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Awards celebrate hospitality industry, top tourism professionals

By LC VCB - | Sep 1, 2021

The Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau held its 21st Annual Elaine McLaughlin Outstanding Hospitality Service Awards on Aug. 26 at the Caloosa Sound Convention Center & Amphitheater in Fort Myers to honor tourism professionals and their extraordinary customer service and dedication.

Presented by the VCB and The News-Press Media Group, the awards recognize Lee County’s hospitality industry employees for going above and beyond to take care of visitors. Residents, visitors and colleagues wrote 627 nominations for 467 individual nominees.

Awards were presented in seven categories.

A new category, the Masked Hero award, recognizes a tourism employee who provided selfless acts of support for visitors and residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the Honor of Distinction award goes to the overall nominee who exemplifies the best in customer service and spotlights the hospitality professionals who love their jobs, love the destination but, more importantly, love people.

Among the top winners selected for their exemplary service were:

– Other Services/Businesses: Christopher Comer, with Tree West on Sanibel

The nominator wrote: “My friend and I were involved in a bike accident one morning while heading east on Sanibel Captiva Road. A passing car had come a little too close to us and we went down avoiding it. I wound up in the road and my friend Bill was off to the side. A driver was headed the other way, saw the accident and stopped. He assessed my friend and noticed he needed stitches in his arm. He was a super nice guy and took the time to take my friend and his bike to the medical center. That was out of his way, but really helpful to us as I’m not sure Bill could have ridden his bike in the shape he was in. Bill got eight stitches in his arm and is going to be fine. Both bikes are OK, too!”

– Honor of Distinction: Marina Bloetz, with South Seas Island Resort on Captiva

Six-time nominee Marina Bloetz personally cared for a family as they dealt with a child involved in a near-drowning accident. She assisted the family at the hospital until they were able to take the child home. To this day, the family can’t say enough about our Honor of Distinction winner.

The other top winners included:

– Restaurants: Jennifer Kleckner, with Casa Bacardi

– Transportation: Jennis Phillips and Cherry Kletschka, with Transportation Security Administration

– Good Samaritan: Officer Jacob Brunick, with Lee County Port Authority Police Department

– Attractions: Jake Graddy, with Holiday Water Sports

– Accommodations: Jessica Mazza, with Holiday Inn Edison at Midtown

– Masked Hero: JoAnn Elardo, with Wicked Dolphin Rum Distillery

– Tourism Boss: Jeff Webb, with Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton Fort Myers-Colonial

For more information, visit www.EAwards.org.