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Visit Salt Lake honors front-line workers with SALT Awards

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Hospitality employees provide vital support for Salt Lake County’s visitor economy and Visit Salt Lake recognized the stars of our tourism industry at the second annual SALT Awards held June 15 at the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre. 

The awards celebrated hospitality workers who exemplify service, accomplishment, leadership, and tenacity (SALT), with categories in the lodging and dining industries as well as an award that encompassed those involved with attractions, venues, caterers, and transportation providers.  Each award recipient was recognized with an engraved SALT crystal award and a $1,000 check.

New this year was a “Best Boss” award for general managers, owners or executive level positions. The awardee of this category had the opportunity to have $1,000 donated in their business’s name to the charity of their choice.

“We’re so proud of our hospitality workers in Salt Lake County,” said Kaitlin Eskelson, president & CEO. “They’re on the front lines every day and really are the backbone of our visitor economy. This is a great way to honor our colleagues by celebrating their service to our community.”

This year’s sponsors include the Penthouse Sponsor, Nicholas & Co. and the Presidential Suite sponsor, Modern Expo & Events.

The “Dining – Behind the Scenes” award went to Haydar Abu KhamseenCook II at Spencer’s for Steaks & Chops and Trofi at the Hilton City CenterHis colleagues shared: “Haydar always brings warmth and laughter to this team, even on the hardest days. In addition to his work, he is active in community service efforts that are unique and far-reaching. He finds what others might think have lost their value, fixes them up and sends them to disenfranchised communities all over the world.”

The “Dining – Front & Center Award was awarded to Casey Bard, Assistant Banquet Manager with Log Haven. His nominator had high praise: “Casey’s signature calm, composed demeanor and genuine care have earned him the trust and admiration of all their clients, constantly receiving personalized feedback for making their most special days come to life. He approaches every event with meticulous attention to detail, ensuring that no aspect is overlooked and that every element is executed flawlessly.”

The “Lodging – Behind the Scenes” Award winner was Sonia Tapia, Executive Housekeeper at Four Points by Sheraton-Airport. Her co-workers said of her, “Sonia was able to elevate her department to be ranked #8 out of all of the of her brand’s hotels throughout the U.S. and Canada. While juggling caring for a family of eight, she fought to get a well-deserved raise and a bonus program implemented for her staff, allowing the hotel to remain fully staffed in housekeeping when other hotels were struggling.

The “Lodging Front & Center” Award was given to Lauralee Church, Reservations Manager at Alta Chalets. Admiration for her included, “During this banner snow year in Little Cottonwood Canyon with multiple days of closures, Lauralee worked tirelessly with countless guests to relocate, arrange transportation, and ensure they still had a wonderful vacation. We have been getting gifts and letters praising her work and thanking them for helping make their vacation a success.”

The “Scenemaker” award for went to Ray Meadows, Sales Manager for Le Bus.  Ray’s co-workers said of him, “Working many hours every day behind the scenes to ensure that the job is done, Ray interacts with every customer with enthusiasm and a smile on his face. His colleagues feel that the company would not be where they are today without his insight and direction.”

The Best Boss Award received a record number of nominations and was given to Brittany Clelan, Vice President of Human Resources for Grand America. Her colleagues spoke very highly of her. “Brittany instills a genuine sense of trust and partnership in the team, teaching with patience and kindness. She is always willing and able to dig in and get the job done through hard work, motivation, and inspiration.”

The Overall Spirit of Service Award was bestowed upon Javier Barrera, Cook and Former Kitchen Manager for Marriott City Center. Javier was lauded by his team, “Javier’s dedication, leadership, and commitment to excellence have not only significantly contributed to the success of this hotel’s culinary department but have also elevated the overall guest experience. In his 22 years of employment, his leadership, professionalism, and ability to inspire and motivate the kitchen team have been truly remarkable.”