Opening day of Tourism Red Deer’s annual campaign saluting outstanding employees in the community’s hospitality and tourism industry has kicked off the busy summer vacation season in Central Alberta.
Nomination boxes for the 2011 Red Hat Awards lined the stage at the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum on Tuesday as Tourism Red Deer executive director Liz Taylor announced that the ballots were officially open. The nomination process runs from June 7 to Aug. 14.
“Each of us adds to the overall experience that our visitors encounter, that makes their stay in Red Deer a remarkable and memorable one,” Taylor said to the small crowd, made up of mostly local tourism and hospitality employees.
Taylor said the tourism and hospitality industry is vital to the economy of Red Deer and is the fourth largest industry in Alberta — pulling in over $258 million each year in Central Alberta.
The Red Hat Awards let businesses and individuals nominate employees who have provided visitors with exceptional customer service experiences. Ballot boxes will be distributed to businesses all over Red Deer and votes can also be cast online at tourismreddeer.net.
The Red Hat Award process is not based simply on number of votes cast, but looks at the “quality of the experience described,” said Taylor.
“This is a nomination which is determined by the quality, not the quantity of votes,”
A panel of independent judges interview each finalist (who must receive an endorsement from their employer) before awarding the Red Hat Award in each category. Finalists and their families will be recognized at a gala ceremony at the Black Knight Inn on Oct. 4.
“Winning a prestigious Red Hat Award honours success; all nominees, finalists and award winners should be extremely proud of themselves,” Taylor said.
Lana Golding, the 2010 recipient of the Red Hat Award in the Tourism/Hospitality Business category and current operations manager at the Best Western Hotel in Red Deer cast the first official ballot for this year’s awards.
Golding recounted a story involving the actual red hat she received for winning and her staff’s continued effort to go the extra mile to leave visitors impressed with Red Deer.
The red cowboy hat was on display behind the front desk at the Best Western, Golding said, and each week a guest from the U.K. (on an extended stay) would ask if he could have the prized headwear to keep. After months of asking, Golding gave him the hat on his last day in Red Deer — on one condition.
“He promised to take pictures of himself in the red hat and email them to me wherever he goes, which he has done,” Golding said.
“He emailed me the other day and said if he ever gets the chance to live in Canada, he’s going to live in Red Deer.”