Explore St. Louis Annual Meeting & Awards

Our Annual Meeting & Awards Celebrated the Hospitality Industry Workforce

Thursday September 22, 2022

By Rachel Huffman

Visitors and residents alike can agree that it’s the hard-working hospitality professionals who make St. Louis a world-class destination. This year, at Explore St. Louis’ Annual Meeting & Awards, we celebrated the vibrancy and resilience of St. Louis travel, tourism, meetings and events, as well as the outstanding accomplishments of our All Stars, Hospitality Superheroes and Hospitality Heroes.

In this fiscal year (July 2021 to June 2022) alone, St. Louis’ tourism assets have grown to include The Factory, a live music venue in Chesterfield; the Food Hall at City Foundry in Midtown; and the inaugural NASCAR Cup Series race at World Wide Technology Raceway. The arts scene in St. Louis also reached new heights with the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis-commissioned Fire Shut Up in My Bones, which opened the 2021 season at The Metropolitan Opera in New York, followed by the world premiere of STAGES St. Louis’ production of The Karate Kid – The Musical at the newly opened Kirkwood Performing Arts Center.

Event activity at America’s Center improved sharply over the year prior, as well. The convention complex hosted 52 events, including the WWE’s Royal Rumble and the opening of The Rolling Stones tour, generating more than 185,000 contracted room nights and attendance of 395,034 people.

For more information about our achievements as an industry in FY22, check out our annual report.

“Our hard work is for naught if we don’t have our top leaders engaged in what our industry does for our community,” Explore St. Louis president Kathleen “Kitty” Ratcliffe said in the meeting.

We are lucky in this case, as Mayor Jones and County Executive Page support our efforts to propel the local travel and tourism industry forward. Both spoke at the meeting, sharing their pride in St. Louis.

Travel & Tourism Champion Award

To honor Senator Roy Blunt and congratulate him on his retirement, Explore St. Louis presented an award recognizing him for his tireless support of the travel and tourism industry in St. Louis and across the state of Missouri.

Kim Tucci Heart of St. Louis Award

Board members of the St. Louis Civic Pride Foundation created the Kim Tucci Heart of St. Louis Award to honor the man who devoted his life to making St. Louis a better place.

“While few can or will match Kim’s boundless heart, energy, passion and talent, this award recognizes St. Louisans who best embody his spirit and, by their selfless efforts, lift our community and serve our people,” David Robert, chairman of the St. Louis Civic Pride Foundation, said in the meeting.

This year’s recipient, Robert F. O’Loughlin of Lodging Hospitality Management, has lived in St. Louis for almost 40 years, working every day to improve the area for both residents and visitors. Some of his many projects have saved historic places and given them new life, including The Cheshire, Westport Plaza and St. Louis Union Station, where he also brought us the St. Louis Aquarium and The St. Louis Wheel. O’Loughlin’s generosity is boundless. Recently, he provided hotel rooms for people who had to evacuate their homes due to flooding, and he is the primary donor for a new athletic training center on the Saint Louis University campus. 

All Stars

“St. Louis is filled with giving people who want the best for their community,” Ratcliffe said in the meeting. “From time to time, we have individuals and/or organizations that really step up to help us achieve something that we couldn’t have done alone. These are our All Stars.”

This year, we recognized four groups that made great strides in bringing people and positive attention to the St. Louis area. This year’s All Stars are STAGES St. Louis and the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center for the world premiere of The Karate Kid – The Musical, World Wide Technology Raceway for securing the NASCAR Cup Series race, KSDK for its partnership in broadcasting a live episode of Show Me St. Louis during National Travel and Tourism Week and Lufthansa for establishing direct air service between St. Louis and Frankfurt, Germany.

Hospitality Superheroes

When you travel, the people who you meet can influence your perception of a place, which is why we’re so proud of the 91,000 hard-working hospitality professionals who make the St. Louis visitor experience magical every day.

At the meeting, eight Hospitality Superheroes were spotlighted as impressive examples of extraordinary customer service. We hope that you’re as wowed by them as we are.

Sabitra Bartaula, River City Casino

While working at River City Casino, Sabitra Bartaula noticed a woman struggling in a bathroom stall. Bartaula asked if the woman was OK, but she didn’t answer, so Bartaula immediately contacted security. The woman became incapacitated, but because of Bartaula’s intuition and actions, the woman received the medical attention she needed to save her life. 

