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‘Stars of the Industry’ honored at annual Tourism Conference

Tuesday, March 24, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Michelle Rahl
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  CONTACT:    Lorri Rishar


March 24, 2015         



‘Stars of the Industry’ honored at annual Tourism Conference


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The brightest and best of Michigan’s tourism industry earned honors March 23 from the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association. These examples of excellence were recognized during the “Stars of the Industry” awards dinner, a part of the annual Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism at the Amway Grand Plaza. This year’s award recipients hail from around the state, including Detroit, Lansing, Traverse City, South Haven, Grand Rapids, Dearborn, Adrian, East Lansing, Harbor Springs, Gaylord, Port Huron and Frankenmuth. Earning honors are:

Pure Michigan Lifetime Achievement Award

Larry Alexander, President and CEO, Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau

Alexander received this distinguished award for his inspiring leadership over the past 16 years of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau. During his 40-year hospitality career, he has built a reputation for innovation and excellence. Recently, he led the $280 million effort to transform the Cobo Center into a world-class venue. Through Alexander’s efforts, along with his 60- member staff, he has successfully lead Detroit's tourism industry through challenging times. Today, Detroit area hotel occupancy is at record levels, a key indicator of growth in the greater metropolitan tourism industry.


Attraction Star of the Year

            Erik Larson, Impression 5 Science Center, Lansing


Larson is the executive director of the Impression 5 Science Center and embodies its mission to facilitate learners in scientific exploration through hands-on exhibits and participatory educational programming. Since becoming executive director, he has led Impression 5 through a period of growth, nearly doubling onsite attendance, revenue generation and corporate support. Larson has managed a $1.4 million project budget within a three-year timeline to expand and improve the facility. He is also a well-respected community leader in the Lansing region, serving on the Lodging Advisory Board and Strategic Development Committee. He is the primary organizer for the Capital City Run, spearheads the Adopt-a-River clean up each spring and donates time and money to many other community programs. 


            Culinary Star of the Year

            Marc Pritchard, Park Place Hotel, Traverse City


            Pritchard was classically trained at the Birmingham College of Food, Tourism, and Creative Studies in Birmingham, England and has been in the United States for 18 years, nearly all of it at Park Place Hotel. He developed a reputation as a consistently creative chef with a passion for food, presentation and attention to detail. He enjoys the process of selecting foods, creating menus, preparing meals for a table for two or a banquet for 400. Pritchard sets very clear standards in his kitchens and creates a collaborative environment. He encourages and inspires his team, while handling long shifts, irregular hours, regular challenges and hot temperatures with good humor, professionalism and a relentless commitment to quality. In addition to his time in the kitchen, he commits time to coaching young soccer players in the area and also carves ice to support the festivities around Santa's arrival for the downtown Traverse City Association. His White Chicken Chili just won the best in category for the 12th time in the annual Downtown Traverse City Chili-Cookoff. 


            CVB Star of the Year

            Brad Van Dommelan, Traverse City Tourism, and Lisa Shanley, South Haven/Van Buren County Convention and Visitors Bureau


Van Dommelan demonstrates industry knowledge, determination, attitude and imagination. New markets including the greater Washington, D.C., and greater Chicago areas are a part of his strategic vision to increase out-of-state awareness of Michigan, specifically Traverse City for group meetings and conference business. He has personally participated in trade shows internationally, including Canada, Germany and the U.K. He has served on numerous industry boards and committees, including the Michigan Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus, West Michigan Tourist Association and on the Strategic Planning Collaboration, Cooperation & Partnerships committee. Van Dommelan led the change of             the PA 59 law to increase CVB revenues. He established the Traverse City Events Committee to provide a forum for many areas of hospitality to convene and share ideas for off-season events. He has built his team and has a balanced approach of manageable growth and personal, hands-on action. 


            Shanley has served as the CVB’s executive director since 2006. This past year, she developed and initiated a three-year marketing strategy, which included the development and funding of South Haven's own Pure Michigan marketing campaign and the expansion and implementation of a social media campaign. Shanley has increased visibility for area properties, attractions and the community through the marketing and promotion of sponsorships and events. She has demonstrated an unparalleled ability to work in collaboration and partnership with local, state, regional and national representatives, supporting travel and tourism. Shanley has participated as past president of the Michigan Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus, board member of Tourism Industry Coalition of Michigan, marketing chair for the Michigan Beach Towns Association and vice chair of the Michigan Port Collaborative. She also works closely with South Haven's museums and historical associations to promote exhibits, activities and programming. 


