37th Annual Tourism Awards highlighted recent three-day annual summit in College Park
COLLEGE PARK, MD – The annual Maryland Tourism Awards Ceremony highlighted the 37th Annual Maryland Tourism & Travel Summit, held last week at the newly opened The Hotel at The University of Maryland. The summit, sponsored and managed by the Maryland Tourism Coalition (MTC), drew together hundreds of the state’s top tourism industry professionals for the latest discussions on tourism trends and strategy for increasing visitation and spending in Maryland.
Marci Ross, a 20-year employee of the Maryland Office of Tourism and resident of Baltimore City, won the coveted Tourism Person of the Year award. Marci began her long career in tourism as a hostess at the former Baltimore Chart House restaurant in 1985. She eventually worked her way up to sales and marketing manager for the popular restaurant. She held the same position at the company’s Annapolis and Old Town Alexandra locations. In January 1997, the Maryland Office of Tourism brought her on board a resources development manager. In 2005, she was promoted to assistant director of Tourism Development, the job she still holds. In addition to her many duties, she manages the state’s Welcome Centers Program, call center, and outreach efforts. She has received many other industry awards throughout her career.
“Maryland is fortunate to have many award-winning quality tourism professionals. Each year, the selection of this award gets tougher, but Marci Ross has worked diligently for two decades to propel Maryland forward in all aspects of the tourism industry,” said MTC Chair Michael Haynie. “As one of the hardest-working, behind-the-scenes workers, Marci’s achievements will long outlive her tenure to the public. From her work on huge endeavors like the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center in Cambridge to pushing for tourist attraction signage along Maryland’s highways in every corner of our state, she has a can-do spirit and is always seeks positive resolutions to tourism challenges.”
MTC also presented Dr. Leonard Berger of Ocean City with the MTC Legacy Award. Dr. Berger, owner and operator of the Clarion Resort Fountainebleu Hotel, was honored for his 35-year, post retirement as a physician, career in hospitality. Dr. Berger was instrumental in the creation of the Maryland Tourism Development Board and served as its first chair in 1998. His pioneering commitment to pet-friendly travel and his additional philanthropy in the beach community was noted.
The full list of award winners is as follows:
MARYLAND TOURISM COALITION AWARDS
- Best Product or Event (Small) – Garrett County Chamber of Commerce – Celebration of the 5th Anniversary of the Mountain Maryland Getaway to the West Heritage Area effort.
- Best Product or Event (Medium) – Worcester County Office of Tourism – The Beach & Beyond Campaign – The award honored a 30-second video featuring a family enjoying the many activities families can do down the ocean. The video was widely viewed on social media and traditional media.
- Best Product or Event (Large) – Visit Hagerstown & City of Hagerstown – The Hagerstown Cultural Trail, which was designed over a former railroad system, and is dotted with public art installations, gathering places, and other amenities along the way. The trail, which connects the downtown Arts & Entertainment District with the Museum of Fine Arts in City Park, is quickly becoming a top tourist spot.
- Best Printed Promotional Material Award – Cecil County Tourism created a brochure compelling nature lovers to explore the County’s natural assets. The brochure includes trail, wildlife descriptions, paddling options, and nearby attractions through the use of gorgeous photography.
- Best Destination Guide – Queen Anne’s County Tourism and Alchemi Design & Production, LLC – The first tourism-related print piece encompassing the entire destination in more than a decade promotes specific events and attractions and was a team effort of the County’s Tourism Office, Economic Development and Kent Narrows Development Foundation.
- Best Media and Public Relations Campaign – Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Md. was honored for its strategic use of digital storytelling that successfully widened the public and media audiences for the restoration of the historic boat, the Edna Lockwood. The multi-faceted communications plan concentrated on video and social media to expand and diversify audience demographics, helping to not only preserve a National Historic Landmark, but attract more guests and members to the museum.
- Best Website – Visit Frederick – As the first stop of anyone’s visit to Frederick, Visit Frederick’s website is critically important to its marketing efforts. Visit Frederick’s site is not only easy to navigate for potential visitors, but also for business members to easily update their information about events, special offerings and more. Interactive custom maps are available to users and for the first time ever, more users landed on the website from mobile devices than desktops. The new website has seen a 21 percent increase in traffic in the past year.
- Best Use of Social Media – Carl Smith of the Prince George’s Conference & Visitors Bureau – Mr. Smith was honored for his creativity and visual appeal on the County’s tourism website, as well as the successful use of email marketing and sharing of information via social media channels. His extraordinary work is building the County’s brand and increasing visitation.
- Best Digital Campaign – Garrett County Chamber of Commerce – Visitors to the Chamber’s website can enjoy “living video scenes” of the vast outdoor activities available in Garrett County. Each site includes links to attractions, deals, a visitor’s guide and a calendar of events. County ambassadors can also take these assets on the road via virtual reality headsets with the videos to lure potential visitors.
- Cooperative Partnership Award – Shore Craft Beer, Ann Hillyer, Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association and Worcester County Tourism – This year’s award honors an innovative partnership between small businesses, local tourism offices and hotel associations that resulted in significant increases in sales for all. From the Shore Craft Beer Fest, declaring October as Shore Craft Beer Month (which led to the designation by the State of FeBREWary), Love on Tap in February, and finally Brews on the Beach in September, this effort featured sold out events and brought many new visitors to Ocean City to discover locally made craft beverages – a true expansion of culinary tourism.
- Visionary Impact Award – Presented to Melanie Purcel, Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association & Wor-Wic Community College for Ocean City’s Hospitality Boot Camp and Hospitality Supervisor Survival Kit. Tourism’s greatest asset is the thousands of employees working in tourism related industries and this effort builds the skills necessary to providing outstanding customer service. The training will continue each year with new seasonal employees. The partnership also leveraged critically needed state funds available to help elevate job skills.
- New Professional of the Year – Visit Frederick’s Melissa Muntz – In less than two years, Melissa has taken her County’s tourism office to new heights both online and in person. She led the County’s efforts to relaunch its website (see award above) and organized trainings both internally and with external business partners. She also organized a media tour of the County’s four new distilleries that resulted in nearly a dozen articles written promoting the burgeoning industry. She also created a guest blogger program to give a platform to local businesses that partner with Visit Frederick. She also launched a foodie newsletter to showcase local food and beverage outlets that had nearly 3,000 subscribers.
- Best Small Business of the Year – Turf Valley Resort – The tourism industry is driven by small businesses. After the July 2016 flood that devastated Main Street in Historic Ellicott City, Peter Mangione and his team at Turf Valley generously offered value space to retailers who were displaced during the flood. They created a marketplace that was busy during the critical holiday season and allowed business owners to make a living.
- Tourism Volunteer of the Year Award – Sarah Kurtanich of Howard County Tourism & Promotion – Sarah is well-known in the tourism community for her expertise in communications, marketing and social media. She volunteers her time to help MTC as a member of its communications committee and coordinates social media campaigns for several MTC events throughout the year.
- Audrey Davenport Hospitality Person of the Year – Marian Hrab of The Hotel at The University of Maryland in College Park, host of MTTS 2017. Marian is a trusted colleague to many of the state’s tourism professionals and can always be counted on to collaborate, mentor and offer assistance. For more than 20 years, she has transformed or launched signature hotels around Maryland. She sees the hotel as just one part of tourism’s total picture and helps make the location a contributing member of the community where it is located. She was also honored for her continued contribution to the Maryland Tourism Coalition and for hosting her third tourism summit.