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In honor of the 40th anniversary of National Travel and Tourism Week, Visit Lebanon Valley held its inaugural Hospitality Star Awards on May 11.

The ceremony, recognizing nine individuals and one program from Lebanon Valley for their exceptional hospitality contributions, took place at the Visit Lebanon Valley Welcome Center in North Cornwall Commons.

Read More: Visit Lebanon Valley opens welcome center in North Cornwall Commons

The honorees, spanning a range of roles from hotel receptionist to coffeehouse barista, were recognized for their exemplary representation of the Lebanon Valley hospitality sector.

“We hope that through this initiative we can elevate the message that hospitality is important to our county in so many ways,” said Jennifer Kuzo, president of Visit Lebanon Valley. “We are all ambassadors for tourism in the Lebanon Valley, and we are proud to celebrate everything that our industry has done for the community.”

Travel and tourism are integral to the U.S. and local economies. In 2021, visitor spending in Lebanon County, including lodging, food and beverage, retail, and recreation, totaled $258.8 million, according to the Economic Impact of Travel and Tourism in Pennsylvania report.

By celebrating local hospitality stars, Visit Lebanon Valley said it aims to highlight the economic growth, vibrant business activity, and enhanced quality of life fostered by travel and tourism in the region.

Among the honorees were April Bowalick, food and beverage manager and catering coordinator at the Miner’s Pub; Mika Cook, community development specialist and box office manager for Gretna Music; Erica Cox, front desk supervisor at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Lebanon; Maureen Horning, owner and operator of Horning Produce in the Lebanon Farmers Market; and Susan Hostetter, chair of the Mount Gretna Historical Society and the Chautauqua summer programs.

Other award recipients included Heather Kelley, manager at the Whirling Dervish Bakery & Coffee Shop; Gina Longenecker, associate at the Maple Street McDonald’s; Sasha Moyer, barista at Swatara Coffee Company; Aaron Stupp, general manager for the Lebanon Valley Golf Course; and the Lebanon County Career & Technology Center Hospitality Program, which runs a retail pastry shop and a full-service restaurant, The Hilltop Cafe, providing students with real-world experience.

Visit Lebanon Valley said the awards serve as a testament to the community’s commitment to hospitality and its crucial role in supporting the region’s travel and tourism industry.

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