19 May 2024

VisitNorfolk’s Champion of Hospitality Awards for National Travel and Tourism Week 2024

May 19-25, 2024 is National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW), an annual tradition to celebrate the U.S. travel community and tourism’s essential role in stimulating economic growth, cultivating vibrant communities, creating quality job opportunities, inspiring new businesses and elevating the quality of life for Americans every day. 

Tourism is essential to our region and plays an integral role in Norfolk’s economy. As the third largest economic driver for our city, the travel and tourism industry mobilized a $149.7 million impact in fiscal year 2023. With over 7,000 jobs in the tourism and hospitality sector, our industry attracts a multitude of talents and provides significant economic benefits to both local businesses and Norfolk residents. 

To celebrate tourism in our city and to shine a light on the individuals and teams who make Norfolk such a welcoming city to experience, VisitNorfolk established in 2002 the Champion of Hospitality Awards. In March and April, we invited anyone who has had a positive hospitality experience in Norfolk to nominate an individual or an entire team for the Champion of Hospitality Awards. We are excited to share the winners of this year’s awards and encourage you to visit these Champions of Hospitality in person during your next Norfolk experience. 

Peter G. Decker, Jr. Hospitality Associate of the Year

Mary Buting
Laundry Attendant
DoubleTree By Hilton Hotel Norfolk Airport

Since 1994, Mary Buting has remained a steadfast and loyal employee in the laundry department of the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Norfolk Airport. She’s fluffed and folded laundry for guests, working extra hours and going above and beyond during Covid to clean rooms and spot check the lobby, something she said she’d never done before.

“That was a hard job,” she says. “I did a little bit of everything.”

This can-do attitude has led coworkers to say, “She is so well liked and kind to everyone that she exudes the spirit of hospitality all the way and never looks for recognition.”

“I try to give them everything they need,” she says about DoubleTree guests.

With this award, Mary is getting the recognition she deserves for three decades of service to Norfolk’s visitors.

– Nominated by Mary Elizabeth Collins, DoubleTree Norfolk

Champion of Hospitality Winners

Rob Asbury 
Todd Jurich Bistro

Always friendly and providing top-notch service, Rob Asbury mans the bar at Todd Jurich Bistro with the air of a true professional. Whether he’s serving our city’s visitors, locals or the eatery’s celebrity clientele, Rob is ready to deliver excellent service every time.

– Nominated by Bruce Watts

Scott & Corrie Bateman
COVA Brewing Company

COVA’s commitment to quality brews, community growth and sustainability is no accident. It’s a collective effort of the team led by Scott and Corie Bateman. These two work tirelessly, serving on community boards including the Ocean View Business Association, to make this city one that will be around for future generations to live and thrive in.

– Nominated by Scott Bateman, COVA Brewing Co.

John Carter
Sales and Catering Coordinator
HIlton the Main

As our first-ever Rookie of the Year, John already has the chops of a seasoned pro. He handles everything thrown his way while serving as a welcoming face for guests at the Main. His teammates say they’re very lucky to have him around and look forward to seeing what he does in the future.

– Nominated by Jessica Clingenpeel, The Main Norfolk

Drazey Carvajal
Front Desk Supervisor
DOubleTree Norfolk Airport

Despite having no prior hospitality experience, Drazey impressed the higher-ups at Doubletree enough to land a part-time position at the hotel. Over the past two years, he has gone above and beyond, becoming a supervisor and an indispensable member of his team. He’s called the “driving force” for the front desk team and someone who puts others before himself. He’s noted for being compassionate and helping out without batting an eye.

– Nominated by Crystal Dickey, DoubleTree Norfolk

Chrysler Museum Visitor Services Team

Walk into the Chrysler Museum and it’s likely the door will be opened for you by one of these friendly ambassadors for the arts. During the recent Paul McCartney photo exhibition, the team greeted more than 60,000 visitors with knowledge and friendliness while ensuring guest safety. They also work weddings, festivals and have been nationally recognized for the level of service they provide.

