Collier County’s top tourism industry stars were honored at the 12th Annual Paradise Coast Tourism Star Awards on Tuesday, May 6. The program is held each year during National Travel & Tourism Week to recognize the most outstanding tourism and hospitality employees in the region. Two hundred tourism industry leaders and employees attended the event at the New Hope Event Center in Naples. The awards program was followed by a Travel Rally to support the benefits that tourism brings to the Collier County community.
Four Marco Island hospitality industry employees received top honors:
• Rising Star: Ashley Brinker, Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort & Spa
• Restaurant Exemplary Service: Cindy McLaughlin, Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort & Spa
• Reel Star Award: Tracy Tirrell, Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort
• Director’s Award for Excellence in Tourism: Dan Sullivan, GreenLinks Golf Villas at Lely Resort and Olde Marco Island Inn & Suites
An independent panel of judges selected the Paradise Coast Tourism Star award winners from the more than 100 nomination forms submitted for six categories: the Rising Star, Best Innovative Idea, Hotel Exemplary Service Award, Attraction Exemplary Service Award, Restaurant Exemplary Service Award and Hospitality Above & Beyond.
In addition, special awards are given by tourism staff members each year, including the Reel Star Award for work in support of the film industry, the Sales Star for superlative support of destination sales efforts, the Sports Star for achievement in support of sports marketing and the Sports Council of Collier County, the PR Star for work in support of the CVB’s destination public relations efforts, the Volunteer Award for support of area visitor centers and the Director’s Award for Excellence in Tourism, recognizing ongoing excellence in support of the area tourism industry.
This year’s theme — “Paradise Coast Grand Slam” — honored the major “home runs” scored in tourism results for calendar year 2013, a year that saw significant increases in number of visitors, visitor spending and economic impact; annual rooms nights and hotel occupancy; tourism jobs; and tourist tax revenue. More than 1.6 million visitors bring a total economic impact of over $1.6 billion to Collier County each year.
Jack Wert, executive director for the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) delivered a State of the Collier County Tourism Industry Briefing after the awards program, reporting on positive economic impact and a big jump in tourism jobs for the year 2013 and the first quarter of 2014.
“We have emerged as leaders in the state of Florida in terms of tourism employment growth, with 33,900 tourism and hospitality jobs in 2013 and already 1,000 more recorded during the first two months of 2014,” said Wert.