At todayâ€™s American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) Stars of the Industry Awards breakfast, hotel employees were honored for their outstanding accomplishments, service, and leadership in the 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.
Winning Outstanding Lodging Employee of the Year, Small Property is Mark Catron, a maintenance engineer at the Holiday Inn Elmira Riverview in Albany, New York. He has been on staff for 30 years, and his outstanding dedication has resulted in him having been selected employee of the year for the last two years. He makes it his business to talk with every guest and do what he can to make sure their stay is perfect, and he makes a point of getting to know the hotelâ€™s regular guests. In addition to being a major contributor to three renovations, he also regularly assists housekeepers with stripping the beds, helps guests with luggage, and lends a hand at the hotelâ€™s special events.
Winning Outstanding Lodging Employee of the Year, Medium Property is Bruce Tate, an engineer at Hilton Garden Inn Hamilton Place in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He consistently receives compliments from guests, as well as recognition from employees. He was featured on Hilton Worldwideâ€™s â€œCatch Me at My Bestâ€ program on the companyâ€™s Website. He is known to ask each guest he comes in contact with how their room is and what could be done to make their stay better. He helps in every department, from answering phone, taking reservations, cleaning guestrooms, helping guests with luggage, and assisting with meeting room sales and setup.
Winning Outstanding Lodging Employee of the Year, Large Property is Andre Allen, a security officer at the Westin Peachtree Plaza in Atlanta, Georgia. He joined the hotel in 2011 as a restaurant greeter before becoming a member of the security team in 2012, while pursuing a degree in criminal justice at Georgia State University. He has become a cornerstone of the team due to his positive attitude and efforts to make personal connections with guests.
The winner of Outstanding Manager of the Year, Small Property is Shelly Marshall, banquet manager at the Holiday Inn Express Horseheads in Horseheads, New York. Shelly has worked at the hotel for more than 20 years and is responsible for managing the operations of the breakfast room, and banquets and meetings. Leading by example, she has trained her staff to make sure guests are the top priority and to anticipate needs and exceed expectations. The hotel is running almost a 90 over all breakfast scores, which runs more than five points higher than the brand average.
The winner of the Outstanding Manager of the Year, Medium Property award is Aaron Khlaywichian, the banquet director at the Doubletree by Hilton â€“ Denver Stapleton North, in Denver, Colorado. The hotel has a longstanding CARE Culture tradition that empowers all team members to provide special comforts and acts of kindness. Aaron exceeds guestsâ€™ expectations with award-winning service, but he exceeds everyoneâ€™s expectations by delivering the little things that make the biggest impact on guests. The proof â€“ his department has impacted the hotelâ€™s satisfaction scores by more than 20 points.
The winner of Outstanding Manager of the Year, Large Property is Thomas Williams, director of guest services at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in Scottsdale, Arizona. Thomas has welcomed guests to the hotel for the past 21 years. He has put several procedures in place to improve guest arrival and departure experiences, including improving the safety and quality of guest transportation. The hotel receives countless weekly comment cards that speak to his unique ability to personalize each guest experience and turn their stays into memorable experiences. Under his leadership, his department has enjoyed the lowest turnover rate.
Winning Outstanding General Manager of the Year, Small Property is Eric Ridley at the Hilton Garden Inn Auburn in Auburn, New York. The hotel was built a year ago to fulfill a very specific goal â€“ to revitalize the city of Auburn. Under Ericâ€™s management, the hotel has received many regional recognitions based on guest surveys, including highest loyalty, highest overall service, highest guestroom cleanliness, lowest problems experienced, and highest problem resolution. He was recognized by the County Convention & Visitors Bureaus as the Outstanding Tourism Partner for 2013.
