Tourism Leadership Council Awards Gala

More than four hundred members of the Savannah tourism community gathered at the International Trade and Convention Center on Hutchinson Island to attend the Tourism Awards Gala hosted by the Tourism and Leadership Council on February 18th.  Now in its eighteenth year, this annual black tie affair pays tribute to the twenty-six thousand employees that make up the Hostess City's thriving hospitality industry and supports the students who are studying to join this exciting field. The evening kicked off with a cocktail reception where some of the most distinguished names in the tour and travel community were seen having their photos taken at the Dream Weaver Photo Booth before posing on the South magazine red carpet for  Lorien Studios. WJCL Channel 22 News anchor, Jennifer Andrews, broadcasted live from the event for the nightly news audience and John Alexander Photography was on hand to capture the memories from the dinner.  Following the reception, guests made their way to the ballroom to enjoy a seated, four-course menu prepared by Savor Savannah while TLC President/CEO, Michael Owens and Vice President of Communications, Molly Swagler, entertained the crowd and promised to be superior to the Academy Awards by, "getting everyone out by nine o'clock."

After the first three awards for the evening were presented, the focus of the night turned towards honoring the two scholarship winners who were selected from a list of more than twenty candidates, the largest list in the history of the awards. The first recipient to be recognized was Brandon Booker, a graduating senior at Groves High School who has been accepted to Johnson & Wales University as a Hotel Management major.  Brandon is the first recipient of the scholarship to have been awarded to a high school student and he hopes to return to Savannah after graduation to work at one of the many downtown lodging properties.  The second recipient of the TLC Scholarship was Jasmine Perez, a hard-working mother of two daughters and hospitality major at the University of South Carolina – Beaufort.  Jasmine made the decision to return to school to continue her studies after working on the front lines of the hospitality industry and hopes to manage a high-end hotel in the Coastal Empire. 

One of the most engaging moments of the night was the presentation of the John B. Rousakis Community Champion Award to Georgia Power executive, Jim Cone, for his strong support of the local tourism industry through his community involvement and volunteer volunteer efforts. This prestigious award honors the legacy of  former Mayor John P. Rousakis, who himself was a pioneer champion for the community, helping to revitalize River Street during his tenure.

The Tourism and Leadership Council is the largest non-profit trade organization to represent tourism and to date, has awarded more than $65,000 in scholarship money to tourism and hospitality students over the years, with one hundred percent of its contributions going to the fund.


2016 TLC Tourism Award Winners

Member of the Year – Meghan Dunn, Savannah Airport Commission

Service Star Award – Ronald Blue, Embassy Suites

Service Leader Award – Kim Chambless, Hilton Savannah DeSoto

President's Award – Chef Jean Vendeville, Savannah Tech University

Board of Director's Award – Ann Purcell, Georgia Board of Transportation

I AM Tourism Award – Marty Johnston, City of Savannah

Herb & Franklin Traub Visionary Award  – Mark Spadoni, Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort

John B. Rousakis Community Champion Award – Jim Cone, Georgia Power


Photos by Lindsey Clark