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Hotels with Innovative Guest and Employee Programs Recognized - Employees Awarded for Individual Achievement in Multiple Property Sizes and Categories

Denver, Colorado, June 20, 2013 - The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) today announced the winners of the AH&LA Achievement Awards, part of the annual Stars of the Industry Awards, which honor stand-out initiatives at hotel properties.  In a ceremony held during the AH&LA Summer Summit at The Brown Palace Hotel & Spa, these awards, which have been awarded annually since 1966, distinguish individual hotels that have developed outstanding programs, events, and campaigns.  Winners were chosen in the categories of Community Service, Special Events, Guest Relations, Good Earthkeeping, Diversity, and Technology Innovation.

Also at the Stars of the Industry Awards luncheon during the Summer Summit, hotel employees were honored for their outstanding accomplishments, service, and leadership in the hospitality and lodging industry.  The awards were presented to Outstanding Lodging Employees, Managers, and General Managers in three property size categories, as well as to the winner of the Women in Lodging Connect Leader of the Year Award, the Stevan Porter Emerging Hospitality Leader of the Year Award, and the Student Member and Student Chapter of the Year. 

Employee Awards:

Winning Outstanding Lodging Employee of the Year, Small Property, is Laurie Desmarais, guest services representative, Holiday Inn Elmira Riverview.  Laurie has assisted numerous guests with emergencies or out-of-the -ordinary requests that are above and beyond the scope of her job.  In addition, she volunteers for numerous local community service organizations.  

The winner of the Outstanding Lodging Employee of the Year, Medium Property, is Olivia Fierro, front desk agent, Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North.  Olivia originally joined the staff as a pool server.  She has received countless guest experience accolades and is regularly recognized by her colleagues for outstanding service to the guests and team. 

The winner of the Outstanding Lodging Employee of the Year, Large Property, is Jim Catlett, official golf starter, Ojai Valley Inn & Spa.  For the last 45 years, Jim has provided outstanding service and, in a five-diamond culture, has an uncanny sense of remembering little details about each player.  In the area's golf community, Catlett's name is synonymous with the hotel.  He leads the golf department in guest recognition and is a leader on the team.  

The two winners of the Outstanding Manager of the Year, Small Property are Molly Mooney, guest services manager, Homewood Suites Champaign, and Mickey Wescoat, chief maintenance engineer, Days Inn & Suites Jekyll Isle Oceanfront.  

Molly is a strong leader who regularly goes beyond the scope of her job is assisting other associates and guests.  Additionally, she assists each week at a local soup kitchen.  

Mickey oversees four pools, all of the landscaping, and a staff of five. In addition, he played a pivotal role when the 50-year-old hotel recently underwent a renovation that included several rooms, meeting space, and major repairs to the exterior.  

Winning the Manager of the Year, Medium Property, is Dan Evert, chief engineer, Embassy Suites Loveland.  Dan was brought on six months before the hotel's opening to oversee the final stages of development, reviewing countless plans inspections and making every deadline in order to have the hotel open on time.  He also leads an extensive sustainability program resulting in the property composting 100 tens and recycling 81 tons, as well as donating 5,000 pounds of soap.  

Winning the Outstanding Manager of the Year, Large Property is Wayne Hirabayashi, executive chef, The Kahala Resort.  Chef Wayne is responsible for all of the culinary operations of the luxury hotel, including four restaurants, banquet and catering programs, and the hotel's in-room 24 hour food and beverage dining service.  He also serves as a mentor to students at a community college and local high schools.    

Winning the Outstanding General Manager of the Year, Small Property, is Jeffrey Fouste, Best Western PLUS Savannah Historic District.  With the hotel since 2007, Jeffrey developed a partnership with the first department to ensure fire victims have a safe place to stay after being displaced.  The company that owns the hotels rolled out a reservation shop call program and the team has scored a 100% seven times and is the only hotel in the company to do so.  To date, the hotel has had no Customer Care complaints and is ranked in the top 20% of all Best Westerns.  

The winner of the Outstanding General Manager of the Year, Medium Property, is Denise Vickerman, Ramada Spokane Airport.  Denise joined the property in 1984 and was named as general manager in 2007.  The hotel was highlighted as one of seven Spokane companies named a great place to work, and the hotel has been a top feature in the Spokane area on TripAdvisor for the past three years.  The hotel also was one of only 33 Ramada hotels to be chosen for the company's Best of 2012 awards.  

The winner of the Outstanding General Manager of the Year, Large Property, is Jeff Brown Hotel Arista, Naperville, Illinois.  Jeff joined the property in 2011, which had been open for more than three years, but had yet to turn a profit.  He created a Leadership Summit to engage the management team and an Associate Engagement Committee and Associate Development Program to link line-level employees with directors in a mentorship program.  He also launched three employee recognition programs.  He has revitalized the food & beverage area and the hotel's brand image, as well as seen an upswing in revenue and profitability and guest satisfaction scores.  

