Marilyn Carlson Nelson (b. 1939) successfully led the family empire of Carlson Inc. for more than a decade, driving forward positive change in many areas of the travel and tourism industry.
Marilyn was born in Minneapolis, daughter of Curt Carlson who founded the Carlson group, one of the largest privately held travel and hospitality companies in the world which includes such brands as Radisson Blu and Radisson Hotels, Country Inns & Suites, Carlson Wagonlit Travel and T.G.I. Friday’s restaurants. When her father died in 1999, Marilyn took over as chairwoman. Under her leadership, often referred to as the firm’s “Golden Decade,” system-wide sales nearly doubled to $40 billion and the corporate culture was transformed into a true meritocracy where today 49% of upper management positions are held by women. With Marilyn at the helm, Carlson was the first major North American travel company to take a stand against the sexual exploitation of children in the tourism industry.
Marilyn has appeared on Forbes magazine’s list as one of “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.” In 2006 she was named one of “America’s Best Leaders” by U.S. News and World Report, and in 2007 Ethisphere Magazine named her one of the “100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics.” She served as chair of the National Women’s Business Council, a bi-partisan advisory council to the President and Congress, and is past chair of the US Travel and Tourism Advisory Board. She also is a member of the World Travel and Tourism Council. She serves on The World Bank’s Global Private Sector Leaders Forum; and she is co-founder and an advisory board member of the Women Leaders Program of the World Economic Forum.
In 2006, Marilyn was inducted in the French Légion d’Honneur, an order that recognises citizens of France, and a select few others, for their exemplary leadership and service to humanity.
Marilyn was honoured by the British Travel & Hospitality Hall of Fame in 2011.