Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority Honors Hospitality and Tourism Community at Annual Partners in Tourism Awards

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Jan. 26, 2023) – The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA) announced the winners of the 16th Annual Partners in Tourism Awards, held at the Charlotte Convention Center yesterday and sponsored by Carowinds. With an estimated 475 representatives from Charlotte’s tourism and hospitality industry in attendance, the event honored and recognized individuals and businesses that have shown resilience, promoted growth and supported the continued recovery of the region’s $6 billion visitor economy.

Last year saw significant industry gains as well as several historic milestones. Hotel demand in Uptown attributed to leisure travel was up 130 percent over pre-pandemic figures; group or convention-related travel was up 154 percent. Sixteen of the top 20 nights in hotel rooms sold in the history of Mecklenburg County occurred in 2022. The county also recorded the highest annual total hotel revenue in its history at $887 million, surpassing the prior record in 2019 by nearly $70 million.

“It is a privilege to recognize and celebrate the partners who have contributed greatly to the success of Charlotte’s visitor economy over the last year,” said Tom Murray, Chief Executive Officer of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. “Every aspect of the tourism and hospitality community was impacted by the pandemic and it’s remarkable to see such resiliency within our community. The individuals and organizations honored today exemplify leadership and have a deep passion for providing exceptional experiences.”

The 2022 Partners in Tourism Award winners are:

  • Local Champion
    Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Sixth District
  • Small Business of the Year
    Live Events Media Group
  • Queen City Amplifier
    Charlotte Football Club
  • Young Professional
    Katie Kathman, Sales & Events Manager at Steak 48
  • Unsung Hero
    Billie Campbell, Dual Assistant Chief Engineer at Hilton Garden Inn & Hampton Inn Charlotte Uptown
    Lydia Price, Banquet Captain at The Duke Mansion
    Renee Wade, Group Housing Coordinator at The Westin Charlotte
  • Outstanding Ambassador
    Wanda Grady, Omelet Chef at Embassy Suites Charlotte Uptown
    J’Nequa Mathis, Patient Service Coordinator at Atrium Health Global Healthcare Services
  • Hospitality Professional of the Year
    Bryan Paschal, President & Owner at Paschal Events
  • Destination Impact Award
    Tom Gabbard, CEO of Blumenthal Performing Arts

Murray presented Gabbard with the Destination Impact Award saying, “I’m grateful for his leadership, vision and passion for the Queen City and the hospitality industry. Charlotte’s nonprofit arts and cultural community is a vital component to our success as a leisure destination and the strength of the visitor economy.”

The event also showcased the reintroduction of the 28-foot long “CHARLOTTE” fabricated letters that originally welcomed spectators to the Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow Club last year. In the new iteration -- which drew inspiration from the June 2020 ‘Black Lives Matter’ mural on South Tryon Street in Uptown -- each CHARLOTTE letter was designed by a team of artists from nine different arts and cultural groups from across the county. The CRVA engaged local arts advocacy group Charlotte is Creative for the commissioned initiative. More than 15 artists worked on the letters, drawing inspiration from CRVA’s four key brand themes of arts and culture, diversity and inclusion, outdoor recreation and adventure and culinary.

The organizations who designed each letter included:

The Partners in Tourism Awards were supported by Carowinds, along with other sponsors Charlotte Motor Speedway (Networking); Encore, REDLEE and Kimpton Tryon Park (Leaders of Tomorrow); and Atrium Health Global Services, Truliant Federal Credit Union and Upshift (Supporting).

Winners were nominated by CRVA Partners and employees. Award descriptions include:

  • Local Champion – A Local Champion is an individual, or in this case- a group of individuals- who live and work in the Carolinas and have been instrumental in collaborating with the CRVA and Visit Charlotte Sales and Services teams to bring meetings, conventions, and sporting events to the city. Had it not been for their diligence and hard work, large events may not have come our way.
  • Small Business of the Year – Awarded to a business with fewer than 75 employees and not part of a franchise, for their demonstrated growth in the Charlotte community and impact on the city’s reputation. Consistently contributes time and resources to make Charlotte a great place to visit and has been in business for more than three consecutive years.
  • Queen City Amplifier – Awarded to businesses for noteworthy contributions in advancing travel and tourism in the Charlotte area. Winners believe in generating a positive perception for our region and through their role in supporting tourism, ensured powerful visitor spending efforts that contributed to an economic impact. Award recognizes those well-deserving businesses from different categories of hospitality, including accommodations, attractions, nightlife & entertainment, restaurants, retail and service providers.
  • Young Professional – Awarded to an up-and-coming young professional in the tourism industry who has demonstrated qualities of leadership, entrepreneurship, and creativity. Individual must be under 35 years old.
  • Unsung Hero – Awarded to an individual who may not always be seen. This person often serves in the back-of-the-house and their hard work and commitment can be felt everywhere within the business. Needs are met, visions are exquisitely executed, and every void is fulfilled because of this person’s touch and attention. They may work behind the scenes and a visitor may never know this person’s name, but without him/her/they, their experience wouldn’t be the same.
  • Outstanding Ambassador – Awarded to an individual who could be considered the face of outstanding customer service and typically works at the front-of-the-house. He/She/They are committed to excellence in hospitality and leaves a memorable impression with whoever they serve.
  • Hospitality Professional of the Year – The Hospitality Professional of the Year is a respected leader. He/She/They is an advocate for the advancement of the hospitality industry and is highly respected among fellow employees, business associates, and customers. This award recipient is engaged in the community and contributes to the overall positive image of the hospitality industry.
  • Destination Impact Award – The Destination Impact Award goes to an individual who has the unique ability to guide and inspire others, builds strong relationships that support a high level of trust and credibility which in turn contributes to the overall success of the visitor economy. This person has made a significant impact in our region by providing exposure, jobs and opportunities for our citizens, and/or countless hours of entertainment for both visitors and residents.

Select photos from the Partners in Tourism Awards can be found here.