(Rancho Mirage, CA) – More than 600 travel industry professionals from across the Coachella Valley gathered to celebrate the resilient and innovative spirit of the Greater Palm Springs tourism and hospitality industry at the first annual Champions of Hospitality Gala held yesterday at the Omni Rancho Las Palmas in Rancho Mirage, California. The event presented by Visit Greater Palm Springs was an opportunity to unite Greater Palm Springs’ travel community and highlight the positive impact tourism employees have on local businesses and visitors. 

More than 170 nominations were received. Awards were presented to five rising stars in the tourism industry. In addition, 19 individuals were recognized with the Hospitality Award for enriching the overall visitor experience by providing exceptional customer service and hospitality.

Five special awards were presented in recognition for Visitor Experience in the categories of arts & culture, outdoor experiences, health & wellness, culinary, and diversity, equity & inclusion. Two additional special awards recognize individuals making a significant impact on in the areas of Sustainability and Diversity. Visit Greater Palm Springs Board Treasurer Aftab Dada presented the Spirit of Tourism Award to Tom Scaramellino, General Manager, Westin Rancho Mirage Golf Resort & Spa. The Spirit of Tourism Award is presented to an exemplary organization or individual who embodies the spirit of tourism in the valley and has worked diligently to move the overall industry forward in both actions and spirit.

The evening included a posthumous tribute to Robert Del Mas. Robert served as General Manager and Director of Sales at the Empire Polo Club and was a member of the Visit Greater Palm Springs Board of Directors for 14 years. Robert was highly respected for not only his dedication and commitment to the industry, but also his kind, selfless, and genuinely caring nature.

All proceeds from the event supported the Greater Palm Springs Tourism Foundation, established in 2018 to promote diverse programming related to the hospitality, convention, and tourism industries. At the event, the Greater Palm Springs Tourism Foundation awarded $40,000 in scholarships, including to 17 college students from across the Coachella Valley and five senior students from Coachella Valley High School’s Hospitality Academy. Greater Palm Springs has worked with the academy to award annual scholarships since 2013.

For the academic year of 2021- 2022, Coachella Valley High School’s Hospitality Academy was recognized with the California Distinguished Academy Award. Selected out of 465 academies in the State of California. CVHS's Hospitality Academy was also awarded the Lighthouse Academy Designation, given to academies that have a proven track record of success of engaging with new or struggling academies state-wide to mentor them to better support students. 

NBC Palm Springs reporter and weekend anchor Kamari Esquerra and NBC Palm Springs Emmy Award-Winning Film Critic/Host Manny the Movie Guy emceed the event.

A full list of nominees may be found at www.gpstourismfoundation.com.

Video content from the event may be found at www.visitgreaterpalmsprings.com/partnerportal/partners/oasis-awards.

 

COH-Spirit of Hospitality-Scaramellino

Recipient of the Spirit of Tourism award, Tom Scaramellino, General Manager of The Westin Rancho Mirage Golf Resort & Spa, is pictured with members of the board of Visit Greater Palm Springs at the Champions of Hospitality Awards. L-R: Aftab Dada, Nusrat Mirza, Tom Scaramellino, Rolf Hoehn, Kelly Steward, and Scott White.

 

COH-Scholarship Winners

Eight of 22 scholarship recipients are pictured at the Champions of Hospitality awards. Greater Palm Springs Tourism Foundation awarded $40,000 in scholarships, including to 17 college students from across the Coachella Valley and five senior students from Coachella Valley High School’s Hospitality Academy.

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About Visit Greater Palm Springs

Visit Greater Palm Springs (Visit GPS) is the official destination marketing organization for the nine-city Southern California oasis of Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Indio, and Coachella. Founded in 1989 with a mission to positively affect the destination’s $7.5 billion tourism economy and quality of life for its residents, Visit GPS provides sales, marketing and PR, and destination development activities to grow visitation from potential leisure travelers and event, meeting, and convention group markets.

 

Media Contact:

Joyce Kiehl

joyce@visitgreaterps.com

760.969.1338 | 510.673.1886

 

 


Hospitality Awards
Awarded for enriching the overall visitor experience by providing exceptional customer service and hospitality.