Tommy Brown, Saint Louis Zoo

When a woman in hospice contacted Tommy Brown about her final wishes, he arranged a behind-the-scenes experience for her and her family at the Saint Louis Zoo. The day included time with the sea lions and lunch, with Brown putting forth the extra effort to make sure everyone had a good time. A few days later, the family notified the Saint Louis Zoo team of the woman’s passing, expressing their gratitude for everything that Brown did for them and their loved one.

Alexandria Dent, St. Louis Lambert International Airport

At St. Louis Lambert International Airport, Alexandria Dent overheard a traveler say that her rings were missing. Immediately offering to help, Dent began to dig through the trash bin where the woman thought she had lost them when she was drying her hands. Dent didn’t stop until she found the rings towards the bottom of the bin, stealthily wrapped in a paper towel. How many people do you know who would riffle through trash for a stranger?

Stephanie Friz, River City Casino

After being notified that a woman had collapsed in the parking lot of River City Casino, officer Stephanie Friz administered CPR, refusing to stop or to allow anyone to take over for her until an ambulance had arrived. A few days later, the woman’s daughter told the casino that her mother had survived due to Friz’s dependability and persistence.

William “Scott” Hunsche, Element St. Louis Midtown

When a group of guests of the Element St. Louis Midtown couldn’t find a nearby place for happy hour, front office manager Scott Hunsche took it upon himself to brighten their night. Hunsche gathered beverages from around the hotel and created a mini bar in the lobby. His story is a prime example of the thoughtfulness of hospitality workers.

Claudia Lombard, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel St. Louis – Westport

Over time, server Claudia Lombard has developed a deep connection to a patient of HavenHouse St. Louis, Havyn, who stays at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel St. Louis – Westport with her family in between treatments. As a testament to their relationship, Havyn was recorded saying that Lombard is her “favorite thing about HavenHouse” – the video later aired at a gala where Havyn received an award.

Brandi Napier, Element St. Louis Midtown

Becoming aware of an unresponsive guest, housekeeper Brandi Napier performed CPR until an ambulance arrived. Napier’s quick thinking saved the guest’s life, and although Napier now works at Kingside Diner, she will always be remembered at the Element St. Louis Midtown.

Loyd Rogers, Sheraton Westport Plaza Hotel

Loyd Rogers, a shuttle driver for the Sheraton Westport Plaza Hotel, goes above and beyond his job description every day. In one instance, Rogers did everything in his power to make sure a guest in a wheelchair was safe and comfortable, including procuring a wheelchair-accessible vehicle to take the guest to the hotel and finding a suitable room for the guest at a neighboring location when the Sheraton Westport Plaza Hotel didn’t have one. With care and hard work, Rogers was able to make another visitor to St. Louis feel valued.

Hospitality Heroes

Hospitality workers have had to overcome innumerable challenges in the last year, and yet, they continue to serve every guest with enthusiasm, expertise and respect. Nominated by their co-workers and employers, the Hospitality Hero honorees exceed all expectations.

