a bit of a rebel. Bashar Wali can speak to the ins and outs of the Hotel Industry because he’s done it all. Prior to launching This Assembly and Practice Hospitality, Bashar served as President/CEO of Provenance Hotels, where he remains a partner, for 15 years, growing the company from five to 15 hotels, 1,500 team members, and expanding the collection from the Pacific Northwest to an award-winning national brand, with annual revenue in excess of $150 million. A Passionate Hotelier, whose veins race with the boundless energy of Hospitality, unlocking the secret to crafting Transcendent Experiences that transform hotels from Mundane to Memorable. 

Planet-Friendly Hospitality by Design 

Produced by BU School of Hospitality Administration students along with faculty advisors, the Summit will immerse guests in a transformational experience that engages all the senses. In sync with the Computing & Data Sciences Center’s LEED Platinum status, every element of the event’s design showcases planet-friendly choices such as an all-vegan menu, biophilic design elements, a digital swag bag, and even a name badge that can be repurposed as a luggage tag.  

The 2024 ICON Awardee will be announced in the coming weeks. Past awardees include Niki Leondakis, CEO of CorePower Yoga: the co-founders of Airbnb Brian Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk, and Joe Gebbia; restaurant pioneer Danny Meyer, Founder and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group and Shake Shack; and in 2020, Richard L. Friedman, President and CEO of Carpenter & Company Inc., credited, among a long list of accolades, for reshaping the Boston skyline with The Four Seasons Hotel & Private Residences at One Dalton. For a list of ICON awardees, visit: ICON Award Winners. 

  • For more information on the Summit Speakers and Agenda, visit the Summit website. 

Photos and interviews are available upon request.  


2024 Hospitality Leadership Summit Sponsors*  

  • BU School of Hospitality Administration is grateful for the generous support from:  
  • Platinum Level: Hotel Commonwealth and Aramark  
  • Gold Level: Meet Boston, PEAK Event Services, Seaport Hotel, and Sonesta Hotels and Resorts   
  • Supporters: Intercontinental Boston and GoTab  
  • Sponsor List is current as of 2/6/24 


About Boston University School of Hospitality Administration: Established in 1981 and now celebrating 40 years of Innovating the Business of Hospitality, Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration (SHA) offers students a combination of rigorous academics, liberal arts curriculum, and international experiences for the pursuit of success in lodging, restaurants, food service, and other avenues of the hospitality industry. SHA has a unique relationship with the city of Boston, where the area’s hotels and restaurants provide students with numerous opportunities for internships to satisfy work experience requirements for their degrees.  

Information on graduate and undergraduate degrees at BU School of Hospitality Administration: