CONTACT: Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association
PHONE: 256.350.3500 / 800.648.5381

AMLA to Host Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative Fellows 

Decatur, Ala. (June 14, 2022) – The Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association (AMLA) is pleased to welcome to North Alabama two participants of the U.S. Department of State’s Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Professional Fellows Program. Rafael Alfonso Martinez Lombao of Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and Vanessa Quispe Catari of Bolivia have been placed with AMLA through July 7, 2022, to advance their entrepreneurial ideas and gather best practices to bring back to their home countries.

Launched in 2015, YLAI empowers emerging entrepreneurs from the Caribbean and Latin America through an online network and in-person fellowship exchange. The 2022 exchange will bring together more than 280 young leaders from 37 countries in the Caribbean, Latin America, and Canada. The fellows will learn from U.S. counterparts by participating in day-to-day operations at their host organizations and collaborating on a joint project. Through the program, the fellows will develop stronger ties with their peers from across Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as with their U.S. fellowship hosts.

The young professionals arrived in Decatur yesterday, June 13 and will be in the north Alabama region for four weeks to further develop their business plans by engaging in skills-building workshops. 

As part of the four-week program, the YLAI fellows will shadow a member of the AMLA staff for four days each week during regular business hours. Members of AMLA’s team will discuss tourism marketing trends, social media trends, marketing techniques and best practices.  Other topics include understanding grants and other income resource opportunities and creating itineraries and press trips. The Fellows will also have an opportunity to attend an AMLA executive board meeting, visit the Birthplace of Helen Keller for the Miracle Worker Play and travel to Guntersville for the annual Hydrofest on Lake Guntersville event.

YLAI fellows are innovative emerging leaders who are working to promote economic growth and positive change in their workplaces, communities and countries. AMLA has the privilege of hosting Rafael Alfonso Martinez Lombao of Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and Vanessa Quispe Catari of Bolivia.

•    Rafael Alfonso Martinez Lombao (Venezuela) works in the education sector leading the E-ROQ Project and is a bilingual medical doctor leading an organization dedicated to increasing literacy, through the teaching of English, in vulnerable communities with a high potential for tourism. The E-ROQ Project is currently the only non-profit-making organization in Venezuela dedicated to teaching demographically adapted English in tourist destinations to encourage sustainable tourism.
•    Vanessa Quispe Catari (Bolivia) works in the tourism sector leading Epic Experiences, a local tour operator focused on creating unique and authentic visits in the rural areas of Bolivia.

“AMLA is excited about this new cross-cultural exchange and the opportunity to build business connections between the USA and other countries while empowering young business professionals,” said AMLA President and CEO Tami Reist. “Through job-shadowing and participating in AMLA’s day-to-day operations, we hope to offer these young professionals some insight into the tourism industry here in the United States and to equip them with new skills and resources where they can effectively contribute to social and economic development in their communities and businesses back home.”

AMLA is proud to work with IREX, a global development and education organization, headquartered in Washington, D.C., on this program.

The 2022 YLAI Fellowship, sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, includes a hybrid program in which fellows will complete the YLAI Entrepreneurial Leadership Curriculum virtually and then travel to the United States to work alongside a U.S. business. Fellows will form cohorts across 20 U.S. cities to collaborate with their peers to address shared business challenges during the four-week exchange. Additionally, they will engage in virtual and in-person events and cross-cultural activities. The program combines technical entrepreneurship training with leadership development and networking opportunities. Since 2015, more than 1,000 YLAI fellows have built connections with 873 U.S. host businesses and organizations; 84 percent of these fellows attracted new resources within one year of completing the program. The program concludes with a forum in Washington, D.C. in July. More information is available at on both the YLAI fellowship and network.

For more information, contact Reist at 800-648-5381.


About Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association (AMLA)
AMLA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion and development of the travel industry within the 16 northernmost counties of the state. It is supported by 500-plus members consisting of chambers of commerce, Convention & Visitors Bureaus, attractions, campgrounds, festivals, communities, counties, golf courses, restaurants, tour operators, accommodations, vendors, financial institutions and individuals. Counties included within the AMLA region are Blount, Cherokee, Colbert, Cullman, DeKalb, Etowah, Franklin, Jackson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Morgan and Winston. Additional information on North Alabama destinations, accommodations and special events is available by calling 800.648.5381 or by visiting  Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @VisitNorthAL and like us at