Lt. Gov. Tammy Miller, North Dakota Department of Commerce Tourism and Marketing Director Sara Otte Coleman and Destination Marketing Association of North Dakota (DMAND) president Sheri Grossman presented the 2023 Governor’s Travel and Tourism Awards at the North Dakota Travel Industry Conference in Bismarck. The awards recognize outstanding leaders, projects, and innovations in the state’s travel and tourism industry.
“Travel and tourism are essential drivers of North Dakota's economy, and today we honor the hardworking individuals and organizations who make our state a top destination for visitors,” Gov. Doug Burgum said. “These awards recognize the dedication, innovation and passion that industry leaders bring to their work, and we’re grateful for their contributions to our state's continued growth and prosperity."
2023 Award Winners
Sakakawea Award for a Behind-the-Scenes Tourism Employee
North Dakota Tourism, Statewide
This award recognizes an individual who provides outstanding service behind the scenes in visitor-focused businesses.
Tricia Miller plays a crucial role in promoting North Dakota tourism by overseeing the website NDtourism.com, a primary portal for potential travelers to the state offering information on attractions, activities, accommodations, and events. Tricia constantly improves the site's technology and content to ensure a positive website user experience. In 2022, she led efforts to enhance the website, resulting in a traffic increase of 25.6%, with 2.15 million visits and over 280,000 referrals to partner websites. Her work also earned an "Outstanding Website" accolade from the Web Marketing Association’s WebAwards. Tricia’s diligent work behind the scenes crosses into all areas of the tourism division’s operations and improves the staff’s efficiency and service to visitors and stakeholders alike.
Heritage Award for a Front-line Tourism Employee
TownePlace Suites by Marriott, Dickinson
This award recognizes an individual who provides outstanding customer service to visitors daily.
Guests at TownePlace Suites in Dickinson praise hotel breakfast manager Tammy Meyer, aka the “Breakfast Champion,” for her exceptional hospitality and service. In addition to overseeing daily breakfast operations, Tammy helps guests plan their trips, outlines national park driving routes on maps, offers dining and attraction suggestions, and sets aside books and toys to gift to the hotel’s youngest guests. Tammy has been mentioned in over 20% of guest survey responses since 2017. Her excellent service drives guest satisfaction and loyalty, increasing the hotel's profitability. As one review stated, “Tammy the breakfast manager is OUTSTANDING with guests in the morning. She makes us all feel welcomed and adds a tremendous warm feeling of hospitality that is second to none in helping guests with local park info and other sites to see while near Medora! 4 Star Person!”
Flint Firestarter Award for a Tourism Development Project
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.
The Lights is a unique mixed-use entertainment district offering dining, shopping, and community events. Concerts and sporting events are held on the Essentia Health Plaza, while retail and commercial space and residential units add to the district’s energy, vitality, and density. This collaborative project was made possible by a partnership between the City of West Fargo and two private companies, with the city contributing Tax Increment Financing (TIF) dollars and the developers investing $88 million. With year-round entertainment, The Lights attracts visitors from around the country and its success has inspired similar projects in other communities across the state.
Trailblazer Award for Tourism Innovation
Teresa Perleberg and Chris Armbrust
Nome Schoolhouse, Nome
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.
The Nome Schoolhouse Fiber Arts Retreat Center, located in the small town of Nome, offers a unique learning experience in fiber arts. The former schoolhouse was purchased by Teresa Perleberg and Chris Armbrust and turned into a "flock to needle" establishment where sheep are shorn, wool is processed, and kits, yarn, and roving are offered as classes. The center also offers an 11-room boutique hotel, wedding venue and meeting/retreat facilities, a full-time chef, camping sites, and a merchandise store. The center has created new job opportunities and revitalized the town's social and economic landscape. The establishment has received a National Preservation Award for saving a historic building and providing education to the community.
Amplifier Award for Marketing Excellence
Sunflower Map Campaign
North Dakota Tourism, Statewide
This award will be given to a stand-out marketing initiative. The honor may go to a marketing project, a specific campaign, a marketing team or cooperative project or a marketing guru who uses innovative ideas to attract more attention and thus visitors to North Dakota.
The North Dakota Sunflower Map is a partnership between North Dakota Tourism and the National Sunflower Association. Farmers across the state share their sunflower fields with visitors, and the map provides exact coordinates and updates on bloom stages. The campaign's success led to adding branded sunflower seed mailboxes, and in 2022, it reached over 220,000 people on social and generated over 15,000 website visits in a month. The campaign also garnered 356 media instances and a total reach of 241 million in readership. The tourism team plans to celebrate the partnership with the first "National Sunflower Day" in 2023.
Legend Award for Travel & Tourism Industry Leadership
Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation, Medora
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.
Randy Hatzenbuhler, President of the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation, has dedicated thirty years to growing tourism in Medora and North Dakota. Under his leadership, visitor spending in Medora tripled, new attractions and amenities were added, and over $68 million in gifts were used to improve Medora’s infrastructure and guest experience. He also played a key role in the formation of the North Dakota Travel Alliance Partnership, advocating for the travel and tourism industry throughout the state. Randy's unwavering passion for serving the public is seen through his hands-on approach, working alongside his staff greeting guests and selling popcorn at the Medora Musical. As his staff stated in his award nomination, Randy is a leader by example, never asking others to do a job he himself is unwilling to do. The impact of such leadership, exhibited over more than three decades, cannot be understated.