Tourism Industry Honours Champions at Tourism Excellence Awards Gala

For Immediate Release

February 23, 2017 – Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador hosted the annual Tourism Excellence Awards Gala on Thursday night as the grand finale to the Annual Conference and Trade Show, held in Gander from February 21-23. The Tourism Excellence Awards Gala featured the presentation of the Tourism Excellence Awards, recognizing the outstanding tourism leaders and businesses that make great contributions to the provincial tourism industry.

“Year after year, the provincial tourism industry continues to bring forth new levels of innovation and creativity that allow this province to deliver above and beyond travellers’ expectations,” says Dion Finlay, Hospitality NL Chair. “This ingenuity is just as common amongst long-time industry members who have dedicated many years to advancing tourism as it is amongst the newer generation who bring a fresh new perspective to the industry. I would like to congratulate all the nominees and recipients of this year’s awards and sincerely thank them for their contribution to Newfoundland and Labrador’s tourism industry.”

The following is a list of awards and award recipients. Detailed information about each award and recipient is available below. Photos are available by contacting Melissa Ennis at

H. Clayton Sparkes Accommodator Award of Excellence – Murray Premises Hotel, St. John’s, NL

Tourism Champion Award – Cathy Lomond, Hotel Port aux Basques, Port aux Basques, NL

CBDC Tourism Business Award of Excellence – O’Brien’s Whale & Bird Tours, Bay Bulls, NL

Cal LeGrow Tourism Innovator Award – Cod Sounds, St. John’s, NL

Tourism Corporate Partner Award – Marine Atlantic Inc., Newfoundland and Labrador

Cultural Tourism Award – The Rooms, St. John’s, NL

Sustainable Tourism Award – Mistaken Point Cape Race Heritage Inc., Trepassey, NL

Doug Wheeler Award – Rick Stanley, Ocean Quest Adventures, CBS, NL

Cruise Vision Award – Ashley Dicker

Hospitality NL’s Annual Conference and Trade Show is the largest annual gathering of tourism operators within the province and is taking place in Gander, February 21-23, 2017. Visit for more details.


Media Contact:
Melissa Ennis, Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador
P: 709-722-2000, ext. 231
C: 709-227-1863


H. Clayton Sparkes Accommodator Award of Excellence
Presented to: Murray Premises Hotel, St. John’s, NL

The H. Clayton Sparkes Accommodator Award of Excellence, sponsored by the Sparkes Family in recognition of the contribution their father made to the tourism industry in Newfoundland and Labrador, recognizes an individual or company in the accommodations sector within the province who exhibits a dedication to quality service, a commitment to the tourism industry, making a solid contribution to the communities in which they live. These are all qualities of Clayton Sparkes and the Sparkes Family deemed it fitting that an award recognizing these characteristics in others be presented in his name.

In operation for 15 years, the Murray Premises Hotel has demonstrated a commitment to visitor satisfaction that is second to none, renovating space in order meet the needs of guests and partnering with other local businesses to design value added packages aimed at improving guests’ overall experiences. They consistently achieve recognition of this commitment through stellar ratings and reviews, and were recently named among the Best Boutique Hotels in Canada by the Huffington Post, and one of five Historic Stays in and Around St. John’s by WestJet Magazine.

Since 2001, the Murray Premises Hotel has been a proud member of the local tourism industry.  Sustaining the development of tourism in St. John’s and throughout the province is at the core of the hotel’s business philosophy. A registered National Historic Site and award winning heritage property, this hotel oozes Newfoundland and Labrador culture, history, and charm. Great lengths have been taken by the private owner to balance the historical integrity of the facility with modern hotel amenities. This unique sense of place combined with first class hotel amenities allow them to provide guests with an experience they will simply not find elsewhere.

This award was presented to the Murray Premises Hotel at the Tourism Excellence Awards Gala by Karen Mills on behalf of Clayton Hospitality Inc.

Tourism Champion Award
Presented to: Cathy Lomond, Hotel Port aux Basques, Port aux Basques, NL

The Tourism Champion Award is presented to an individual, company or organization that has worked diligently to ensure that the tourism industry prospers, and as such, has given freely of their time and energy to champion the interests of and enhance the tourism industry.

Cathy Lomond has been in the tourism business for over thirty five years. Starting her career in 1977, she has never lost her passion for the tourism industry. She is committed to exceeding the standards of excellent customer service, investing in staff training opportunities and empowering employees.

She has been an avid volunteer in numerous tourism and development organizations, holding executive positions in Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador, the Restaurant Association, Go Western Newfoundland, Tourism South West, Tourism Quality Assurance and many more. She has been instrumental in the evolution of the Canada Select program and the adoption of new quality assurance initiatives aimed at raising the bar for industry standards.

Her business has formed many meaningful partnerships within the region, working to build a stronger tourism industry for operators and raise the province’s profile as a premiere tourism destination, all while actively volunteering in the community. She leads by example in her business, hiring students and older workers, encouraging volunteer work and infusing the elements of Newfoundland and Labrador on which she was raised – traditional music and culinary aspects.