Winning the Women in Lodging Connect Leader of the Year is Marissa Edwards, Director of All Fun Things, Terranea Resort, Rancho Palos Verdes, California.  Since joining the hotel in 2009 prior to the resort opening, Marissa has been an exceptional leader to her team, many of which are young students employed at their first job.  She also is actively involved in Wings to Fly, which is a program for girls age 12-17 with a mission to promote lifelong self-esteem.  

Winning the Stevan Porter Emerging Hospitality Leader is Wes Santos, general manager, Fairfield Inn and Suites Charlotte.  Recently recognized as one of Hotel Management's 30 Under 30 Outstanding Leaders, Wes was named general manager to a low performing hotel for its year in operation.  The hotel was ranked 78 out of 176 hotels in Charlotte; under his leadership, it has moved up and is now ranked number 2.    

Winning the AH&LA Student Member of the Year award is Clare Becker, University of New Hampshire.  Clare graduated in May from UNH with a Bachelor of Science degree in Hospitality Management, cum laude, from the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics.  While at UNH, Clare was a Paul College Dean's Ambassador, Peer Advisor, University Scholar, a member of the Hospitality Honors Society, and the sole student member of the University of New Hampshire's International Hospitality Advisory Board.  

The winner of the AH&LA Student Chapter of the Year is Purdue University.  Founded in 2010, the group has grown from five members to almost 70.  The chapter has had a very busy year offering many opportunities to tour and shadow managers at some of the best hotels in Chicago and Indianapolis, including Trump Hotel & Towers and the largest JW Marriott in the country.  The group launched a AH&LA Speaker Series, inviting local industry managers to speak at meetings and classes. 

Property Awards:

Winning the Community Service - Small Property is the Miraval Resort & Spa, Tucson, Arizona.  The resort's owner, Steve Case, who founded America Online, encourages the employees to be engaged contributors to their community.  Over the past year, the hotel made a significant effort to give back to the local community through a variety of new initiatives that support local schools, animal shelters, and other non-profits.  The hotel donated more than a half-million dollars, including 75 computers and $17,000 worth of bedding and mattresses. 

Winning the Community Service - Medium Property is the Ritz-Carlton Lodge @ Reynolds Plantation, Greensboro, Georgia.  The hotel is based in counties that include some of the lowest reported incomes levels, so the hotel identified three key pillars of humanitarian work - hunger and poverty relief, the well-being of children, and environmental conservation - and corresponding groups to work in each area.  

Winning the Community Service - Large Property is the Grand Hyatt Denver.  Four local Hyatts came together for the 13th year to assemble and support the largest team of cyclists in the June Bike MS Colorado's 150-mile ride.  "Team Stay Fit at Hyatt" was comprised of 213 riders, plus 60 volunteers, all of whom were Hyatt associates, family members, or friends from across the country.  The 2012 team raised $186,000, with the cumulative total raised over the years at $836,000.  

Winning the Special Events, Ongoing, Small Property, is the Hermosa Inn, Paradise Valley, Arizona.  The property's Artist in Residence Series, now entering its ninth season, honors the Inn's artistic roots, original owner and Arizona legend, cowboy artist Alonzo "Lon" Megargee.  Held October through April of each year, the program gives guests and locals a chance to enjoy intimate evenings of fine dining and one-on-one conversation with authors and performers via a dinner series, Sunday brunch series, and art walks.  

Winning the Special Events, Ongoing, Medium Property is the W Atlanta - Buckhead.  The hotel's 3rd Annual W ThinksPINK campaign launched last September with "Cure on the Catwalk," a cocktail party and fall fashion show in support of the Pink Heals Foundation, an Atlanta-based organization that helps young breast cancer survivors.  The hotel used the kick-off party as an opportunity to announce details about the month-long campaign that included a special hotel package, a W "Drinks" PINK cocktail at Whiskey Blue Atlanta, a social media campaign and a closing "Core for a Cure" yoga event.       

The winner of the Special Events, Ongoing, Large Property is the Hyatt Regency Boston.  For two years, the hotel has partnered with Massachusetts Special Olympics to create "Over the Edge," the city's first rappelling fundraising event.  To date, it has attracted nearly 200 participants who rappel the 22-story hotel, and has raised more than $300,000. 

Winning the Special Events, One-time Only, Small Property is the Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Paradise Valley, Arizona.  The hotel hosted "escape for GOOD," a one-of-a-kind, invitation-only gathering of sports industry celebrities to benefit Athletes for Hope and UGIVE, two non-profit organizations.  In addition to developing long-term goals for the organizations and strategies, attendees participated in once-in-a-lifetime activities including a morning run with Jackie Joyner-Kersee, tennis with Andre Agassi, and entrée to a private 70th birthday celebration for Muhammad Ali.  More than 75 couples contributed more than $10 million dollars to the non-profits. 

Winning the Special Events, One-time Only, Medium Property is Boulders Resort, Carefree, Arizona.  The hotel hosted its first annual Arizona Hotel Festival in September 2012, which included live entertainment, cooking seminars, spa treatments, and honey-inspired cuisine, including locally-harvested honey, children's activities, and vacation packages.  Designed to celebrate a local Arizona food and beekeeper, more than 1,500 people attended and the event raised $26,000 for the Desert Foothills Land Trust.  