The winner of the Outstanding General Manager of the Year, Medium Property is Rich Friedman at the DoubleTree by Hilton Tarrytown in Tarrytown, New York. Since joining the hotel in 2007, he has led his team from its grand re-opening to the hotel becoming one of the most successful in Westchester County. In 2011, tragedy struck the DoubleTree family with the sudden death of team member Bryan Johnson. As his mentor, Rich encouraged Bryan to pursue his hospitality management degree, so in honor of his memory Rich started the Bryan Johnson Hospitality Scholarship, which was recently awarded to its second recipient. In addition, examples of his philanthropic work range from hosting a yearly free September 11th barbeque for all first responders to helping a local elementary school by organizing the back to school supply drive and donating Kindle Fires to top students to encourage academic achievement.
Winning Outstanding General Manager of the Year, Large Property is Doug Ridge at the Orlando World Center Marriott in Orlando, Florida. Dougâ€™s hospitality career began with Marriott International as a housekeeping manager at Marriottâ€™s Tan-Tar-A Resort in May 1985. Following several promotions and moves, in November 2008, Doug was promoted to the general manager of the Orlando World Center Marriott, the largest full-service Marriott in the world. Through his leadership, the hotel has earned scores of 80 percent in group, associate engagement, and satisfaction scores. Not only does he make extraordinary contributions daily in his role as GM, but he also has taken a strong leadership role in industry and community organizations. Additionally, he is a recent recipient of the prestigious Alice S. Marriott Award for Community Service.
The winner of Women in Lodging Connect Leader of the Year is Dena Jones, regional manager of the Fairfield Inn & Suites â€“ Edmond in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Dena is one of the founding members of the O-K Chapter of Women in Lodging. She has sponsored and hosted several state WIL events and regularly encourages women to get actively involved. She was instrumental in leading a recent initiative to provide more than 25 female high school students with new or gently used professional clothing. The students arrived early to select outfits, tour one of Denaâ€™s properties, and participate in a networking reception.
The winner of the Stevan Porter Emerging Hospitality Leader award, named for one of the industryâ€™s most beloved hoteliers, is Scott Copeland with The James Chicago Hotel in Chicago, Illinois. A doorman since the opening of the hotel, he does not stand out simply because he is tall, but because of his genuine hospitality to everyone. He was recently promoted to his first supervisory position as lobby coordinator where he is responsible for the bellmen and doormen, and he has shown himself to be a patient and knowledgeable leader. Scott also is vice chair of the AH&LA Under 30 Gateway Committee and chair of the Illinois Gateway Chapter.
Winning this yearâ€™s AH&LA Student Member of the Year award is Christopher Stewart, a senior at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. While at Johnson & Wales, Chris has served as president of the AH&LA Student Chapter and helped organize career-focused events and fairs, including set-up, customer service, and event function and flow. Chris has interned at both a golf resort in Anguilla and a casino in Connecticut. In May, Chris will be graduating with a bachelorâ€™s in science degree in Hotel & Lodging Management with a triple concentration in Food & Beverage Management, Sales & Marketing Management, and Spanish. He is planning to pursue a masterâ€™s in business administration with a concentration in hospitality.
Winning this yearâ€™s award for AH&LA Student Chapter of the Year is Temple University in Philadelphia. With more than 30 members, the chapter has focused on raising money for events, including sending two students to AH&LAâ€™s Legislative Action Summit and 16 students to IHMRS. They also provided members with opportunities to grow professionally by hosting local back-of-the-house tours and guest speakers, including 2013 AH&LA Chair Ron Vlasic. In addition, students supported community events, including the food and beverage areas of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day and the Ugly Sweater Run. Rebecca Krick and Parker Schroeder are accepting on behalf of the university.
Many of AH&LAâ€™s partner state associations choose their own employee award winners, which are submitted to the association for national judging. This yearâ€™s national judges are Glenn Haussman, Hotel Interactive; Sean Downey, Lodging Magazine; Dennis Nessler, Hotel Business; Ron Vlasic, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants; Thea Sargent, Disneyâ€™s Contemporary Resort; and Terri Haack, Terranea Resort.
The awards ceremony was sponsored by American Express, Cornell University, HCareers, HD Supply, and Heartland Payment Systems.