The Greenville-Pitt County Convention and Visitors Bureau (Visit Greenville, NC) and local partners received several awards at the recent North Carolina Travel Industry Association’s Tourism Leadership Conference held in Winston-Salem.
“It is an honor for both our staff and tourism partners to be recognized by our peers for their incredible work, commitment, and contributions in promoting travel to Greenville-Pitt County and the state of North Carolina,” said Andrew Schmidt, president and CEO of Visit Greenville, NC.
Third-generation Pitt County pit master Sam Jones of Sam Jones BBQ and Skylight Inn BBQ was honored with the NCTIA Tourism Excellence for Individual Award. This award is given to a person from the private sector who has performed an apparent service to the development and promotion of travel to North Carolina that transcends personal gain.
Along with being a businessman, storyteller and family man, Jones is an ambassador for eastern North Carolina and the state. Through his travels to barbecue and food festivals, media interviews, authoring a cookbook and more, he creates a sense of place through food and hospitality that inspires people to come experience North Carolina for themselves, a news release from the visitor’s bureau said.
Jones has been an advocate and wonderful partner to the Visit Greenville, NC office for many years, traveling and cooking at many tourism industry events, helping host travel writers, participating in the Pitt County Brew & ’Cue Trail, and much more. “We are so proud that his work has been recognized by our statewide tourism industry partners,” Schmidt said.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have been able to carry what my family started in a hole in the ground in Ayden to crowds all over America,” Jones said. “After doing so for over a decade promoting our restaurants, our region, and what barbecue means to North Carolina, I was humbled to be recognized by my home state.
“I’m proud to be from North Carolina, specifically Ayden, North Carolina, and I’m glad that after each event I do, I get to come back to where home has always been.”
Rachel Whitten, director of sales and services for Visit Greenville, NC received the 2021 Destination Rising Star Award. This award is given to an individual who has been in the tourism industry for less than three years, but has made an immediate positive impact.
Responsible for creating a positive economic impact via the conventions and meetings market by selling Greenville-Pitt County meeting and event facilities as well as the destination itself to meeting planners, organizational boards, and meeting attendees, Whitten’s creativity, drive, relationship-building style, and willingness to volunteer has distinguished her within the tourism industry and the community as she works to establish Greenville-Pitt County as a premier meetings destination within the Southeast, Schmidt said.
“I love where I live and what Greenville-Pitt County has to offer to meeting planners, attendees, and visitors alike,” Whitten said. “To be able to share that love through a career in an industry that thrives on connecting people to, and through, places is a blessing. Being recognized by that industry and by my peers as someone who stands out by making a positive is an honor.”
Visit Greenville, NC also won the NCTIA Group Sales Platinum Award for hosting the 2021 Little League Softball World Series. Held in earlier in August, this sports tournament generated an estimated economic impact of $857,000 for the local economy. Visit Greenville, NC and the Greenville-Pitt County Sports Commission partnered to work with advertising agency French West Vaughan to produce a 30 second commercial promoting the destination, which aired on various ESPN networks during the weeklong tournament showcasing Greenville-Pitt County to a regional and national audience.
In recognition of marketing efforts to bring meetings and conventions business back, Visit Greenville, NC also received the NCTIA Meetings & Conventions Platinum Award for our “We’re Ready to Welcome You Back to Greenville, NC” promotional video produced in partnership with Asher James Photography of Greenville.
This video highlighted the COVID-19 safety precautions being implemented by hotels, meeting spaces and other tourism partners during pandemic to keep meeting attendees safe.