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Greater Palm Springs tourism and hospitality industry honored at Champions of Hospitality Gala

  • Champions of Hospitality Gala-Scholarship Winners_PhotosByLani
    Champions of Hospitality Gala Scholarship Winners (Photos By Lani).
  • Oasis Award, City of La Quinta (Photos By Lani).
  • Spirit of Tourism Award, Tim Lieweke (Photos By Lani).

Paul Tollett, CEO & President of Goldenvoice and 2018 Spirit of Tourism winner, made the presentation.

GREATER PALM SPRINGS, CA – More than 650 hospitality professionals, students and their  families from across the Coachella Valley gathered to celebrate the spirit of Greater Palm Springs tourism at the annual Champions of Hospitality Gala held at Renaissance  Esmeralda Resort & Spa in Indian Wells. The event presented by Visit Greater Palm Springs was an opportunity to unite Greater Palm Springs’ hospitality community and highlight the  positive impact tourism employees have on local businesses and visitors.  

While the Champions of Hospitality Awards Gala celebrates the individuals and  organizations that embody the innovative spirit of the local tourism and hospitality industry,  the event also serves as a fundraising vehicle for the Greater Palm Springs Tourism  Foundation, raising more than $90,000 through sponsorships, silent auction and donations. At  the event, the Greater Palm Springs Tourism Foundation awarded $24,000 in scholarships to  four college students from across the Coachella Valley and five seniors from Coachella Valley High School’s Hospitality Academy.  

NBC Palm Springs morning anchor Thalia Hayden and Telemundo 15 news anchor and  reporter Hernan Quintas emceed the Awards, which drew more than 175 nominations across  a variety of categories. Twenty individuals were recognized with the Hospitality Award for  enriching the overall visitor experience by providing exceptional customer service and  hospitality. Special recognition was made to seven individuals considered to be rising stars in the local tourism industry with the San Jacinto Rising Star Award. 

The Palm Award was presented to five individuals/organizations 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 value.

Two special awards were made to recognize those making a significant impact in the areas  of Sustainability and Diversity. The City of La Quinta was the recipient of the Oasis Award for Sustainability for its program of working with every dining establishment in the city on  composting. Nathan Kelleher, Guest Relations and Club Lounge Manager at The Ritz Carlton,Rancho Mirage, was presented the Santa Rosa Diversity Award for developing programs  that support the LGBTQ+ community in the hospitality industry in the Coachella Valley.

The culminating award of the event, the Spirit of Tourism Award, was presented to Tim Leiweke, CEO of Oak View Group/Acrisure Arena, to recognize his embodiment of the spirit of tourism in the valley and his diligent work to move the overall industry forward in both actions and spirit.

2023 Champion on Hospitality Award winners (by category) 

Hospitality Awards

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

  • Freddy Barragan, Aguilar Parker Palm Springs
  • Angie Bettinelli, Azure Sky Hotel
  • Heriberto “Beto” Caballero,Tommy Bahama Miramonte Resort & Spa
  • Margie Diaz, Meredith Lodging
  • Elizabeth Donate, Hilton Grand Vacations Club Palm Desert
  • Guillermo Esquivel, Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa, Indian Wells
  • Tim Fields, JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa
  • Jessica Gonzales, Acrisure Arena
  • Juan Gonzalez,TQLAS and The Hideout Kitchen + Bar
  • Levi Hernandez, Escape Room Palm Springs
  • Garth Hoyes, The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
  • Yolanda Leyva, Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage
  • Enma Lopez, Hampton Inn & Suites Indio
  • Martha Lucio, Hilton Palm Springs
  • Martin Oliveros, La Quinta Resort and Club
  • Griselda Perez, Fantasy Springs Resort Casino
  • Rosa Sanchez, Rancho Relaxo
  • Tatiana Schneider, The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage
  • Jennifer Torricelli, Café One Eleven at Agua Caliente Cathedral City
  • James Toscano, The Westin Rancho Mirage Golf Resort & Spa
  • Ioana Vasile, The Spring Resort & Spa
Oasis Award
Awarded for leading in eco-friendly tourism and implementing green/sustainable practices into their business.

City of La Quinta

Palm Awards Visitor Experience

Elevates the Greater Palm Springs brand and inspires more visitors to the destination by consistently ensuring extremely high-quality guest services, unique experiences, or customer value.

  • Aric Ianni, Boozehounds
  • Palm Springs Palm Springs Air Museum
  • Cathedral City Hot Air Balloon Festival
  • Sean Smith, CV BBQ
  • Daniel Spencer, The Spa at Séc-he and Sunstone Spa at Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage

San Jacinto Award

Presented to an individual who has worked in hospitality or tourism for less than 5 years, or is under 40 years of age, and has contributed to the promotion of travel, tourism, and hospitality in Greater Palm Springs.

  • Nicole Benvenutti COJ Events, Inc.
  • Abril Betancourt, Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa
  • Jocelyn Gutierrez, ACME House Company
  • Gilbert Lujan, Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs
  • Jose “Chuy” De Jesus, Martin Lulu Catering and Events
  • Bianca Nolasco, Empire Polo Club
  • Christine Willinsky, FARM, Tac/Quila, Front Porch, and Clandestino
Santa Rosa Diversity Award
Recognizes an individual who, by advocating, educating, developing programs, and/or raising awareness of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) issues, has strengthened, and affected meaningful change to improve DEI in our hospitality and tourism industry.

Nathan Kelleher, The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage

Spirit of Tourism Award

This is the highest recognition presented annually to an individual whose dedication and commitment to the local tourism and hospitality industry has had a significant positive impact on the destination’s economy and quality of life.

Tim Leiweke, Oak View Group/Acrisure Arena

Coachella Valley High School Hospitality Academy Scholarship Award

  • Christopher Bravo 
  • Melanie Martinez 
  • Marifer Felix 
  • Anlle Murillo 
  • Mariela Herran

Greater Palm Springs Tourism Foundation Scholarship Recipients

  • George Cabrera
  • Sebastian Jaimes-Miranda
  • Matthew January
  • Itzel Posada
Theodore Koumelis
Co-Founder & Managing Director - Travel Media Applications | Website

Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.

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