“I can now say it — I am Paco and I am the face of travel!”

That was a Twitter post from Paco Saldaña, director of guest services at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida, and the winner of the U.S. Travel Association's contest to pick a “Face of Travel.” He will serve as a spokesman from the industry trenches who can talk about the consequences of the downturn in meetings and events.

On his first day on the “job” in June, Saldaña appeared in a full-page ad in USA Today; conducted interviews accompanied by U.S. Travel's president and CEO, Roger Dow; and visited with members of Congress on Capitol Hill, where the Travel Promotion Act was being considered by the Senate.

“My message is very simple,” says Saldaña. “We need to keep business travel happening.” People, he says, need “to understand that this industry is so important, not just to me but to millions and millions of Americans. [Workers] are in the situation of not knowing if they're going to have a job or continue with their careers. But if we have people traveling, local economies grow.”

USTA hopes Saldaña can help people to recognize the far-reaching impact of the meetings and travel industry. For more, go to http://meetingsmeanbusiness.com/facesoftravel.