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Top Hotels & Employees Announced; Awards Mark Employee Leadership, Community Service

Washington, D.C. – May 19, 2016 — The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) today announced the winners of its most prestigious prize: The Stars of the Industry Awards, honoring the nation’s top employees and properties for their outstanding accomplishments, service, and leadership in the hospitality and lodging industry.

This year’s awards have gone to employees who have all performed at the highest level of excellence, showing superior leadership, dedication and most importantly, a passion for service, whether they are veterans in the industry or just starting long, promising careers. Host of the Travel Channel's hotel turnaround show Hotel Impossible, Anthony Melchiorri, recognized honorees during a ceremony at the Kennedy Caucus Room in the Senator Office Building on Capitol Hill. The winners were chosen from nine categories.  

“These men and women represent the outstanding talent, dedication and service that make both the hospitality industry and the hotel experience so unique,” said Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of the American Hotel and Lodging Association. “The stories of each hotel professional are truly special, and it is our privilege to celebrate their accomplishments – because their triumphs and stories define who we are as an industry. Whether a 25-year veteran whose leadership inspires colleagues and the community, or a dedicated newcomer whose drive and talent sees her promoted in rapid succession, the hotel industry welcomes hardworking professionals and fosters an environment that allows them to receive the training and resources they need to move up the ranks and establish life-long careers.”

The honorees were chosen among a talented pool of more than 400 nominees nationwide. Judges included Lynne Dougherty, Hospitality Industry & Franchise Business executive; Gerry Chase, president and COO of New Castle Hotels & Resorts; Terri Haack, president of Terranea Resort; Karen DiFulgo, senior vice president of Human Resources at Benchmark Hospitality; Minaz Abji, executive vice president of Asset Management at Host Hotels & Resorts; and Jim Donivan, director of national accounts with the Wall Street Journal, an important partner to our industry.

This year’s AH&LA Stars of the Industry are:

Outstanding Lodging Employee of the Year: Chris Woodrow is the Sales Manager of the Riverwind Hotel in Norman, Oklahoma who started his career as a bellman, and worked his way up to front desk agent, then as nightly front desk supervisor to Sales Manager in just four short years. Chris has never ceased to rise to a challenge and perform with a superior level of professionalism, work ethic, dedication and problem solving skills. His legendary service to groups and guests has resulted in an array of positive reviews, guest comment cards and handwritten letters praising the level of service they received from him. He is also a natural leader, values team work and exemplifies the passion for hospitality. He has even been dubbed “hero of the day” and is a rising star in this industry.

Outstanding General Manager of the Year, Small Property: Anna Marie Presutti is the General Manager at the Hotel Nikko San Francisco. Starting her career wearing “mickey mouse” ears in Orlando, Anna Maria has 28 years of experience, and is no stranger to receiving prestigious honors, having won numerous ones prior to this. As a leader in community service projects, a mentor to women, a supporter in educational opportunities for our next generation, and a savvy business negotiator, there’s no doubt that Anna Marie's leadership, vision and character are shining examples for the hotel, across the hospitality, and beyond.

Outstanding General Manager of the Year, Large Property: Jack Miller is the General Manager at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in Scottsdale, Arizona. Jack’s success stems from his vision, passion and tenacity. His foresight has inspired accomplishments ranging from reviving the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess amid the worst recession in decades, and introducing signature events that encompass a strong sense of community, to funding new projects that attract new business. He has encouraged a sense of unity among the hotel and tourism industry. Throughout his 25-years in the industry, Jack has earned the AAA Five Diamond for Fairmont Scottsdale Princess for the 25th consecutive year and raised the guest satisfaction rating on TripAdvisor from #29 to #5 in just two years.

Outstanding Property of the Year, Small Property: The Radisson Hotel Seattle Airport has gone above and beyond the definition of hospitality to serve their guests every day. The team truly has immersed themselves in the spirit of service and community. The hotel has supported several charity projects, from addressing sex trafficking and helping victims begin a new life, partnering with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, and celebrating the lives of children who have been diagnosed with life-threatening or chronic illnesses, to getting involved in Responsible Business to improve the hotel’s ecological footprint. Their impact on the community knows no bounds.

Outstanding Property of the Year, Large Property: The W San Francisco, in San Francisco, California is a true champion for its sustainability practices and community service engagement, and has been a leader in engaging with the Bay Area and protecting the environment by implementing new ways to reduce its carbon footprint. In fact, it was the first hotel in North America to receive a LEED Platinum certification – the highest level of LEED certification available. The W San Francisco also values community partnerships to support the area, including helping restore the Bay area's natural habitat, supporting charities to provide services to underserved women and children, and collecting donations to fund breast cancer research. In fact, in the last six years, the property has raised over $25,000 benefiting the Susan G. Komen foundation. The hotel has also initiated a series named "W Inspire," where influential female community leaders speak at the hotel, serving as role models for the hotel's associates and highlighting important issues that engage employees and community members alike.

AHLEI Lamp of Knowledge for Outstanding Workforce Partner: Thomas Penny is the General Manager of the Courtyard Marriott Convention Center, in Washington, D.C. whose work as a managing member with Progressive Partners, LLC, has brought numerous opportunities to disadvantaged populations in the Washington, D.C.- area providing them a path toward careers in the hotel industry. Through his leadership at efforts at Progressive Partners, hundreds of District residents, including returning citizens, are employed in hotels with access to healthcare and retirement benefits. These programs use AHLEI’s Skills, Tasks, and Results Training (START) curriculum to train and certify new employees, giving them marketable skills and proof of competency as they enter the workforce.

Women in Lodging Leader of the Year: Deborah Croce is the Director of Human Resources for The Ritz-Carlton New York Central Park. Responsible for staffing talented individuals while ensuring they are engaged and constantly growing, Deborah is charged with building strong relationships, and shepherding a sense of community. Her compassion, positive energy, focus, and commitment to the employees at the Ritz-Carlton New York Central Park contribute every day to the success of the hotel. Not only has she promoted community service initiatives and volunteer programs, but she has also developed networking opportunities, mentoring programs, and an internship program to serve as a pipeline for future talent.

Stevan Porter Emerging Hospitality Leader: Jennifer Yang is the Director of Reservations at the Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. In eight years, quickly moving up the ranks, Jennifer has embraced the core values necessary to grow and succeed in the hospitality industry. It is fitting that Jennifer has received this honor, which is named after one of the industry's most beloved hoteliers, given her leadership, and dedication to guest service and exceptional results, coupled with her fresh perspectives and problem solving capabilities. She has earned the respect of her colleagues and superiors as a true emerging hospitality leader.

AH&LA Student Chapter of the Year: Cornell University in Ithaca, New York has since seen tremendous growth in professional development, membership and networking opportunities in just three years since it was established. The chapter has grown from 32 members to just about 120 and has succeeded in coveting opportunities to help best prepare students for the future given that building relationships is the cornerstone of the hospitality industry. 

About AH&LA

Serving the hospitality industry for more than a century, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) is the sole national association representing all segments of the 1.9 million-employee U.S. lodging industry, including hotel owners, REITs, chains, franchisees, management companies, independent properties, bed and breakfasts, state hotel associations, and industry suppliers. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., AH&LA provides focused advocacy, communications support, and educational resources for an industry of more than 53,000 properties generating $176 billion in annual sales from 5 million guestrooms.

Contact: Katie Longo

klongo@ahla.com

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