 

Resort Hotel: Heart of House
Nicolasa Rivas
Housekeeping Room Attendant, The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage
Martin Martinez-Ramirez
Executive Steward, Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa

 

Resort Hotel: Front of House
Luis Cuello Torres
Bell Person, Miramonte Indian Wells Resort & Spa

 

Full Service Hotel: Heart of House
Yolanda Amarillas
Room Attendant, Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs

 

Full Service Hotel: Front of House
Yesenia Lopez
Guest Service Champion Manager, The Paloma Resort

 

Select Service Hotel: Heart of House
Santos Carranza Mendoza
Room Attendant, Hampton Inn & Suites Palm Desert

 

Select Service Hotel: Front of House
Edwin Juarez  Guest Services Manager, Palm Mountain Resort & Spa

 

Boutique or Hot Spring Hotel: Heart of House
James Collier
Engineer, Colony Palms Hotel & Bungalows 

 

Boutique or Hot Spring Hotel: Front of House
Joan Shirley
Hotel Manager, Talavera Palm Springs

 

Vacation Rental: Heart of House
Alex Bilson
Property Care Technician, Acme House Co

 

Vacation Rental: Front of House
Bernadette Reyes
Leasing Manager, La Quinta Resort Leasing

 

Restaurant/Bar: Heart of House
Jorge Martin Hurtado
Head Cook, Grill-A-Burger

Rafael Munoz
Head Chef, Lulu Catering & Events

 

Restaurant/Bar: Front of House
Roger Lachowicz
Bartender, Agua Caliente Casino Palm Springs
Sue Hinkle
Server, Cactus Jacks

 

Attractions/Tours
Julian Gasca
Senior Game Master, Escape Room Palm Springs

 

Venue Champion
Mario Irrera
Director of Operations, Palm Springs Convention Center

 

Wellness Champion 
Guillermina Rosas
Spa Specialist, JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa

 

Retail Champion
Diane McLarty
Store Associate, Rancho Relaxo

 


2022 SAN JACINTO RISING STARS
 

Rebekah Osborne
Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa, Indian Wells

Manigee Javan
The Westin Rancho Mirage Golf Resort & Spa

Baldomero Felix-Felix
The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage

Cassidy Miller
Poolside Vacation Rentals

Emily Mendoza
Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

 


Palm Award for Visitor Experience
Recognizes individuals or businesses who elevate the Greater Palm Springs brand and inspire more visitors to the destination by consistently ensuring extremely high-quality guest services, unique experiences, or customer values. This was presented in five categories.

 

Outdoor Experiences
The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

Health & Wellness
Maria Lease, 
Azure Palm Hot Springs Resort & Day Spa Oasis

Arts & Culture
Chris and Alexis Ramirez
SUPERBLOOM

Culinary
Elizabeth Ostoich
FARM / Tac-Quila / The Front Porch / Clandestino

Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging
Palm Springs Convention Center 

 


2022 Oasis Award for Sustainability

Awarded for leading in eco-friendly tourism and implementing green/sustainable practices into their business.
 

Brian Edson
The Good House

 


2022 Santa Rosa Diversity Champion

This award recognizes an individual who, by advocating, educating, developing programs, and/or raising awareness of DEI issues, has strengthened and affected meaningful travel.

 

Rota Matsunaga
Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa

 


2022 Spirit of Tourism

 

Tom Scaramellino
Westin Rancho Mirage Golf Resort & Spa

 


Coachella Valley High School Hospitality Academy Scholarship Award

Destiny Garcia
Angel Hernandez
Leslie Nuñez
Angie Salcedo
Andrea Santoyo

 

Greater Palm Springs Tourism Foundation Scholarship Recipients

Sarah Alvarado
Rosa Benito
Briceyda Cabrera
Denise Campos-Lagunas
Erick Felix
Daisy Garcia
Valeria Gutierrez
Mathew January
Yoselin Leal-Moctezuma
Savannah Lopez
Brayan Lopez
Llamas Asziah Mcafee
Jaime Medina-Ortiz
Jazmin Miramontes
Kymani Nix
Samantha Ramos
Ileen Torres