The North Platte/Lincoln County Visitors Bureau anticipates great results as the country and state begin to open up after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Visitors Bureau honored seven category award winners Wednesday for their contributions to tourism through customer service. Visitors Bureau Executive Director Lisa Burke presented the awards to the recipients.
The 2020 luncheon was done via Zoom due to the restrictions in place at that time. This year’s luncheon was at the Prairie Arts Center.
“Thanks goodness this year looks a lot better than last year,” Burke said. “We’re really glad we have the opportunity to get you here in person and recognize everybody and celebrate tourism.”
The Excellence in Tourism Awards recognize outstanding customer service at hotels or other lodging establishments, restaurants or other food service establishments, events, attractions and retail, as well as Volunteer of the Year and Hero of Tourism.
Burke said the Visitors Bureau Advisory Committee selected the award winners from the nominees. The nominees can be individuals or businesses.
The award categories and winners are:
Restaurant: The Cedar Room
Hotel: Irene Pearson, breakfast attendant at TRU by Hilton
Attraction: Nick Henline, Fort Cody Trading Post
Event: D&N Event Center
Retail: Jeff Caldwell, Whitetail Cycle Sport
Volunteer of the Year: Elana Ramos, for supervising COVID-19 screening protocols at the Buffalo Bill Boxing Brawl
Hero of Tourism: Kirsten Parker, Golden Spike Tower.
Guest speaker John Ricks, Nebraska Tourism Commission executive director, shared statistics with the audience that included some low numbers from the pandemic year. But there are signs, he said, that this coming spring and summer season will surpass previous years as people begin to venture out once again.
“What I’ve said throughout the year is that travel tourism and hospitality has kind of backed in to people being more aware of it,” Ricks said. “What I mean by that is this industry has for a long time had difficulty in people recognizing what it is.”
Ricks referenced a song’s lyrics: “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.”
“People have started to understand travel tourism and hospitality because it’s been taken away from us,” Ricks said. “When people can’t go to their favorite event during the year, when you can’t stop by your favorite bar on your way home to see the people you know, it affects you.”
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