– Nominated by Ashley Grove Mars, Chrysler Museum

Hannah Coats
General Manager and Brew Master

For 10 years, Hannah has worked her way up through the Hilton ranks, now serving as GM and brewmaster at Grain. Her coworkers note that she makes every day look easy and fun, thanks to her positive attitude and friendly demeanor. She creates a positive atmosphere for both staff and guests – and it shows in her employee retention and guest satisfaction stats.

– Nominated by Jessica Clingenpeel, The Main Norfolk

Best Tourist Shuttle

F.R.E.D. may not be a person, but this electric vehicle packs a lot of personality. Offering near-daily rides (for free!) throughout the Downtown Norfolk corridor, this battery-operated, eight-seat people mover is an extension of the Downtown Public Service Ambassador program and, well, it’s a certified hit with visitors.

– Nominated by Sam Black, Downtown Norfolk

Rebecca Kelley
Pastry Chef
The Stockpot Norfolk

The tasty treats on display at the Stockpot in Selden Market are carefully crafted by pastry chef Rebecca Kelley, who turns out custom cakes, themed deserts, cookies and house bread with ease every day. She pulls double duty as the Stockpot’s social media coordinator and is always happy to lend a helping hand by serving as the restaurant’s Manager On Duty multiple times a week. She’s a terrific asset for Downtown Norfolk.

– Nominated by Amber Kostka, The Stockpot Norfolk

Sydney Meers
Syd’s Fish Pig Cafe

Chef Syd Meers personifies “above and beyond” with the service he provides at Syd’s Fish Pig Cafe. From staying open late to cook for late-night VIPs to entertaining guests with colorful chitchat, Syd has often opened his doors on days off to provide private dining for conference officials. An award-winning chef, Meers is also an artist in his own right.

– Nominated by Wayne Callis, VisitNorfolk

Chris Perry
Assistant General Manager
Courtyard by Marriott Downtown Norfolk

Noted for being the “epitome of hospitality,” Chris Perry serves as the heart of the downtown Marriott. He always has a smile on his face and “bends over backwards” to help guests feel welcome. Also nominated to be the moderator/group expert on the Marriott Employee Forum on Facebook, Chris does his best to greet every guest who steps into the Marriott.

– Nominated by Brent Cosgrove, Marriott Downtown Norfolk

Carla Plummer
City of Norfolk Parking

Known for her charming personality and friendly demeanor, Plummer has helped keep city parking in check for years, going above and beyond during the recent MEAC Tournament. She bagged meters and spent three hours assisting by keeping spaces open during the opening night reception. Carla retires in October and is well deserving of this honor.

– Nominated by Jennifer Lopez, Visit Norfolk

Mary Ryder
Allied Universal Security Services

At a recent show, Mary assisted a young man who was experiencing sensory/anxiety issues. She checked on him and offered to reseat him on a lower level where he could – and did – enjoy the rest of the show. Mary went out of her way to ensure the entire family had an enjoyable evening, going far above and beyond her job description.

– Nominated by James Ball, VisitNorfolk

Lori Santiago
Bell Person
The Main

Walk in to the Main and it’s likely you’ll see the warm smile of Lori Santiago greeting you. She’s always dressed for the occasion, wearing themed outfits to welcome guests daily. It’s hard to beat the first impression Lori offers to guests walking into the Main, whether it’s for the first time or their hundredth time.

– Nominated by Stacy Lisborg, The Main Norfolk

Dave Walker
Operations Supervisor
Downtown Norfolk Council

For 25 years, Dave Walker has served as a dedicated member of the Ambassador team for the Downtown Norfolk Council. He’s always ready to lend a helping hand and direct visitors to where they want to go. He also keeps the streetscape clean and safe while dropping serious knowledge about Downtown for locals and visitors alike.  

– Nominated by Sam Black, Downtown Norfolk

Vinson M Wilson
Supreme Allied Commander Transformation

For 20 years, Vinson has served ACT/NATO in the Protocol Office. He supported all NATO Events for General Philippe Lavigne, SACT Commander and has been an inspiration to his colleagues and team. Vinson is a previous Hospitality Champion, having won in 2009.

– Nominated by NATO Protocol Staf

Meet our 2023 winners here.

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