TEMECULA, CA – Visit Temecula Valley held their sixth Annual Xenia Hospitality Industry Awards March 10, at Temecula Creek Inn. “It was a very good year for the industry in 2015,” said Tom DeMott, Chairman of the Board for VTV.
Tourism is a $650 million industry in the local area. VTV’s video presentation stated there were over 2.8 million visitors last year; lodging revenue was up 9.3 percent; midweek stays were up 6.7 percent. There are now over 6,500 tourism professional jobs in the valley.
President and CEO of VTV, Kimberly Adams, thanked sponsors and tourism partners for their part in making 2015 such a successful year and for helping to pave the way for additional growth and success.
This is the first year for the Temecula Origin Award, recognizing local residents for representing the Temecula Valley beyond the immediate area. Cole Criske, from season 8 of The Voice, and Lindsey Carrier from the final season of American Idol were the first recipients of the award. Criske also performed two songs during the awards program.
“Every day more than 7,000 hospitality workers in our area greet and serve visitors – locals as well as worldwide,” said Jan Smith, VTV Hospitality Task Force chair. The Spotlight on Service award recognizes exceptional customer service across numerous industries in the Valley.
There were 23 Spotlight on Service award winners: Tony Alvarez of Top Dollar Gold Exchange, Justin Bellevan of Macy’s Temecula, Daryl Boone, Dana Zella and Ray Roberson of Grapeline Wine Tours, Walter Carter of Danza Del Sol Winery, Colleen Cherry of Pechanga Resort & Casino, Ashley Copeland of Forest City/Promenade Mall, Megan Davison of Carter Estates Winery & Resort, Michael Eddlemon of South Coast Winery Resort & Spa, Kristina Galyean and Danae Wegner of Robert Renzoni Vineyards & Winery, Hugo Garcia of Vineyard Coast Transportation, Shelby Gonzalez of Forest City/Promenade Mall, Rachelle J. of Olive Garden, Cody Lerner of Wilson Creek Winery, Erin Lyons of Golden Spoon, Nealani Orr of Mount Palomar Winery, Suzanne Papiro of Ralphs Grocery Store, Noelani Smith of Annie’s Café, Erica Sundale of Jamba Juice, Brittany Vasquez of Liberty Kitchen and Gilmarie Villegas of Bluewater Grill.
The Social Media Award recognizes “the organization that has had the greatest impact, through social media, promoting Temecula and successfully attracting visitors.” This year’s award went to Wilson Creek Winery “whose 25,000 Facebook likes and 4,800 Instagram followers exponentially expanded the reach to hundreds of thousands of visitors,” said Crystal Magon, marketing director for last year’s winner, South Coast Winery Resort & Spa.
Jeff Brown of Vail Lake Resort was named Ambassador of the Year for his work in encouraging tourism to the area.
The Hospitality Award went to E.A.T. Marketplace, one of nineteen nominees. “This award goes out to our farmers, vendors, cheese makers, staff and everyone who makes us what we are,” said owner/operator Leah Di Bernardo.
The inaugural Cilurzo Award for Winery of the Year was won by Wilson Creek Winery. Vincenzo Cilurzo, 91, and the namesake for the award had died the day before the event. Owner Bill Wilson accepted the award, recounting how the elder Cilurzo freely and openly helped a young, inexperienced, cutthroat “mergers & acquisitions guy” start up a winery.
This was also the first year for the Champion Culinary Award recognizing “exceptional dining experiences through service excellence, innovation and culinary offerings.” The inaugural winner was Executive Chef Tim Prezio of Cork Fire Kitchen at Temecula Creek Inn.
The Welty Award for Tourism Professional of the Year was presented to Gillian Larson of Reality Rally at the recent Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce’s 50th Annual Gala Awards. Larson has brought international recognition to the area by virtue of her fundraising event for Michelle’s Place, a cancer resource center for women that has brought hundreds of reality TV stars to the area.
DeMott then recognized all th4 ten-year and five-year members of the TVVT.
“The future is bright for tourism in the area,” said De Mott.