This award was presented to Cathy Lomond, Owner/Operator of Hotel Port aux Basques at the Tourism Excellence Awards Gala by Larry Laite, Hospitality NL Board of Directors.

CBDC Tourism Business Award of Excellence
Presented to: O’Brien’s Whale & Bird Tours, Bay Bulls, NL

The CBDC Tourism Business Award of Excellence recognizes businesses that have built a reputation for excelling and continuously improving upon all areas of operations – customer service, human resources and business results. Not only does the business excel in its operations, but they see themselves as having an important role in improving the tourism industry of Newfoundland and Labrador.

O’Brien’s Whale and Bird Tours is a longstanding member of the tourism industry, in operation since 1985. Over the years, the business has consistently evolved to enhance its product offering and meet the ever-changing needs of travellers, building a strong brand reputation along the way. Ensuring customer safety and satisfaction is of utmost importance to the business. Continually modifying, expanding and developing new products and services over the past three decades, in response to customer feedback and market trends is one of the many tactics they have implemented to ensure overall customer satisfaction.

Since its inception, O’Brien’s Whale and Bird Tours have been committed to growing the business, ensuring all guests have an enjoyable, memorable experience. Making sure the product and services are of the highest quality and providing honest communication for realistic guest expectations has always been an important factor in ensuring long-term viability for the business. They understand the importance of investing in and rewarding employees for hard work and a job well done. Not only does this contribute to employee satisfaction, but benefits the company as a whole, as it is visible to guests when an employee enjoys their job.

This award was presented to O’Brien’s Whale & Bird Tours at the Tourism Excellence Awards Gala by Roseanne Leonard, NL Association of CBDCs.

Cal LeGrow Tourism Innovator Award
Presented to: Cod Sounds, St. John’s, NL

The Cal LeGrow Tourism Innovator Award recognizes an individual or company that demonstrates ingenuity and creativity in their business activities. The recipient will have developed a tourism business, market, product, process initiative or an unconventional approach to an existing market, product or process. This may be a new business or a long-standing business that is doing things in a new way and having a positive impact on the tourism industry in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Cod Sounds is taking the culinary tourism industry to new heights by bringing guests back to the basics of where their food originates, embracing old techniques, rediscovering lost traditions and creating new ones along the way. This business represents a natural evolution of the current Newfoundland and Labrador culinary scene. With some of the best restaurants in Canada focusing on local flavours and traditions while complimenting them with new tastes and techniques, this business is taking the next step, allowing visitors to discover the world from which these tastes originate. They are able to connect land to plate in a way that no others can, providing a deep appreciation for the bounty of this province.

The business promotes long-term growth in the tourism industry by seeking partnerships that help them develop new and interesting ways to share expertise, and in turn, demonstrates the best of other high-quality businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador. Offering restaurant tours, cookery classes and foraging excursions, this year’s recipient has seamlessly blended an innovative tourism product with the essence of Newfoundland and Labrador’s culture and history through our land and our food.

This award was presented to Cod Sounds at the Tourism Excellence Awards Gala by Curtis Pike, Cal LeGrow Insurance Ltd.

Tourism Corporate Partner Award – presented by Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador
Presented to:  Marine Atlantic Inc., Newfoundland and Labrador

The Tourism Corporate Partner Award recognizes a business-to-business partner that has been successful in developing creative and effective alliances within the tourism industry that improve Hospitality NL’s ability to meet its mission.

Marine Atlantic Inc. is a leading transportation provider in the province. In recent years, they have worked with a range of tourism partners to increase the number of visitors and encourage travel across the entire province, thereby investing in a more diversified impact on the tourism industry. They have shown a commitment to traveller satisfaction by investing heavily in the customer service experience and onboard amenities.

As the primary transporter of goods to the province, this group offers virtually unlimited capacity to complement and enhance the range of tourism products available. They supply the products the tourism industry relies on to offer unique and world class experiences to their customers.

They further enhance the range of tourism products by attracting a number of diverse tourist segments who bring with them what they need to enjoy an immersive vacation. This could be the outdoor adventurer set with their camping and hiking gear or a group of motorcyclists intent on experiencing as much of the local flavour as possible. Promoting these niche segments also supports the growth of the vital shoulder season for tourism.

This award was presented to Marine Atlantic Inc. at the Tourism Excellence Awards Gala by Scott Hillyer, Hospitality NL Board of Directors.

Cultural Tourism Award – presented by Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador and the Department of Tourism, Industry and Innovation
Presented to: The Rooms, St. John’s, NL

The Cultural Tourism Award is presented to an individual or organization that recognizes and promotes the pursuit of cultural expression within the tourism industry.

