Hotelier Kevin Hendrickson was as surprised as he was elated when he was announced the Hospitality Personality of the Year during The Gleaner's Hospitality Jamaica Awards ceremony, held Saturday night at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James.
Hendrickson came out ahead of Josef Fortsmayr, of Round Hill in Hanover, and partners Shireen Aga and Barbara Walker of Mockingbird Hill in Portland.
He was lauded as having proven himself to be a committed contributor to Jamaica's tourism industry, investing continuously in upgrading and refurbishing his properties and providing service and products beyond expectations.
Hendrickson was also applauded for, among other things, his heavy investment in staff training, personnel development and preservation of the natural environment.
He began his foray in 1981 as general manager of the then Courtleigh Hotel on Trafalgar Road in
St Andrew and later acquired other properties over the decades, including The Ruins at the Falls in Ocho Rios, Knutsford Court Hotel, Holiday Inn Resort in Montego Bay, the former Wyndham hotel in 2014, and The Jamaica Pegasus hotel, which was also a big winner on Saturday night, copping two awards for the Best Conference/
Business Hotel and the Best European Plan hotel.
"I was shocked," Hendrickson told The Gleaner following the awards ceremony.
"I wasn't even prepared. I didn't even think you had to make a speech ... . I was extremely surprised, and honoured, I must admit. The feeling is fantastic. It is very rewarding, you know, anytime you win an award for anything, more importantly for the team, the whole morale of the whole team, (because) even if they are not in that particular property, it is still a team effort."
A FANTASTIC PRODUCT
He added: "I am just proud to have been part of this Hospitality 2016 awards. It really is nice, the recognition that Hospitality Jamaica gives to the industry overall and the exposure, not just to us Jamaicans, but to the entire world. The publication shows off a lot of fantastic products, the culture, the people, the whole range of what Jamaica is all about as a location."
The other hospitality stakeholders who shared the spotlight included Negril's Hedonism II, which copped the Jamaica's Best in Cuisine and the Jamaica's Best in Entertainment awards.
Trelawny's Royalton also took home three awards on Saturday night - the Best in Innovation, Best All-inclusive - over 300 Rooms and the People's Choice awards.
Taking home one award each were Rainforest Seafoods, which won for Best Purveyor; Chukka, which took the Best Attraction title; Knutsford Express, which was voted the Best Transportation Company; Half Moon, which copped the Best Eco/Sustainable Resort; and the Round Hill Hotel and Villas in Hanover, which won the title of Best Small/Boutique Hotel.
The Hermosa Cove Hotel in Ocho Rios took home the judge's special award for Most Eclectic Hotel award, while Montego Bay's Riu Palace were the winners of the Best All-inclusive - Under 300 Rooms.
Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett, in his address, lauded The Gleaner for the initiative.
"Inspired thought has been translated into strong action that brings recognition to the players of the industry who have performed with excellence," Bartlett said.
"I do believe that these activities enhance the performance of the stakeholders in the industry and gives us a sense of place; a sense that if you do well, you can be celebrated; you can be positioned for others to emulate."
Sponsors of the event include the Jamaica Tourist Board, the Montego Bay Convention Centre, Tai Flora, John Swaby Entertainment, Rainforest Seafoods, Caribbean Producers Jamaica, and Jamaica Broilers.
2016 HOSPITALITY JAMAICA AWARDS WINNERS