Oscars of Tourism

‘Tis the season for awards shows. Grammys, Golden Globes, even the Oscars are next week. Hollywood is celebrating everything.
It seems there is an awards program for everyone as well…the Writers Guild, the Producers Guild, save nothing of the Make-up and Hairstylists Guild.
Honoring those who have done exceptional things seems to be in the air.
It’s here in Savannah too.
On Wednesday, the Tourism Leadership Council will celebrate some of the extraordinary people who make up the tourism and hospitality industry.
We’ve been off-the-cuff calling it the “Oscars of Tourism.” Really, it’s the 16th Annual Tourism Awards and Scholarship Dinner.

Like the Oscars, we’re going to pause and take a moment to reflect on the amazing work individuals have done in our industry. We’re also going to award scholarships to deserving students who are joining this industry. All of this in a tuxedo.
This is not my first time to don the tuxedo. I now own a couple just so I can have one dry-cleaned before the next event. It’s the nature of doing business in Savannah.
Black tie events are common here.
But what you may not think about are all of the people it takes to makes those special events happen.
You’ve probably been to one before. It’s a night away from the kids, in a beautiful setting, with delicious food, and fine wine. You dress up and in that moment, you feel like you’re the most important VIP.
Imagine that feeling, and then imagine what went into making that feeling happen.
Before you arrived, a crew of people scrubbed the floors, set up the lights, the tables, and the chairs. Another crew came in and dressed the tables with linens, plates, cups, saucers, and silverware.
All the while, another crew is setting up the elements that provide ambiance.
“You want a real live tree inside a building to create a mood? No problem. How about draping it with 300,000 lights?”
Still another team has been busy in the kitchen, chopping all of the vegetables, hand-crafting all of the elements that will adorn your plates, and making sure the wine glasses are cleaned and the silverware polished.
The servers are on the ready poised to deliver all of the food at just the right time and in just the right way.
After you’re gone, all of the dishes must be cleared and washed for the next party, on the next day.
The tables must be moved to another room, the lights struck, the decorations removed, and the floors scrubbed yet again.
There are many people who go into creating that perfect night.
On Wednesday, at the 16th Annual Tourism Awards and Scholarship Dinner, we’re honoring them – all of the people who have devoted their lives to hospitality.
That’s what tourism is--serving our guest whether they are visiting our lodging property, our restaurants, our tours, our museums, and our retails shops.
On Wednesday, we’re celebrating some of the 23,000 people who provide for us and for our city’s guests night after night after night. These are the ones who exemplify the tenets of our industry: integrity, commitment, selfless service, hard work, and kindness.
With so many in this market who embody these traits, it’s difficult to condense all of them into a program that will fit in a few hours.
Businesses have been sending in nominations for months, and a committee winnowed down to only a handful of finalists.
In fact, we will be giving out only six awards and four scholarships.
I wish we had time to honor more, but like the Oscars, the music is playing. We have St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner and this industry is about to get very busy.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014