Visitors and Convention Bureau honors top tourism employees

St Johns County’s top tourism employees, selected from finalists among the more than 11,000 people employed in the local tourism industry, were honored today at ceremonies held at the Renaissance World Golf Village Resort in St Augustine.

“It’s not only the exemplary work of these finalists, but also the daily successes of thousands of other outstanding employees that insure tourism remains the economic lifeblood of Florida’s Historic Coast,” said Richard Goldman, executive director of the St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches Visitors & Convention Bureau. “Our marketing successes and the consistently positive interactions between visitors and tourism employees throughout Florida’s Historic Coast have combined to create a destination that has more than recovered from the economic recession of 2008.”

In the accommodations category, Michelle Defelice from the Lodge and Club at Ponte Vedra Beach was named as the 2012 Tourism Employee of the Year. She supervises the daily housecleaning and maintains guestrooms at a AAA 5 Diamond level. A 10-year member of the Lodge & Club staff, Michelle is known for her meticulousness, attention to detail and professionalism. What truly sets her apart is her sense of obligation to every guest, no matter how complex their request might be, and her devotion to all staff members, regardless of their department.

Kevin Rose, group director for the St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum, was selected as the top employee in the attractions category. Under his proactive watch, the museum is on track to see a 43 percent increase in visitation by school groups. The museum frequently receives thank you notes, gifts and positive reviews on TripAdvisor in recognition of Kevin’s professionalism and amiability. His attention to detail, wry humor and years of previous experience as a City of St. Augustine Tour Guide have made Kevin an invaluable addition to the museum and a favorite of teachers and tour guides visiting the city.

For this first time, a category called “Government” was added to the competition for Tourism Employee of the Year honors. This category includes federal, state, and local governmental employees whose work puts them in daily contact with visitors. The first winner in the new category was Catherine Culver, heritage tourism manager for the City of St. Augustine’s Colonial Spanish Quarter Museum. Over the years, Catherine has been personally responsible for positively shaping the experience of tens of thousands of visitors to the Oldest City. The consummate professional, she greets everyone with a big smile and contagious laughter. Her continued excellence is particularly noteworthy during the past year when the fate of the museum was a topic of much debate.

In addition to Culver, Defelice and Rose, the nine other finalists for 2012 Tourism Employee of the year honors were: Amanda Briggs, The Tasting Tours; Joyce Hayes, Limelight Theatre; Kate Hensler, Old Town Trolley Tours; Dena Masters, Tourist Development Council; Ryan Murphy, St. Augustine Amphitheatre and Ponte Vedra Concert Hall; Veronica Peterson, Casa Monica Hotel; Lorenzo Rubi, The Lodge and Club; Michelle Smith, St. Augustine Wild Reserve; and Lea Wright, St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum.

Pictured L-R: Richard Goldman, executive director, St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches VCB; Catherine Culver, City of St. Augustine, Government Tourism Employee of the Year; Kevin Rose, St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum, Attractions Tourism Employee of the Year; Michelle Defelice, the Lodge & Club, Accommodations Employee of the Year; Bob O’Neill, chairman, VCB Board of Directors.

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