<< All News Monday, May 4, 2020 - 04:09 pm

Gov. Doug Burgum, Tourism Director Sara Otte Coleman and Destination Marketing Association of North Dakota (DMAND) president Searle Swedlund presented six Governor’s Travel and Tourism Awards today during the weekly tourism industry chat.

The Governor’s Travel and Tourism Awards are typically presented in April at the Travel Industry Conference. The COVID-19 health crisis forced the cancellation of the conference but not the recognition of the passion and dedication of North Dakotans who have contributed to the growth of travel and tourism in North Dakota.

“As the state’s third-largest industry, we know that travel and tourism will play an instrumental role in the North Dakota Smart Restart by attracting and retaining visitors and their dollars once it is safe to travel Burgum said. “We are grateful for the commitment of more than 2,900 businesses that make up the travel and tourism sector that help differentiate our state, make trips to North Dakota memorable and diversify our economy.” 

“This year’s winners have demonstrated the commitment and creativity that the travel industry in North Dakota will need going forward as we begin to recover from this worldwide crisis," North Dakota Tourism Division Director Sara Otte Coleman said. "This kind of passion will be vital to attracting and servicing visitors and retaining our quality of life in communities across North Dakota."

Searle Swedlund, Destination Marketing Association of North Dakota President added, “the average person doesn’t think about the how the 42,000 employed in travel and tourism in North Dakota create an impression of our state, and how their energy creates lasting memories.

Click here for more details on each award winner.

2020 award winners:

Sakakawea Award for a Behind-the-Scenes Tourism Employee
Johannes Olwage
International Peace Garden, Dunseith

This award recognizes an individual who provides outstanding service behind the scenes in visitor-focused businesses.

Johannes Olwage has been an employee of the International Peace Garden for 10 years as conservatory director, horticulture supervisor and director of horticulture. Johannes, a native of Namibia who now calls North Dakota home, has overseen much of the garden’s care, including its 2,400 acres, 25-acre formal garden, 50,000-plus annuals, thousands of perennials and a world-class conservatory with more than 5,000 unique species of cacti and succulents. He is  quick to interact with visitors while working in the gardens or conservatory and enjoys sharing plant trivia or details  with them.

Telegraph Award for Marketing Technology
Julie Obrigewitsch
Dickinson Convention and Visitors Bureau

This award is given to a tourism entity with creative use of social media platforms, websites, applications or data driven consumer marketing that has resulted in increased awareness, image and visitation.

Julie Obrigewitsch of the Dickinson Convention and Visitors Bureau epitomizes what this award is all about. As marketing methods have evolved into the primary use of digital marketing, Julie has stepped into an additional role of social media manager for the CVB where she facilitates digital marketing, website maintenance and analytical reports for the CVB. She organized the CVB’s social media campaigns into a focused, market-driven strategy that digs deep into the analytics of views, click throughs and engagements. Julie has become the “local expert” on using Google Business.

Heritage Award for a Front-line Tourism Employee
Evonne Feist
Holiday Inn Express and Suites, Minot

This award recognizes an individual who provides outstanding customer service to visitors daily.

Evonne Feist has been part of the front desk team since 2008. On top of providing guest satisfaction, her responsibilities include maintaining relationships with guests, keeping records, making travel arrangements and managing office organization and general workflow from supporting team members. Not only does she play a huge part on the front desk team, Evonne helps in other departments without hesitation. Many of their guests will ask for Evonne if she does not answer the phone or check them in.

Flint Firestarter Award for a Tourism Development Project
Mike Froelich
Laughing Sun Brewery, Bismarck

This award recognizes a new offering that has opened in a downtown district that has the potential to attract visitors and enhance the Main Street experience by offering improved amenities and spark future development in the core of a community.

Laughing Sun Brewery in Bismarck has carved out its own niche in downtown Bismarck and become a “most recommended pub/restaurant” by locals  In a highly competitive craft beer industry, Laughing Sun sticks out for a couple of reasons – its craft brews and Mike Froehlich. Mike blends beers, art and music into an ambiance that brings regulars back over and over and turns guests into regulars. Mike’s promotional efforts in the industry go beyond Laughing Sun. He also is an unselfish promoter of all breweries in North Dakota.

Trailblazer Award for Tourism Innovation
Joe Stickler, Ph.D.
Medicine Wheel Park, Valley City

This award acknowledges the spirit of perseverance and creativity in developing unique North Dakota offerings and is given to an attraction, event, person, group, company or organization that has been innovative in improving visitor experiences in North Dakota.

Dr. Joe Stickler, former chemistry professor and professor emeritus from Valley City State University, was instrumental in the creation of Medicine Wheel Park in Valley City in 1992. The park still stands today in honor of Native American culture and history in the area and has undergone a series of improvements under Joe’s leadership in recent years.

Legend Award for Travel & Tourism Industry Leadership
Claudia Berg
State Historical Society of North Dakota

This award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated legendary leadership in the tourism industry statewide and beyond. This individual's long-term leadership in the areas of destination development must be proven by a significant impact in visitor spending and/or creating differentiated communities.

Claudia Berg’s positive and progressive leadership style, professional advocacy to preserve North Dakota history and community connections with statewide leaders of cultural and tourism organizations is creating a lasting impact. Claudia lead the 97,0000 square foot expansion of the ND Heritage Center and  s director of the State Historical Society of North Dakota, a has a longstanding reputation as a positive partnership builder. Claudia is retiring in June after 35 years of service.

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