Visit Loudoun put the spotlight on the top performers in the county’s hospitality industry Thursday during its annual meeting and awards ceremony at the Bellevue Conference & Event Center.
The 26th annual event, held during National Travel and Tourism Week, featured a keynote address from Destinations International President and CEO Don Welsh and unveiled the organization’s 2022 marketing theme, Driving the Future, along with a new custom wrapped Visit Loudoun VW Atlas that will promote a new Art in Motion campaign.
Founded a quarter century ago as the Loudoun Convention and Visitors Association, Visit Loudoun has led efforts to build the county into one of the Virginia’s top tourism destinations. During Thursday’s event, President and CEO Beth Erickson provided a glimpse into the future marketing of the destination based on the input of nearly 1,500 residents, visitors, business owners, elected officials and other stakeholders who provided input during its three-year strategic planning process.
Key findings from a third-party survey showed that tourism continues to be a vital part of Loudoun’s economy and that 70% of the more than 1,000 residents who responded support tourism efforts. Other findings show that 60 percent of the 144 responding business owners said tourism is critical for their business to thrive. Of the more than 160 visitors surveyed, most commended Loudoun’s open space and scenic landscape while 82 percent said they would visit again and/or recommend a visit to their friends.
The highlight of the program was the award ceremony.
Ellen Goldberg of Briar Patch Bed and Breakfast was presented with the 2021 Judy Patterson Award, Visit Loudoun’s highest honor that recognizes those who demonstrate outstanding commitment to the sustainability and enhancement of Loudoun County as a visitor destination as well as contributions to the overall quality of life for its residents. Goldberg recently stepped down as president of the Loudoun Bed & Breakfast Guild and was credited for her two decades of work to build that industry.
The Steve Hines Partner of the Year Award was presented to Morven Park for its efforts to support Visit Loudoun’s efforts to promote the historic, natural, and equestrian assets in Loudoun.
Walter Jinks, of Salamander Resort & Spa, was named the 2021 Tourism Manager of the Year. He was cited for his ability to clearly communicate his goals and vision with his team and even helping to save the life of one guest to the five-star resort in Middleburg.
Jessica Dinkins, of Experience Bluemont, was named the 2021 Back-of-the House Hero. She oversees the hiring, training and development of all team members at Bluemont Vineyard, Henway Hard Cider and Great Country Farms and is known for her innovative hiring and onboarding process that has helped grow talent and retain employees.
Jennifer Puffinberger, of Bluemont Vineyard, was named the 2021 Front-of-the-House Hero. She is an original member of the Bluemont team who develops the tasting notes and training programs for new team members. She also does the wine tastings for couples getting married, working with more than 100 couples last year.
Renee Ventrice, owner of Cork & Keg Tours, was selected as the 2021 Loudoun Certified Tourism Ambassador of the Year. As a graduate of Visit Loudoun’s CTA program, she provides her clients with a deep understanding of the county’s varied tourism experience and the people who provide them.
Donna Bohanon was presented the new Diversity in Travel award. She is the chairwoman of the Black History Committee of Friends of Thomas Balch Library, co-chairwoman of the county’s Heritage Commission and a member of the Arcola Slave Quarters board. She was recognized for her commitment to educating residents and visitors on African American history in Loudoun by partnering with historic sites and organizations like the Loudoun Museum, Morven Park, Oatlands and Visit Loudoun to create impactful interpretive resources.
The United States Specialty Sports Association C Eastern National Championships was named the 2021 Tourism Event of the Year. The tournament brought in visitors from 10 states with 2,000 athletes, filling 2,800 room nights and generating $1.7 million in visitor spending.
The Holiday Road light display at Morven Park, organized by Dinamic Communications LLC, was named the 2021 Tourism Marketing Promotion/PR Campaign of the Year. The event attracted 25,000 visitors.
The 2021 New Tourism Business of the Year award was presented to The Local Proposal, founded by Matt and KC Tregoning. The couple help clients plan their proposals and then partner with Loudoun County vendors to provide services for the wedding.