Anheuser-Busch Brewery Experience

Carolyn Burton

Scott Zlatic

Bi-State Development – Gateway Arch

Derrick Brooks

Kyle Hensley

Tatiana Jones

Blain McVey

Diamond Morris

Sandy Smith

The Blue Owl Restaurant & Bakery

Mary Hostetter

Butler’s Pantry

Ben Bui

Erica Johnson

Bill Wallheimer

Julie Weldele

Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site

Lori Belknap

The Chase Park Plaza Royal Sonesta Hotel

Brenda Trahan

Crowne Plaza St. Louis Airport

Roberta Cooper

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel St. Louis – Chesterfield

Zeeba Zaman

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel St. Louis – Westport

Berrin Abdullah

Drury Inn & Suites

Kurt Magnah

Drury Inn & Suites Brentwood

Alexander Quinones

Drury Inn & Suites Creve Coeur

SueVona Blocker

Drury Inn & Suites Forest Park

Amos Isaac

Drury Inn & Suites St. Louis Convention Center

Shawnyee Burnett

Drury Inn at Union Station

Latisha Barnes

Diane Hill

Shirley Montgomery

Drury Plaza Hotel at the Arch

Melinda Halford

Element St. Louis Midtown

Lillian Morris

Colisha Robinson

Deszrey Williams

Forest Park Forever

Patricia Calcaterra

Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis

Jessica Fisher

Luke Sinak

Hampton Inn St. Louis – Downtown at the Gateway Arch

Christopher Jackson

Hilton Garden Inn Winghaven

Anita Janes

Hilton St. Louis Airport

Asmeret Bezabeh

Gregory McKenzie

Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark

Wenniel McIemore

Holiday Inn Express & Suites St. Louis South

Dawn Staton

Hollywood Casino & Hotel St. Louis

Tanya Percy

Hyatt Place Chesterfield

Carmen Aguayo

Hyatt Regency St. Louis at The Arch

Nasif Mehmedovic

Roshonda Miller

Katherine Neer

Jordan Rogers

Live! By Loews

Hannah Bryant

Ryan Ebert

Robert Etter

Erica Gilmore

Keith Gowdy

Brian Jackson

Mayscree Jackson

Justin Johnson

Nathen Mullaney

Deanna Swayne

Magnolia Hotel St. Louis

Pam Robtoy

Marriott St. Louis Airport

Thomas Berry

Marriott St. Louis Grand

Mackenzie Anderson

Kay Barnett

Kossuth Barnett

Tunya Barnett-Finley

Kenisha Bickley

Minnie BoBo

Clay Gerdine

Shyra Huddleston

Michael Jones

Samuel Knox

Tanisha Parker

Ruth Phillips

Eliza Scherer

Marriott St. Louis West

Rhonda Woods

Metro Transit

Michelle Conner

Missouri Botanical Garden

Cassandra Custis

Johanna Fuehne

Marcy Rahn

Greg Rohde

Katie Scharf

Missouri Historical Society

Lincoln Calvin

Denise Smith

Moonrise Hotel

Anna Bogucki

MX Movies & Bar

Matt Sanders

National Blues Museum

Deborah Jackson

Purina Farms

Dale Beste

Red Roof Inn St. Louis

Kathy Young

Renaissance St. Louis Airport Hotel

Eddie Moore

Residence Inn by Marriott St. Louis Galleria

Tanzania Bates

The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis

Hishar Alissa

Mark Baker

Shawket Barway

Kelly Bock

Margaret Bonfanti

Aaron Cannon

Danielle Doederkvist

Breia Dunning

Ronald Edgeston

Donovan Foster

Terry Gilbert

Gettu Gonnete

Charles Hardy

Felicia Harvey

Almedin Hasanovic

Denise Heflin

Advija Helac

Kenna Herdrich

Timothy Ingoldsby

Alichka Jarrett

Kay Johnson

Sabrina Kapic

Alice Klein

Alicia Lamountain

Carlos Macias De la Torre

Laura Mathis

Nancy McEnroe

Helena McGettigan

Charlene Miller

Juan Morales

Suada Mutapcic

Josephine Page

Saeed Saeed

Taylor Segelle

Maureen Weiser

River City Casino

Nick Dehner

Saint Louis Science Center

Victor Appleby

Dave Gioia

Mike Harris

Jackie Rowark

Saint Louis Zoo

Mike Bobbitt

Mike Butler

Bob Fritschle

Scott Gagen

Sharron Higgs

Amber Lew

Greg Schumacher

Nina Williams

Sheraton Westport Plaza Hotel

Donna Wiggins

St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station

Tylen Gea

St. Louis Lambert International Airport – G2/STL

Richard Holder

Neisha Wiggins

St. Louis Lambert International Airport – HMS/Starbucks

Georgene Spencer

St. Louis Lambert International Airport – Hudson & Associates, LLC

Millie Ocasio

St. Louis Lambert International Airport – Regency Enterprise Service, LLC

Janella Dent

St. Louis Lambert International Airport – Transportation Security Administration

Ciara Baldwin

St. Louis Union Station

Kristina Flowers

John Scott


Drew Lucido

Vandalia Bus Lines

Terry Edwards

Finally, we’d like to extend a special thank you to our sponsors, without whom the Annual Meeting & Awards would not be possible.