Champions of rural tourism industry honored |

Champions of rural tourism industry honored

Special to the NNBW
White Pine County Tourism & Recreation Board received the Statewide Excellence award from the Nevada Division of Tourism during its VolunTourism Awards dinner April 27 in Elko. The White Pine board was recognized for its work promoting the Ely community, the Pony Express Territory and more. Pictured, left to right, are: Meg Rhodes, Christian Passink, with Travel Nevada, Don Newman, presenter and executive driector of the Elko Convention and Visitors Authority and commissioner on the Nevada Commission on Tourism, Ed Spear, Lori Drew, Shane Bybee, and Ernie Flangas.
Courtesy TravelNevada |

ELKO — The Nevada Division of Tourism recognized outstanding members of the state’s rural tourism industry at the VolunTourism Awards Dinner April 27 in Elko. The awards ceremony was a highlight of the state’s annual Rural Roundup conference.

“Tourism is a significant component of rural Nevada economies,” Claudia Vecchio, Nevada Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs director, said. “It is a $2.3 billion industry that continues to grow thanks to the efforts of the tourism professionals in rural Nevada. It is our pleasure to recognize those efforts with this year’s VolunTourism awards.”

Visitation to rural Nevada — all counties except Clark and Washoe — was 5.23 million in 2016, up about 7.9 percent from 2015.

TravelNevada presented six VolunTourism awards, one in each of Nevada’s six tourism territories, as well as two statewide awards and a new accolade, the Larry J. Friedman Industry Partner of the Year Award. Also presented at the ceremony was the $1,000 June Stannard Rural Tourism Memorial Scholarship.

VolunTourism award recipients are:

Cowboy Country

Yvonne Stuart, president of the Wells Chamber of Commerce, has been involved with Nevada’s Cowboy Country Territory for several years. She has been instrumental in promoting tourism throughout Cowboy Country Territory and the state of Nevada.

Indian Territory

Billie Jean Guerrero is the director of the Pyramid Lake Museum and Visitors Center for the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. Since Billie Jean began just one short year ago, she has been able to significantly increase visitation to the museum, has expanded the offerings at the museum gift shop, has created new and interesting exhibits and has been instrumental in digitizing photos and documents of the tribe. She brings her experience and passion for her culture to the museum, offering classes in the traditional arts that utilize her unique talents

Las Vegas Territory

Julie Banbury became membership director in midsummer 2016 and immediately upgraded the membership program, providing a more streamlined application process for candidates. She developed a formal membership drive involving Las Vegas Territory directors and members. As a result, the Las Vegas Territory projects an increased membership base of 15 percent to 20 percent for 2017.

Pony Express Territory

Cindy Beutel works behind the scenes in Eureka to foster community involvement and increase participation in special events. She actively supported the previous director of the Eureka Opera House and participated in Pony Express Territory, ensuring that Eureka County had a presence in regional tourism efforts.

Nevada Silver Trails Territory

Ray Fox of Certified Folder Display Service, Inc., has provided Nevada Silver Trails with travel brochure distribution services for a number of years. He has gone out of his way to match Nevada Silver Trails with the visitors most likely to come to the region.

Reno-Tahoe Territory

Bill Henderson, director of sales for the Carson Valley Inn in Minden, has been a passionate participant with the Reno-Tahoe Territory for more than 30 years. He serves on the RTT board of directors and is generous with his time and expertise in all areas of tourism sales and marketing.

Statewide Excellence

The White Pine County Tourism & Recreation Board has promoted not only the Ely community but Pony Express Territory and the entire state through recent projects and events. Participating at travel trade shows organized by the American Bus Association, the National Tour Association and others, White Pine County represented not only the county but Nevada as well.

Statewide Excellence in Grants

Duane Jones leaves no stone unturned when submitting grant applications. There is no question as to the project’s objective and the expected return on investment. He always supplies a 100 percent cash match and has successfully increased visitation to his destination year after year.

Larry J. Friedman Industry Partner of the Year

Sue Barton, deputy director of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, has shown longtime commitment to the tourism industry through her work with the Reno-Tahoe Territory. At the LTVA, Sue’s dedication to the tourism industry is most evident in her involvement with Reno-Tahoe Territory as its chairwoman.

June Stannard Memorial Scholarship recipient

Skylar Patricia Merschel, a senior at Spring Creek High School in Spring Creek, will receive this year’s June Stannard Memorial Scholarship, which assists a Nevada high school senior planning to pursue a career in hospitality or travel, or a tourism-related field. Skylar’s interest in hospitality is tied to her participation in school leadership programs, including her work as the National Association of Student Council’s northern region representative.