The year 2016 marked the 100th anniversary of a seminal event in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador. The Battle of the Somme at Beaumont-Hamel on July 1st, 1916 affected lives in all corners and coves of this province. The Rooms is the portal to the many stories our Province has to tell and is a leading cultural institution. The Rooms and its regional museums in Grand Bank, Grand Falls and Northwest River, preserve and make accessible the artifacts, documents and artworks that tell the story of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In the lead up to the centenary, The Rooms assumed the responsibility of honouring the sacrifices made at home and overseas by producing the largest First World War commemoration in Canada. A capital fundraising campaign started in 2013, sought and secured support from private and corporate donors, for the creation of a new permanent gallery dedicated to the comprehensive story of Newfoundland and Labrador’s engagement in the First World War. A major commemorative event on July 1st, 2016 captured the imagination of thousands locally and nationally as HRH The Princess Royal, Anne, opened the new exhibition. In the 10 days following the event, The Rooms welcomed more than 11,000 visitors, a testament to the significance of this shared story.

The Rooms offers a compelling and enriching experience for discerning global travelers who value and seek out memorable visitor experiences. Due in large part to the commemorative events of 2016, the story of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in the First Word War, and especially at Beaumont-Hamel, is no longer a provincial story. It has become woven into the national fabric.

This award was presented to The Rooms at the Provincial Tourism Luncheon by Dion Finlay, Chair of Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador.

Sustainable Tourism Award – presented by Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador and Parks Canada
Presented to: Mistaken Point Cape Race Heritage Inc., Trepassey, NL

The Sustainable Tourism Award recognizes an industry operator who has made strides in sustainable tourism practices and continually works toward the protection of our natural and cultural resources.

In 2016, Mistaken Point Cape Race Heritage Inc. made the spectacular achievement of having the Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Owing to the invaluable nature of the fossil sites found at Mistaken Point, its importance has been proclaimed to the entire world. This process was long and arduous and took the combined efforts of the volunteers at Mistaken Point Cape Race Heritage Inc. to fully realize.

Four of Canada’s 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites are in Newfoundland and Labrador, and two more, Signal Hill National Historic Site and Torngat Mountains National Park, are under consideration to be added to the list. Mistaken Point is the latest to receive the designation and the first on the eastern side of the island.

This award was presented to Mistaken Point Cape Race Heritage Inc. at the Tourism Professional Development Luncheon by Geoffrey Hancock, Parks Canada.

The Doug Wheeler Award – presented by the Department of  Tourism, Industry and Innovation
Presented to: Rick Stanley, Ocean Quest Adventures, CBS, NL

The Doug Wheeler Award is presented annually to a person or group which has made a significant contribution to the tourism industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. The award honours the memory of Doug Wheeler, a provincial civil servant, and a passionate advocate for tourism, who passed away in 1981.

Rick Stanley has volunteered on many boards, associations, partnerships, and committees and is a true advocate of the tourism industry. Always eager to build partnerships, he encourages strong connections with his fellow tourism operators. He understands that it is the strength of the entire industry that determines his strength as an individual operator.

As an entrepreneur and ambassador for Newfoundland and Labrador, Rick has been recognized as one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s eleven Canadian Signature Experiences. What started as a passion, has grown into a small family business and what is now a diverse tourism operation, offering a variety of thrilling nature based experiences to thousands of clients. The thrill and excitement generated by these experiences are truly a testimonial to the commitment and authenticity of the business.

This award was presented to Rick Stanley at the Provincial Tourism Luncheon by The Honourable Christopher Mitchelmore, Minister of Tourism, Industry and Innovation.

Cruise Vision Award – presented by Cruise Newfoundland and Labrador
Presented to: Ashley Dicker

The Cruise Vision Award is presented by Cruise Newfoundland and Labrador to an individual, group or business that has demonstrated a commitment to the provincial cruise industry and has contributed significantly to the growth of the cruise industry in Newfoundland and Labrador.

This year’s winner of the Cruise Vision Award is a special individual, who is devoting her time to the cruise industry in a volunteer capacity. Enthusiastic and highly competent, Ashley was Adventure Canada’s point person in Nain for the last three years. She led the charge in engaging the community, a core principle in Adventure Canada’s philosophy, while at the same time providing professional and timely communications. Onsite she was helpful and organized and most important – excited! Her dedication and passion resulted in the delivery of exceptional shore experiences.

Perhaps the most impressive element of this person’s success is that she is in fact not in the tourism industry at all. She volunteered her time (while balancing a career and a young family) to ensure that each cruise visit to Nain was a positive and enriching experience for both the guests and the community. Through her thoughtful program planning, guests, staff, media and travel professionals have a better understanding of Newfoundland & Labrador character, Inuit traditions and the unique cultural make up of Nunatsiavut. Her hard work and dedication resulted in Adventure Canada’s most successful stop in Labrador in their 21 year history along the coast.

This award was presented to Ashley Dicker at the Tourism Excellence Awards Gala by Claire Sullivan, Cruise Newfoundland and Labrador.