HSMAI Recognizes Hospitality Heroes Amidst Global Pandemic

The Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) honored 15 outstanding hospitality and tourism professionals with the first-ever HSMAI Hospitality Hero Adrian Awards honors. These industry professionals were nominated by their colleagues in recognition of their efforts to take a leadership position, champion a cause, or create a program that has directly benefited industry workers, medical personnel, first responders, or communities impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Meet our hospitality heroes:

  • Sheela Martinez, most recently front office assistant and manager at The London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills in West Hollywood, California

Sheela put out a call on Facebook to raise money for relief bags for the community of ceramic potters in Santa Maria, Isabela, in the Philippines, where she was born during COVID-19. Within two days, she raised enough money for nearly 500 relief bags.

  • Mary Parks, director of sales for the Hilton Garden Inn Annapolis Downtown

Mary used the Hilton Garden Inn’s kitchen to bake chocolate-chip cookies for medical personnel, firefighters, and other first responders, as well as personally making hundreds of masks for friends, colleagues, and people throughout her community.

  • Jonathan DiFonzo, district sales representative for Cheney Brothers Inc. in Boynton Beach, Florida

Jonathan organized a GoFundMe campaign called “Service Industry Relief Fund” that raised more than $4,700 and secured matching produce donations from Boy’s Fresh Market, all to supply restaurant workers in Delray Beach who had been laid off because of COVID-19, with meals.

  • Jill Flynn, director of sales, events, and marketing for the Hyatt Regency Dulles in Herndon, Virginia

Jill dedicated herself to long workweeks, taken on a variety of tasks, all while being there for her colleagues and covering for them so they can take mental-health breaks during COVD-19.

  • Kenan Tekin, dual opening general manager, Hyatt House/Hyatt Place Los Angeles International Airport

Kenan used his own money to buy groceries and other essentials for laid off or furloughed colleagues. He donated an entire paycheck to six families — as well as to fellow HSMAI Hospitality Hero Sheela Martinez’s birthday fundraiser.

Ava sent her Accor 2019 Heartist of the Year employee-recognition prize money, which was several thousand dollars, to her family in the Philippines. They used it to assemble care packages for those in need during COVID-19.

  • Jean-Cédric Callies, director of sales and marketing for Hotel Monville in Montreal, Quebec, and an HSMAI member

Jean helped supply meals to first responders who work at the University of Montreal Health Center and he launched a variety of initiatives to support both the property and the community during COVID-19.

  • Peter Ricci, CHA, CHSE, CRME, director of the Hospitality and Tourism Management Program at Florida Atlantic University (FAU), and an HSMAI member

Dr. Ricci came up with the idea of offering a condensed version of Florida Atlantic University (FAU)’s Certificate in Hospitality and Tourism Management at no charge for hospitality professionals who were affected by the pandemic.

  • Nicole McAlister, CHSE, area director of franchise services for Choice Hotels International, working out of Schertz, Texas, and an HSMAI member and Austin chapter board member

Nicole sent personal letters to many hospitality industry professionals with an enclosed packet of flower seeds. Nicole reassured her colleagues that they will get through this and urged them to focus on the beauty that will bloom from the seeds.

  • Brian Stiglets, general manager of The Inn at Longwood Medical in Boston

Brian kept The Inn open, including its restaurant, to continue serving first responders as well as the patients at the beginning of COVID-19. He also arranged to serve more than 200 lunches to local hospitals, delivering the meals himself.

  • Yvette Koebke, director of sales and marketing for Residence Inn/Courtyard by Marriott Phoenix Downtown in Phoenix, Arizona

Yvette distributed grocery money to hospitality professionals from selling her art and is donating to a breast cancer charity for each facemask she sells as an effort to support her community during COVID-19.

  • Ardy Edgerton, CGTP, senior national account executive for Red Roof

Ardy was instrumental in setting up temporary housing options for more than 75 county, state, and federal emergency management offices by positioning Red Roof properties to provide homes during COVID-19.

  • Geoffrey A. Mills, regional vice president and general manager at Hudson New York for sbe Lifestyle Hospitality

Geoffrey led the Hudson to donate nearly 2,000 room nights as well as masks, sheets, pillowcases, gloves, and disinfectants to Montefiore Hospital, donated PPE, and has offered discounted stays to front line hospital staff in the area.

  • Holly Zoba, CHDM, owner of Scout Simply and Influencer Sales Training, based in Chandler, Arizona, and an HSMAI member

Holly signed on as a volunteer for KickCOVID.us and recruited additional volunteers throughout the industry so travelers can get accurate, up-to-date information that helps them safely patronize hospitality outlets.

Under Matt’s leadership, Wynn Resorts has actively participated in a variety of initiatives that have delivered the money, food, equipment, and supplies to medical personnel and first responders, food banks, schools, and civic organizations.

Each of these heroes will be celebrated as part of the 64th Annual Adrian Awards. This year, the Adrian Awards are focused on the best practices, innovation, and community shown in hospitality campaigns and coronavirus crisis responses. HSMAI has redesigned the Adrian Awards to reflect the current travel landscape and streamlined entry, lowered costs, as well as set a later submission deadline to allow recognition of more great work.

HSMAI is currently accepting Adrian Award entries through December 1st, 2020.