2018 Honor of Distinction & Category Winners Stories
HONOR OF DISTINCTION WINNER: DOMINGO NIEVES, Sandalfoot Condominiums
Why the 2018 Honor of Distinction winner’s consistent professionalism, focused dedication to the guest experience, and tireless work ethic was so incredible, received from several nominators:
Accommodations Category Winner: RODNEY SASHER, Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina
Attractions Category Winner: ANNE FALCONE & RHETT STANBERRY, Everglades Day Safari
Restaurant Category Winner: MICHELLE WYATT, Hampton Inn & Suites Fort Myers-Estero
“My nominee has been with us for the past year and goes above and beyond the responsibilities of her job every day to ensure that she leaves an impact on our guest’s experiences…and boy does she leave an impact! She gets personally involved with a few guests every day by showing them local places to eat or visit and even goes as far as setting up and arranging plans for them. But here is the real kicker—in March we had a fire and gas leak before 7 am. We only had two people on site at the time the fire started, my nominee and our night auditor. When I arrived in response to the alarm, our night auditor had evacuated the building, per protocol, but my nominee had gone up to each floor banging on our guests’ doors to ensure the hotel was fully evacuated. Her actions were heroic. In the face of danger, she leaped into action to make sure our guests were safe. We then headed to the parking lot once all the guests were evacuated. Despite the gas leak, the fire department allowed us to reenter the building to grab coffee and other food items for our cold and hungry guests outside. My nominee continued her ‘normal’ job serving our guests from the bed of our truck. She was truly amazing.”
Transportation Category Winner: MIKE BURNLEY, MBA Airport Transportation
“I received a call from my nominee explaining that at least ten flights from last night had been diverted to other airports around the state and that the bussed passengers would begin arriving very early in the morning. I needed to be ready for 250-500 passengers who might need alternate transportation. When I arrived and asked how many taxi’s might be needed, my nominee explained we wouldn’t need many and said, ‘I got this, don’t worry’. The first bus arrived at 5 am and the weary passengers started asking for taxi service. As I directed them to my nominee, he was on the phone with transportation providers rounding up all cars available. He greeted each passenger with a smile and explained that he would be taking care of them and cars would be arriving momentarily. He joked and asked if families minded sharing a ride with other families as he filled vehicles with strangers who were going to destinations close to each other to maximize his resources. The next bus and the next bus and the next bus arrived, 5 in all. By the time he finished assisting everyone he had orchestrated some 35 taxi rides and helped about 175 tired, exhausted travelers to get to their final destination. By the way, he arrived at 3 am to start preparing for this challenge. His actions to take ownership of this task and his friendly smile made a bad situation into an outstanding example of guest service that went well beyond expectations.”
Other Services/Businesses Category Winner: MARIE DREESSEN and SHEILA SIMPSON, Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber Of Commerce
“I received a handwritten note of thanks for going above and beyond the call. A couple were biking together on a tandem bike. They fell near where my nominee worked and came in to get a band-aid. The lady’s finger didn’t look good, so my nominee bandaged her finger to stop the bleeding. Because she had a nursing background, she suggested they go to the walk-in medical center, but all they had was the bike. My second nominee offered to drive them there, and then waited while they were seen by the doctor, who told them they needed to go to the ER off-island. So my nominee drove them to where they were staying and made certain they had directions to get to Bass Road. I am so proud of my two nominees for their efforts as our representatives. And, by the way, the lady’s finger was broken in three places, required stitching, and a splint!
Good Samaritan Category Winner: DESIREE ATKINSON, Bubba’s Roadhouse & Saloon
It’s always wonderful to hear about the many good things that tourism professionals do to help others, like this poignant story:
“One Friday afternoon,” the nominator said, “my nominee was heading to work when she heard an auto accident happen close by her. Putting her personal safety aside, she rushed to the aid of an injured motorcyclist. She quickly directed others to call 911 and to get her towels and other supplies, all while never leaving the side of the severely injured person. She tried to stop the bleeding while giving comfort and aid to the dying man. While she was unable to save his life, she was able to hold his hand in his final moments while remaining calm and composed during this very intense situation.”
Best Tourism Boss: AARON ALGER, General Manager, Drury Inn & Suites Ft. Myers
It’s hard to pick one nominee out of so many that represents the Best of the Best when it comes to bosses. Great leadership, sound judgment, unquestionable support of their team—these are just a few of the traits that kept rising to the top with this winner.
Nominations came in about many, many good bosses -- from housekeeping supervisors to front desk managers to general managers and more -- that we were reminded once again that these leaders are exemplary role models and mentors to our front line. They model good service and ‘walk the walk’ with their teams. They back them up, teach, cover for them, lead by example, listen well, guide and protect, share the praise and take the heat if something goes wrong. They help all of you become leaders in your fields so that you keep growing within your organization, so that one day you find YOU are helping those coming up behind YOU.
That’s what good leaders do. Nurture, encourage, lead by example, guide, and practice the true meaning of servant leadership. At the discretion of the VCB based on these attributes, nominations, and more, the Best Tourism Boss winner is chosen and personifies these essential qualities.
Here’s a few good reasons about why this year’s winner was chosen—
Why this year’s Best Tourism Boss winner was chosen—
Hurricane Hero Category Winner: MARIO RAMIREZ, Holiday Inn Express & Suites at the Forum
The HURRICANE HERO category recognizes a tourism employee who provided selfless acts of support for stranded visitors and local residents during Hurricane Irma last fall. Whether it was practical, hands-on, care, or having to think outside the box when it came to solving many unexpected problems encountered before, during and after the storm, to even truly incredible acts of heroism, many tourism employees stepped up to take care of guests when they desperately needed help.
“My Hurricane Hero nominee not only continues to provide a high level of customer service year after year, but during the storm rose to the occasion time and time again. Once the location lost power, he was one of our on-call team members who stayed on site 24-7 until all services were restored, which included many long, sleepless nights. He repeatedly helped our guests with a beaming smile and sense of calm. One example--bringing juices and food to an elderly woman who was stranded and had difficulty going up and down stairs, with no family to assist her during her two-week stay. Here’s another—he also assisted paramedics with a panic-stricken mobility disabled guest who needed to be relocated to a first floor room, then made sure to manually bring her electric wheelchair down three flights of stairs, since the elevators were not yet working, so she would not have to remain bedridden. The list of all he did to help others and take care of our business is long, but despite his own home experiencing some flooding, he never left us, never let his concern about his personal situation show, and always put our customers first. He always has been and continues to be a top quality employee in any service-related capacity needed. His willingness to help others is truly genuine and always natural, on every level.”