LEXINGTON, Ky. –  VisitLEX today announced the 12 Lexington Hospitality Award winners for 2018 during an awards luncheon at the Keene Barn at Keeneland Race Course. The Kentucky tourism and travel industry contributed more than $15 billion to the state’s economy in 2017 and more than $3.3 billion in wages to Kentucky workers – an increase of $65 million from 2016 statewide wages.  

The Lexington Hospitality Awards honors front-line, non-managerial staff and volunteers in the tourism industry who have demonstrated exceptional service.  The awards also honor front-line workers throughout the Bluegrass Region, where tourism employs more than 27,500 people and contributes $3.2 billion to the region’s economy through total expenditures.

Mary Quinn Ramer, president of VisitLEX stated: “Positive interaction with visitors helps ensure everyone feels welcome in our destination, help create memorable experiences and encourage repeat visitation. We are fortunate to have these unsung heroes as part of our hospitality community!”

The 2018 winners are:

  • Gladys Shrout, Director of Tourism and Carlisle/Nicholas Country Tourism Chair, who led the effort to restore the Old Jailer’s Home;
  • Michael Burwell, part of the maintenance team at Waveland who is often the first face guests see and who always goes out of his way to make guests feel at home;
  • Jim McKenzie, an interpreter at Shaker Village for six years who has an uncanny knowledge of village history often providing a positive first impression for guests while also helping to train new employees;
  • Kevin Lay; a stallion groom at Claiborne Farm who provides guests with authentic experiences and whose passion for the horses and the history of the farm is often noted by visitors;
  • Tre'Veon Diuguid, part of the valet team at Hyatt Regency who makes a point of knowing the schedules of repeat business travelers and has their vehicles pulled out front, warm and waiting without having to be notified;
  • Ernesto Po, a cook at the Griffin Gate Marriott Resort & Spa for 33 years who delights and entertains guests with his bright smiling face at the fresh omelet bar in the morning and creates specialized pasta dishes at the station during lunch;
  • Arjelia Farrell, a guest services representative at the Holiday Inn Express - Downtown Area/Keeneland who consistently goes above and beyond the call of duty and is a friendly and energetic representative of our city;
  • Todd Starns, the evening concierge at the Marriott Griffin Gate Resort and spa for four years who always remembers guests names and makes excellent recommendations for dining and entertainment options to ensures the comfort of repeat guests;
  • Susana Valdivia, a housekeeper at Holiday Inn Express - Downtown Area/Keeneland for nearly a decade where her joyful spirit lifts up all the guests she engages as well as her colleagues;
  • Kristin Shenk, marketing coordinator for Red State BBQ who is an incredible ambassador not only for the restaurant, but also for Central Kentucky, and the state of Kentucky. Her friendly demeanor often lands her in selfies with customers which can be seen throughout our Facebook page;
  • Seneca Holden, ambassador of joy at Crank & Boom Craft Ice Cream, who’s smile, dreads and distinctive laugh light up our Manchester location on a daily basis;
  • Tina Thompson, a dining room server who has been part of the Keeneland Hospitality Team for more than 17 years. Throughout her tenure, Tina has made people feel as though they were the most important person on the track.

VisitLEX, BTMA and BHA celebrate these front line workers as integral members of the Bluegrass travel and tourism community on the heels of National Tourism Week which was held May 6-12, 2018. National Tourism Week is an annual celebration when travel and tourism professionals across the country unite to celebrate the value travel holds for our economy, businesses and personal well-being.