Tuesday, March 26, 2013 10:29:08 AM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Montana Office of Tourism
Montana Department of Commerce
Montana Department of Commerce
Statewide Tourism Awards Presented at Governor’s Conference
(HELENA) –Three statewide tourism award winners were honored for their achievements by the Montana Tourism and Recreation Industry at the 2013 Montana Governor’s Conference on Tourism and Recreation held in Helena, March 24-26. Tourism award winners are selected for their outstanding contributions to Montana’s tourism industry.
“The tourism industry in Montana is comprised of enterprising and passionate individuals working side by side to strengthen business and build our tourism and hospitality industry into the economic powerhouse that it is,” said Governor Steve Bullock. “My sincere congratulations to these people and partnerships for the exceptional work they are doing on behalf of the state of Montana.”
2013 Tourism Award Winners
Steve Wahrlich—Tourism Person of the Year
Montana Dragon Boat Festival—Tourism Event of the Year
Gardiner Gateway Project—Tourism Partnership of the Year
Steve Wahrlich, owner of the Best Western Plus ClockTower Inn, received the Tourism Person of the Year Award. Wahrlich’s fervent support of the tourism industry in Montana, demonstrated by his dedicated involvement with numerous organizations both in Billings and statewide, earned him the honor this year.
Wahrlich is a well-respected business leader valued for his commitment and community vision. His boundless energy and willingness to work for the betterment of the industry have led him to serve in a variety of capacities over the years including Chair of the Board of the Billings Tourism Business Improvement District, President of the Yellowstone County Lodging Association, Chair of the Downtown Billings Association, Treasurer for the Montana Lodging and Hospitality Association, as well as active involvement in the Billings Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau, Voices of Montana Tourism and numerous other non-profit organizations in the Billings community and beyond.
Wahrlich is owner of the Best Western ClockTower Inn in downtown Billings. During his tenure as owner, he has revitalized and rehabilitated the hotel to become one of the most well-respected and positively reviewed (by patrons) hotels in the Billings area.
In presenting this award, it was noted that, “Steve is high-energy, creative, and entrepreneurial…(as well as) unselfish in his zeal to invest his time, energy and talents to make (Billings) a better place to live, work, raise a family and visit.”
In recognition of an event that brought new and eager travelers as well as a substantial economic boost to the Flathead Valley and beyond, the Tourism Event of the Year honored the Montana Dragon Boat Festival.
The Festival was an ambitious undertaking that provided far reaching rewards for the Valley as well as Montana on the whole. Over 3,000 volunteer hours went into executing this fresh, unique event that honored our spectacular environment and celebrated the valued natural resources we enjoy and cherish.
Over 3,000 spectators and 1,200 participants from across the country took part in this single day event. Participants hailed from 12 states and 2 Canadian provinces. The event enjoyed a 97% overall approval rating with a similar percentage vowing to return in 2013.
In its inaugural year, the Dragon Boat Festival generated over $770,000 in economic impact to the surrounding communities. In addition, $75,000 was raised and pledged in support of local area non-profits.
The Dragon Boat Festival was so popular in its first year that it is expected to almost double in participants with a 46% increase in teams entering to race in 2013. To accommodate the increase in size, the event has added an extra day making it a two-day festival which will undoubtedly increase the already significant economic impact the event has had in Montana.
The Tourism Partnership of the Year award was given to the Gardiner Gateway Project.
This unprecedented partnership comprised of local, state, federal and non-profit partners is working across jurisdictional boundaries to bring about a radical improvement to one of our most important tourism assets for Montana and for the nation as a whole – the original and only year-round entry into the world’s first national park – Yellowstone National Park.
What began with the relatively simple goals of relieving traffic congestion and improving safety has now grown into a significant economic development enterprise with public safety, visitor experience, historical preservation and community development at its core.
Through thoughtful planning, strategic input and shared resources, the Gardiner Gateway Project will provide economic dividends and community enrichment that will benefit residents and nonresidents for generations to come.
It was stated in their nomination materials that the 15 entities that encompass this alliance “have created a new standard of partnership thus setting a national example of cooperation.”
These awards are presented annually to individuals, events, partnerships and communities whose efforts to promote or develop Montana's tourism opportunities have preserved or enhanced tourism's role in Montana's economy. A list of previous award winners can be found at: http://travelmontana.state.mt.us/conference/awards.asp.
Tourism and recreation is one of Montana’s most vibrant industries. Montana experienced a 13% increase in traveler spending last year contributing $3.2 billion to Montana’s economy. This, coupled with a 6% growth in tourism jobs, makes the travel and hospitality industry a healthy and growing sector of Montana’s economy.