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Curtis C. Nelson

Former President & Chief Operating Officer of Carlson Companies

NelsonCurtis C. Nelson is the former president and chief operating officer of Carlson Companies, the family business founded by his grandfather and carried on by his mother. In this role Nelson chaired the company’s operating committee and oversaw the development and implementation of strategy within the company’s extensive hospitality, travel and marketing operations, which reached into 140 countries worldwide at the time of Nelson’s induction into the Hall of Honor.

Nelson first gained experience in hospitality while working for two leading companies, Hyatt Hotels and Four Seasons. He then joined Carlson Hospitality Worldwide in 1989 as a management executive with Radisson Hotels Worldwide. Next, he served in a variety of management positions in companies across the United States. In 1993, Nelson was named executive vice president of Country Hospitality Worldwide and then named president and CEO later that same year. In 1995, Nelson became executive vice president and chief operating officer of Carlson Hospitality Worldwide. He was promoted to president and CEO in 1997 and became president and COO of Carlson Companies in 2003.

As president and COO, Nelson spearheaded strategies that supported the Carlson Companies’ mission of “Building Better Relationships” in each individual brand and business operation. His business vision was focused on the customer, and he united key parts of the organization around integrated customer relationship management programs that were supported by sophisticated technology and business systems.

Nelson left Carlson Companies in 2006 and is now CEO of Visible Customer, LLC, a marketing company that works with automobile dealers.

Active in leadership roles in various business groups, industry associations and philanthropic causes, Nelson previously was a member of the Travel Business Roundtable, a coalition of 70 CEOs representing all sectors of the travel and tourism industry with governmental initiatives. At the time of his 2005 induction, Nelson also was a member of the executive committee of the World Travel and Tourism Council, a global organization of industry leaders. At the 2003 World Economic Forum in Switzerland, he was selected as a Global Leader for Tomorrow.

Curtis received the 2002 Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by the Hospitality Industry Diversity Institute, for his commitment to advancing the cause of minorities, women, and people with disabilities in hospitality.

A past member of the board of directors of Hilton College, in 2002 Nelson endowed an ongoing annual scholarship at the school. He also served on the advisory board of the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management of the University of Delaware and the advisory board of the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. Curtis has received honorary doctorate degrees from Johnson and Wales and Niagara University. He has served as a board member of the Greater Twin Cities United Way and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

Nelson earned a bachelor of science degree from Cornell University and a master of business administration degree from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.