SONOMA COUNTY, CA (May 5, 2022) The best and brightest in Sonoma County’s tourism and hospitality industry were celebrated Tuesday night at the 2022 Sonoma County Tourism Stars of the Industry Awards at the Flamingo Resort & Spa. KZST-FM’s Brent Farris and Debbie Abrams served as hosts for the evening, recognizing 24 finalists and presenting 10 awards to businesses and individuals that have excelled in, or have had a positive effect on, the Sonoma County tourism and hospitality industry.

The inaugural Stars of the Industry Awards occurred last year as part of Sonoma County Tourism’s annual meeting. The awards proved so successful Sonoma County Tourism elected to create a standalone celebration corresponding with National Travel & Tourism Week (May 1-7). As with the previous year’s awards, Sonoma County Tourism solicited the local hospitality industry to submit nominations. A committee then paired the nominations down to three finalists in each category before inviting the industry to vote for the winners. During the voting window, online ballot submissions were limited to one per day, per email address, with 3,099 respondents casting 11,844 votes in all.

The 2022 Sonoma County Tourism Stars of the Industry are:

  • Mei Ibach with West County High School, Ally of the Industry
  • Pure Luxury Transportation, Customer Engagement
  • Lawrence Ku with the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center, Front of the House
  • Gray Rollin with Belly Left Coast Kitchen + Taproom, Heart of the House
  • Wildhaven Sonoma Glamping, Innovation Award
  • boon hotel + spa, Lodging Property of the Year
  • Ama Waya-Bivin with Wilson Winery, Rising Star
  • Kendall Jackson, Environmental Stewardship/Sustainable Practices

Special honors also were bestowed to Kirk Lok, Principal CEO at Lok Group of Companies, Inc. who was presented with the Accredited Hospitality Professional program Champion Award, and George Webber “The Count,” formerly with Buena Vista Winery, who was presented with the Legacy Award.

Ally of the Industry winner Chef Mei Ibach teaches at West County High School’s culinary arts program, which includes direct skill building on the food industry’s many occupations and services. Mei brings an enthusiasm to her work that inspires her students to take a greater interest in where their food comes from and encourages a lifelong passion for the culinary arts that can extend into the professional arena. The other finalists in this category were Duskie Estes with Farm to Pantry and Leland Fishman with Fishman Supply.

Customer Engagement winner Pure Luxury Transportation was created on the sole principle that every single customer deserves to be treated like a VIP. Part of the company’s success stems from its endless commitment to refreshing operations with the latest technologies, vehicles, and training to ensure each client receives the best experience possible. The other finalists in this category were Domaine de La Riviere and Vineyard Corridor Wine Tours.

Front of the House winner Laurence “Larry” Ku has acted as a dedicated, passionate, and ceaselessly friendly volunteer docent at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center for over six years, working a minimum of two shifts per week. Larry has been said to epitomize the ideal volunteer, serving with open heart, a warm authentic smile, and a great sense of humor. The other finalists in this category were Shari Shabanian with DoubleTree by Hilton Sonoma Wine Country and Robert Young with Robert Young Estate Winery.

Heart of the House winner Gray Rollin, chef and owner at Belly Left Coast Kitchen + Taproom, has been described as a funny, authentic, and engaging ambassador of hospitality in Sonoma County. Whether serving up a great meal, or a great story, Gray exemplifies what it means to be the Heart of the House. The other finalists in this category were Evelin Orellana with Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton Rohnert Park and Pasaang Sherpa with Wit & Wisdom.

Innovation Award winner Wildhaven Sonoma Glamping provides elevated outdoor lodging for anyone looking to recharge their mind and body, reconnect with friends and loved ones, and rediscover their love for nature. Glamping is nothing new, but Wildhaven’s unique melding of nature and comfort sets it apart from competitors and represents a growing category for consumers seeking innovative options to commune with nature. The other finalists in this category were 365 Recreational Cannabis and Mine + Farm.

Lodging Property of the Year winner boon hotel + spa has been described as affordable luxury at its finest. Funky, polished, and nestled amongst the redwoods, boon brings together all types, ages, and demographics to enjoy its saline pool and hot tub, wine by the fire pit, unmatched massage therapists, cruiser bikes to explore the town, and amazing breakfasts delivered to customers’ rooms. The other finalists in this category were Hampton Inn & Suites Windsor – Sonoma Wine Country and Hotel La Rose.

Rising Star winner Ama Waya-Bivin has cultivated a welcoming environment leading to exceptional experiences for guests. Described by her employers as an amazing asset, she has elevated Wilson Winery’s social media presence and outside events, among other accomplishments. The other finalists in this category were Jennifer Adams with Landmark Vineyard and Kristen Fisher with boon hotel + spa.

Environmental Stewardship/Sustainable Practices winner Kendall Jackson produces wine with one-third less water than the industry standard, having reduced winery water intensity by 52% since 2008. Leveraging the largest solar generator in the wine industry, Kendall-Jackson’s onsite solar arrays supply nearly 30% of its annual winemaking operations and produce enough clean energy each year to power over 1,300 homes. The other finalists in this category were The Astro and Medlock Ames.

In addition to the awards, the tourism industry was recognized with a Gold Resolution proclaiming May as “Travel & Tourism Month” in Sonoma County. The resolution was presented by district director to Supervisor James Gore, Jenny Chamberlain, on behalf of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.

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About Sonoma County Tourism: Sonoma County Tourism is the region’s destination stewardship organization. Inspiring travel to the region through a variety of sales and marketing programs aimed at consumers, meeting and event planners, the travel trade and media, the organization strives to ensure responsible tourism helps create a robust economy for the Sonoma County region. For more information www.sonomacounty.com.

Sonoma County Tourism
Claudia Vecchio
(707) 327-6334
[email protected]