            Food and Beverage Star of the Year

            Brian Townsend, Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, Grand Rapids


            Townsend is the first shift supervisor and shows exemplary leadership skills with the staff. He holds himself, as well as the staff, accountable, to make sure guests are provided with the best experience. He is unwavering in his commitment to the hotel, making sure to engage with guests who look like they need assistance and touches base with clients to make sure they have everything they need. He is responsible for 42 meeting rooms, ball rooms and public spaces as well as off-premise catering events, giving 110% daily.


            Good Earth Keeping Award

            William Woodall, JW Marriott Grand Rapids


            Woodall is the assistant director of engineering. He is a very hardworking team player and goes out of his way for others in his team. His true passion is electrical and mechanical systems. He compiled information to show the benefits of upgrading the equipment and the payback in such projects. He has proven in several different ways that there are upgrades and changes that the hotel can make to save energy and cut costs. Bill also has outlined a preventative maintenance program to make everyone’s job in the department easier. He has led an interesting life, having previously served in Vietnam with the Special Forces unit and worked at large manufacturing companies in Michigan. 


            Guest Relations Star of the Year

            Robert George, The Dearborn Inn, A Marriott Hotel


            George is the senior event manager and has been with the Dearborn Inn for 15 years. His satisfaction ratings were 13 points higher than Marriott's brand average in 2014. He leaves no detail overlooked as he places special touches into each event. George is constantly engaged with customers and accessible to associates prior to and during his events. 


            Operations Star of the Year

            Ken Kwiatkowski, Adrian Holiday Inn Express


            Kwiatkowski has great commitment to his job. He has a sharp eye for detail and works diligently to complete tasks. He has helped the hotel save money to ensure revenues flow through to profit. Kwiatkowski has a great focus on customers and always greets guests with a warm and friendly smile. While the hotel went through large renovations in 2014, he was involved in every phase. He has distinguished himself as a leader in the property and someone that can be counted on to do the right thing at all times. Kwiatkowski was awarded the Associate of the Quarter and won the Associate of the Year award.


            Outstanding Student Star of the Year

            Ryan Hemingsen, Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center of Michigan State University, East Lansing


            Hemingsen is a part of the rooms division at Kellogg. He is committed, even coming back to campus early from summer vacation. He assists in training his peers at the front desk. Hemingsen has since been promoted to housekeeping management. He was chosen for the "Catch of the Quarter," recognizing outstanding hotel employees. He is also a research assistant at Michigan State University, working under MiRan Kim. 


            Room Attendant of the Year

            Misty Kruzel, Boyne Highlands Resort, Harbor Springs


            Kruzel has been working with Boyne Highlands for 16 years. She is excellent at inspecting hotel rooms and is a very efficient and respected manager. She is always willing to pitch in and help get rooms clean when things are busy. She helps interns without cars work out schedules so they can go to the grocery store, recreational activities and more. Kruzel makes everyone around her work better. 



            Sales and Marketing Star of the Year

            Samantha Cuppen, Double Tree by Hilton-Port Huron


            While the hotel looked to fill the role of sales manager, Cuppen was working both shifts with a double workload. She shows great patience and knowledge. She assists in training and gives valuable insight. Cuppen is diligent with emails and voicemails. She has brought Keihin and Prime Health Care for 2015. She is associated with Blue Water Young Professionals, a group working to enhance the Blue Water Area. She has a great ability to interact with guests and stay calm under pressure. 


            Seasonal Operator of the Year

            Jim McGuigan, Treetops Resort, Gaylord


            McGuigan is the PGA head golf professional taking care of an 81-hole golf operation, and the ski operations manager running the 23-run ski operation. He has worked up the ranks at Treetops by showing unconditional loyalty to the property, continually striving to learn more and expecting results and respect from those he oversees. He has a tireless work ethic and is present in the forefront of the operation in both seasons whenever he needs to be. He is constantly thinking of ideas on how to improve. McGuigan earns respect of his staff and continues to educate himself on how to become a better manager. A few years ago, Treetops began an intensive training program where he was selected as the only non-director to teach a program. Golf and ski shop sales and            customer satisfaction have increased significantly under his leadership.


            Hotelier of the Year

            Judith Zehnder Keller, Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn Lodge


            Judy Zehnder Keller is the president and founder of the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn Lodge. From its start, she has designed, developed and lead the Lodge’s seven-acre facility. Her parents, William “Tiny” and Dorothy Zehnder, opened the original Bavarian Inn Restaurant over 60 years ago. In 1985, she began its expansion. This family-owned            and run business demonstrates their mutual love for the town and each other as one of their main keys to success. 



The Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association represents hundreds of hotels, motels, resorts, and bed and breakfasts that comprise more than 50,000 guest rooms throughout Michigan. MLTA is the only statewide trade association advocating for the state’s lodging and tourism industries.

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