Thursday, 03 November 2016 08:00

Southwest Service and Tourism Awards highlight the best

Written by  Stephanie Labbe
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Darlene Sinclair (left) from Community Futures presents an award to the Municipality of the Crowsnest Pass with Councillor Bill Kovacs accepting the award on the CNP’s behalf at the third annual Southwest Alberta Service and Tourism Awards Gala Oct. 5. Community Futures was one of the sponsors for this event. Darlene Sinclair (left) from Community Futures presents an award to the Municipality of the Crowsnest Pass with Councillor Bill Kovacs accepting the award on the CNP’s behalf at the third annual Southwest Alberta Service and Tourism Awards Gala Oct. 5. Community Futures was one of the sponsors for this event. Photo contributed

Southern employees and businesses have again been recognized for their outstanding work.

The Southwest Service and Tourism Awards banquet was held Oct. 5 where service and tourism award winners were announced.
“The Southwest Service and Tourism Awards was a spectacular evening. Everyone had a great time. We see people attend from all over southwest Alberta,” says Jaci Zalesak, director of client relations for Chinook Country Tourist Association.
This year marked the third year these awards have been given out and an awards banquet held. There were 19 winners this year.
Everyone nominated for an award is invited to the banquet and the winners announced that evening, so it can be a surprise. Zalesak says they like to keep the winners a secret.
All of the nominees and winners are celebrated at the event.
People are nominated for the awards by colleagues or members of the public who have seen the work they do. Winners of the awards are chosen based on the quality of the nomination.
“The judges like to see the nominees have something written about them that explains great customer service and/or a great experience. The nomination should be descriptive about the service or experience,” adds Zalesak.
These awards began as a way to say thank you to businesses and employees in the southwest part of the province for their dedication and hard work.
Often, people don’t get the recognition they need at their jobs, so Zalesak says this is a way to give back to those employees and businesses.
“The purpose of the awards is to recognize outstanding individuals and businesses who … go above and beyond in providing a great experience and customer care to those visiting their business,” she explains. “Recognizing those who go out of their way by both the awards ceremony and the nominators make people feel special. Many people in the service and tourism industry work for minimum wage, or go unnoticed at the jobs they do. The awards is a way to … recognize those for all they do as well demonstrate that customer service is important in bringing and keeping people as customers for your business and our region.”
All nominees of the awards receive a free ticket to the awards night along with a certificate and nominee ribbon. Each winner also received a trophy and certificate, had their photograph taken and e-mailed to them, received recognition online and entries into draws during the evening.
Zalesak says they enjoy holding this awards night, as it’s a way to celebrate the amazing people in the service and tourism industry in the region.
“It is a celebratory night of those in the service and tourism industry. Everyone has a great time. Those that are nominated are so surprised and taken back that someone took the time to go out of their way to nominate them. Some people even stop in our Visitor Information Centre or call us to tell us about the great service they had,” adds Zalesak.
Attendance at the awards banquet increased with 247 people, as did the sponsorships and number of nominations.
Anne Jensen was one of the winners this year and received the award for Outstanding Visitor Information Services.
Jensen is the office manager for the Taber and District Chamber of Commerce and has been there for three and a half years. She learned through a phone call she had been nominated for an award.
“It felt nice to know somebody notices what I do as I work alone most of the year,” she says.
Jensen has never won any award previously.
As the office manager, she does the office work involved with the Chamber of Commerce, which includes running Cornfest, Midnight Madness, the annual dinner and awards as well as helping tourists as the building is also the tourist information centre.
“It feels great to feel recognized for something that I feel is just part of my job,” adds Jensen.
A local business that received an award was the United Riders of Crowsnest (UROC). They received the award for Outstanding Adventure Tourism.
“We didn’t know we were nominated until we received the invitation from the Southwest Service and Tourism Awards,” says Andrew Fairhurst, president for UROC.
UROC has never won an award from the Southwest Service and Tourism Awards in the past. This group started in 2009 as a club.
“It felt great to have received the nomination, as a small and volunteer run club. We’re obviously having an effect on helping to shape, not only mountain biking in our corner of the province, but also tourism on a larger scale. It’s nice to know that someone thought that was worthy of a nomination,” adds Fairhurst.
Winning this award has meant a lot to UROC and they’re happy to see that people are recognizing what they’re doing and appreciating it.
“Winning the award, we felt elated. Having the award in hand is a direct result of our hard-working board, our continually growing membership, volunteers and the support we receive from our community. We are all super proud to be the recipient.”
Fairhurst says they’re continuing to develop and expand the existing multi-use, non-motorized trail system in the Crowsnest Pass.
William Merasty was another winner this year. Merasty is a Blackfoot Interpretive guide at Head-Smashed-
In-Buffalo Jump (HSIBJ) and this year he received an award for Outstanding Attraction Employee.
“It felt very uplifting, like I knew I was doing a good job as opposed to just thinking it,” says Merasty.
He began working at HSIBJ in June, when he began at the information desk. He was then offered an opportunity to become a guide. While a little hesitant at first, he is now glad he accepted.
“I feel very honoured to be chosen for this award. It feels very empowering, like fate chose me to be a Blackfoot interpretive guide,” adds Merasty.
He wasn’t able to be at the awards night to accept his award, so his fellow guide Marcus Healy accepted it on his behalf.
“I could not think of a better job to have, being able to share my culture as well as my knowledge with people from all over the world is a very amazing thing to be able to do and I feel very honoured that I am able to take up the reins as an ambassador for not only my people, but for all first nations across the plains,” adds Merasty.
The nominations for next year’s awards open Jan. 31, 2017.
People can go to the website online at: for more information about the awards and to see a list of winners and nominees from this year.

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