The winner of the Special Events, One-time Only, Large Property, is the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center.  The hotel's Christmas on the Potomac celebration is a 52-day event comprised of nearly a dozen themed activities, including an indoor snowfall, two million pounds of hard-carved colorful ice, train rides, and fountain shows.  Although four employees spend all year preparing, nearly every department plays a key role in creating the successful event.  The event attracted more than 300,000 visitors and significantly boosted fourth quarter revenues.   

The winner of the Guest Relations, Small Property, is the Hilton Garden Inn Savannah Airport.  The hotel created the Loyalty Royalty Program to reward returning guests, and is ranked number 29 out of 529 Hilton Garden Inns around the world.  TripAdvisor has also ranked them number one out of 107 hotels in the Savannah market.

The winner of the Guest Relations, Medium Property, is the Sofitel Washington DC Lafayette Square.  The hotel's Cousu Main - Service from the Heart program was launched to create emotion, surprise, and pleasure for each guests through attention to detail and a passion for excellence.  It mirrors the hotel's culture of service, where employees are trained and empowered to read guests and anticipate their needs.  

Winning the Guest Relations, Large Property, is The Four Seasons Boston.  The hotel created several new programs, including a Virtual Teen Amenity program exclusively for guests 13-19, a Beantown Benz Trivia game for guests utilizing the hotel's complimentary house car, and Kids Raid the Fridge, where kids can meet on the first floor in their pajamas to pick out a complimentary treat.  

Winning the Good Earthkeeping, Small Property, is the Onyx Hotel, Boston, Massachusetts.  The hotel has an Earthcare program that includes more than 160 products and practices, including recycling, water and energy savings, and guests who arrive in hybrid or electric cars are provided with a $20 credit.  The Onyx also is the first and only hotel in Boston to receive the highest rating from Green Key's Eco Rating Program.  

Winning the Good Earthkeeping, Medium Property, is the St. Julien Hotel, Boulder, Colorado.  To reduce its impact on the environment, the hotel set and achieved several goals, including minimizing waste, energy reduction, and community engagement.  The hotel implemented a comprehensive recycling program, hosted events to raise awareness, donated amenities and bedding to local charities, and reduced the amount of landfill waste by 90 percent.  

The winner of the Good Earthkeeping, Large Property, is the Seaport Hotel, Boston, Massachusetts.  The hotel's program, Seaport Saves, targets reducing its carbon footprint via guests, team members, and vendors.  The hotel features in-room conservation efforts, including 16 allergy-friendly rooms, and eco-friendly meeting venues.

The winner for the category of Prism (for Diversity), Medium Property is the Sofitel Washington DC Lafayette Square.  In order to better enhance the guest experience, the hotel launched a Chinese Business program, which includes personalized and culturally welcoming benefits and amenities for this growing group of business guests, including daily Chinese newspapers, specialty food and teas, and training sessions for ambassadors to educate employees on Chinese customs and habits.

The winner for the Prism (for Diversity), Large Property for the third consecutive year is the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina, Cambridge, Maryland.  The hotel launched two partnerships in conjunction with the diversity program, has hosted groups to learn about careers in the hotel industry, and provided six-week job shadowing experience.      

Winning the award for Technology Innovation, Small Property is the Mandarin Oriental, Boston, Massachusetts.  The hotel launched a host of innovative new offerings for guests, including two "Suite Controllers," that provide guests with a remote control system for the television and audio, lights, drapes, and heating/cooling.  Repeat guests find their room at their preferred settings, including lighting and temperature upon arrival.  

The Technology Innovation, Medium Property award goes to the Hotel Monaco, Washington, D.C.  During the last two years, the hotel has invested $2.3 million dollars in technology upgrades, including lighting, new HVAC systems, and paperless services.  

Many of AH&LA's partner state associations choose their own employee award winners, which are submitted to the association for national judging.  This year's national judges are Pat Maher, AH&LA's sustainability consultant; Glenn Haussman, editor in chief,; Patrick Maycock, editor-in-chief, HotelNewsNow; Megan Sullivan, managing editor, Lodging magazine; Stefani O'Connor, executive news editor, Hotel Business; and Vail Brown, CMHS, vice president, STR.

The Stars of the Industry awards luncheon was sponsored by Cintas and HD Supply.  For more information on AH&LA's Stars of the Industry Awards program and a full list of this year's property and employee winners, please visit

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About AH&LA

Serving the hospitality industry for more than a century, AH&LA is the sole national association representing all sectors and stakeholders in the lodging industry, including individual hotel property members, hotel companies, student and faculty members, and industry suppliers. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., AH&LA provides members with national advocacy on Capitol Hill, public relations and image management, education, research and information, and other value-added services to provide bottom line savings and ensure a positive business climate for the lodging industry. Partner state associations provide local representation and additional cost-saving benefits to members.

Contact: Kathryn Potter

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