SDCLA Honored Exceptional Hotel Industry Professionals at the 42nd Annual Gold Key Awards

Event Celebrated Rebounding Industry and Positive Outlook after Devastating Effects of Pandemic

The San Diego County Lodging Association (SDCLA) honored eight hospitality professionals that exemplify the very best of the San Diego hospitality industry at their annual Gold Key Awards Event last night.

The event was an opportunity to recognize the exceptional contributions of those who work in and support San Diego hotels and to celebrate the rebounding industry as they move towards recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our hotels are more than just a place for business and travel – they create thousands of jobs, contribute billions of dollars in economic activity and provide millions of dollars in hotel taxes that benefit our city in countless ways,” said Mayor Todd Gloria, who delivered opening remarks at last night’s event. “It’s essential that we continue to support the recovery of the industry so that San Diego remains a top travel destination we can all enjoy.”

The namesake Gold Key Award was taken home by Gary Johnston, Chief Resilience Officer for the San Diego County Office of Emergency Services.  Johnston was recognized for his extraordinary support of the industry, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, when we was responsible for navigating the evolving public health guidance from state and local authorities and communicating those to local hotels so they could continue operations.

Hundreds of outstanding hotel employees were nominated by colleagues throughout San Diego County and SDCLA judges selected the winners based on outstanding and unusual service to the property, to the guests, and to the community. This year’s winners represent the region’s diverse range of individuals, properties and locations.

“Each winner has demonstrated sustained excellence and a passion for hospitality that inspires all of us, especially this year,” said SDCLA Board Vice President, Brad Baer. “Our heartfelt congratulations and thanks to every participant who helps make the San Diego lodging experience one of the best in the world.”

The awards ceremony, which was emceed by SDCLA Board Member and President of Ocean Park Inn Hotel, Elvin Lai, was held in-person for the first time since 2019.

“As our industry begins to recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic, we wanted to use these awards as an opportunity to celebrate the resilience and innovation of key players that truly exemplify what our industry has to offer,” Lai said.

The 42nd Annual Gold Key Award winners are:

Patti Roscoe – Allied Person of the Year Award: It takes a village for the hospitality and tourism industries to thrive but some of the people who make the biggest difference aren’t the ones we instantly think of. This award honors someone who isn’t directly employed by a lodging establishment but who makes a big difference in the industry and the lives of those around them!

  • Winner: Brian Hilemon, San Diego Tourism Authority

Food and Beverage Associate of the Year: What would hotels be without stellar Food & Beverage staff? High-quality food, beverages, and attitudes are essential to the success of the hospitality and tourism industry. This category honors someone who consistently goes above and beyond their day-to-day tasks and improve the lives of guests and all those around them.

  • Winner: Magdalena Trevizo, Hilton San Diego Gaslamp Quarter

Guest Service Associate of the Year: Guest Service associates are among the first people who can make guest experiences memorable, seamless and enjoyable. This award honors a superstar in the industry who always goes above and beyond when it comes to making guests feel special, welcomed and in help out their fellow employees.

  • Winner: Marco Vizcarra, The US Grant Hotel

Heart of the House Associate of the Year: Hotels are like stages: behind-the-scenes staff are crucial to putting on a successful production. Back-office employees are essential to the hospitality industry and their effort should not be overlooked. The Heart of the House award honors a non-management associate who has little or no guest contact.

  • Winner: Maria Zuniga Torres, Pendry San Diego

Hotel Manager of the Year: The finest managers see the big picture while also looking after all the small details that make their vision a reality. These individuals have risen through the ranks and come to exemplify all the best attributes of our industry. They are managers who reach out to guests, inspire employees and extend themselves to the broader community. This award honors a manager in a supervising position in a lodging establishment.

  • Winner: Laura Becerra, Grande Colonial Hotel

Sales Associate of the Year: This award honors the very best of the unsung heroes who go above and beyond to build relationships and drive revenue for our industry every single day.

  • Winner: Edward Kutch, The US Grant hotel

Hotel Executive of the Year: This category honors an executive who has shown excellence in leadership, service, and community affairs. The nominees were judged on outstanding performance that goes above and beyond normal job responsibilities, including providing excellent service to the property, guests, and community, as well as building strong teams and encouraging excellence at their property.

  • Winner: Ally Marion, Omni San Diego Hotel

Gold Key Award: First presented in 1982, the Gold Key Award is meant to honor an individual who does not work directly in hospitality or tourism but who truly embody the spirit of the industry and makes a difference every day. This individual goes above and beyond to find innovative ways to make outstanding contributions on a continuing basis to the betterment of the industry.

  • Winner: Gary Johnston, County of San Diego