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50th Anniversary of Calgary White Hat Awards crowns Fairmont Palliser, Calgary International Children’s Festival and Centini Restaurant & Lounge with coveted White Hat of the Year Awards

On May 16, Tourism Calgary celebrated tourism excellence at the 50th Anniversary Calgary White Hat Awards with a sold-out crowd of boisterous tourism and hospitality employees.

The Calgary White Hat Awards recognize the people behind Calgary’s tourism industry, which contributes $1.3 billion in visitor spending to the local economy and employs one in ten working Calgarians.

The 50th Anniversary of the Awards coincides with Tourism Week in Canada celebrating a nation-wide industry that generates $78.8 billion in economic activity annually (recently updated information from the Canadian Tourism Commission) with an impact equivalent to that of the fisheries, forestry and agriculture sectors combined. Tourism touches almost every sector of the economy and is the third largest job creator in Canada.

“The experiences offered by those recognized at the White Hat Awards are what truly make Calgary a great destination,” said Christine Cusanelli, Minister of Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation. “The exceptional customer service these men and women provide – and the memories they help create – make the difference between an ordinary experience and an extraordinary one.”

“We cannot underestimate the importance of tourism to the vitality of our city,” said Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who presented the Mayor’s White Hat Award. “It’s an honour to be a part of a celebration of Calgary’s amazing tourism ambassadors. The optimism and excitement they have for Calgary is infectious and makes our city a better place.”

“The Calgary White Hat Awards celebrate the frontline staff, behind-the-scenes workers and visionary leaders who are the lifeblood of the hospitality and tourism industry,” said Randy Williams, Tourism Calgary President & CEO. “They are the heart and soul of our industry and the reason Calgary is famous for its western White Hat hospitality.”

“More than 600 nominations were received this year and more than 450 interviews were conducted, which is a tribute to the depth and strength of our industry,” said event organizer and Tourism Calgary Vice President, Corporate Development & Membership, Shelley Zucht-Shorter. “This year’s 20 award recipients alone have a combined 400 years of experience in tourism and hospitality.”

White Hat of the Year Award Winners:

White Hat of the Year – Accommodation
Fairmont Palliser - turning moments into memories has made the Fairmont Palliser the place to be, stay and celebrate. Their commitment to service was been proven with 41 staff nominations for this year’s Calgary White Hat Awards. The corner of First Street and Ninth Avenue has been home to this Calgary icon and architectural diamond since 1914. Tonight’s winner helps to drive positive recognition to our city. They have hosted celebrities, international ambassadors and Royalty from the around the world. Partnering with local activities and cultural events this landmark hotel places pride on being authentically local.

White Hat of the Year – Attraction/Festival/Event
Calgary International Children’s Festival - entertaining the audiences of tomorrow since 1987, the Calgary International Children’s Festival has grown into the second largest performing arts festival of its kind in Canada. More than 1.3 million toddlers, children and educators have been able to experience world-class, critically acclaimed professional theatre, music and dance thanks to the Calgary International Children’s Festival. The festival continues to establish a strong legacy bringing the world to our community, sparking the imagination and creating a lifelong connection to the arts.

White Hat of the Year – Restaurant
Centini Restaurant and Lounge - dedicated staff at this iconic Calgary restaurant greets international guests the same way they welcome Calgarians - by providing more than a meal; they provide an experience. Over the past 9 years they have played an integral role in the vitality of the downtown core - hosting business travellers who are considering moving their businesses to Calgary and creating memories for guests who have travelled from all over the world. Owner, Fabio Centini is highly respected in the community and is passionate about promoting Calgary as a leading culinary centre.

At the event, 20 individual award categories highlighted the breadth of Calgary’s tourism industry from bus and shuttle drivers, to bartenders and servers, and tour guides to in-flight attendants. In addition, six honorary awards were presented including the Mayor’s White Hat Award (presented by Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi); the Doug Johnson Service Award for 20 years of continuous service excellence; the Media Recognition Award; and three White Hat of the Year Awards.

Additional honorary awards
Mayor’s White Hat Award: Peggy Blacklock, Calgary Airport Authority
Doug Johnson Service Award: Kendra Sam-Vi, Hotel Blackfoot
Media Recognition Award: Mike Morrison, Mike’s Bloggity Blog

Click here for a complete list of 2012 White Hat Award winners

Click here to see photos of the event on flickr

Tourism Calgary