HARTFORD, Conn., May 4, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Five individuals and organizations were honored at the annual Connecticut Governor's Conference on Tourism for their outstanding contributions and dedication to Connecticut's $14.7-billion tourism industry sector today. Governor Dannel P. Malloy, together with the Connecticut Office of Tourism, presented the 2017 Connecticut Governor's Tourism Awards, which spanned five separate categories.
"The tourism sector is one of the major drivers of Connecticut's economy," Governor Malloy said. "The industry creates jobs, generates tax revenues and contributes to our high quality of life in Connecticut. It's an honor to recognize some of the key people involved in making tourism such a vital contributor to our state's economy."
The recipients of the 2017 Connecticut Governor's Tourism Awards are:
- Tourism Legacy Leader: Virginia Kozlowski, Executive Director, Visit New Haven, Connecticut Lodging Association, REX Development
Virginia Kozlowski, a 25-year-veteran of the hospitality industry, has dedicated her career to promoting tourism and business in Connecticut. Kozlowski has served in a variety of leadership roles, from restaurant controller and hotel general manager to president of the New Haven Convention and Visitors Bureau and executive director of the Connecticut Lodging Association.
During her career, she has cultivated relationships with countless businesses, associations, key stakeholders, legislators and other groups, building a reputation as a true consensus builder and valued resource. In doing so, Kozlowski has helped advance the goals of the entire Connecticut tourism industry and made Connecticut a more desirable destination.
- Leader of the Year: Jeff Andersen, Director, Florence Griswold Museum
Under Jeff Andersen's leadership, the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme was transformed from a hidden-secret historical site to one of the state's premier cultural institutions — and one of the nation's preeminent centers for American Impressionism.
As a steadfast advocate for the arts, Andersen worked diligently to transform the historic boardinghouse, grounds, facilities and collections, creating a world-class visitor experience for artists, enthusiasts, students and others. In 2016, the museum acquired the last remaining parcel of the original Griswold estate, restoring the historic site to completion for the first time since it was divided in 1937. Andersen will retire in 2018 after 40 years of dedicated leadership.
- Partner of the Year: Connecticut Art Trail
Over the past two decades, the dedicated members of the Connecticut Art Trail have worked tirelessly to promote Connecticut's rich cultural history and drive visitation to the state. Led by president, Carey Weber, the Connecticut Art Trail has grown to include 18 world-class museums and historic sites that collaboratively market their offerings to support tourism, culture, art and education.
The Connecticut Art Trail unveiled a new Art Passport this spring, which replaces the Art Pass. The Art Passport offers additional benefits, discounts, gifts, and a grand prize drawing for anyone who visits all 18 member museums in one year.
- Volunteers of the Year: Durham Fair Volunteers
What started as a small event in 1916 has grown to be the largest agricultural fair in Connecticut, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the state and beyond. Fueling this growth has been hundreds of volunteers — farmers, business professionals, government officials, emergency responders, medical professionals, families, students and teachers — who have committed their time and passion to making the event a success year after year.
The 100-percent volunteer-led event, which invests many of its profits back into the community, stands as a testament to the cooperative spirit in Durham and the surrounding communities. Accepting the award on behalf of all these volunteers was Daniel Miramant, who has served as president of the Durham Agricultural Fair Association since 2013.
- Rising Star: Ben Paletsky, CEO, South Farms
Ben Paletsky is the driving force behind South Farms in Morris, one of New England's premier destination-farm venues. Over the past four years, Paletsky expanded the homestead, which now features "The White Barn" and "The Morris Marketplace," drawing thousands of guests to the area every year for weddings, festivals, and other community events.
Paletsky, who is an active member of the business community in Morris and Litchfield County, is also attracting a portfolio of complimentary entrepreneurial businesses to co-locate on the property, including the state's largest commercial hops-growing operation.
More than 400 attendees from tourism-related businesses, associations and municipalities across the state joined the Governor in congratulating the winners. Throughout the day, attendees also heard from leading tourism industry experts, including keynote speaker Doug Lansky, and participated in business-building workshops and networking sessions.
Other conference highlights included a presentation of the results of last year's Connecticut still revolutionary tourism marketing campaign. Central to the campaign was the state's official tourism website, www.CTvisit.com, which relaunched in April 2016. The completely redesigned website attracted 4.2 million visits last year, a 64 percent increase over 2015, and generated 2.2 million referrals for industry partners listed on the site. The state also reported significant increases in social media engagement and public relations activity.
"The conference is a unique opportunity for the industry to gather, learn and celebrate those individuals and organizations who have dedicated extra time and energy to helping tourism in Connecticut grow and thrive," said Randy Fiveash, director of the Connecticut Office of Tourism. "We look forward to working with each and every partner in the state to make 2017 an even greater success."
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SOURCE Connecticut Office of Tourism