State tourism awards presented at annual Governor’s Conference

A solar eclipse celebration in the path of totality, an ambassador program built on the power of tourism and a Victorian science fiction festival were among the award winners at the annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism Sept. 25-27 in St. Charles.

Eight awards were presented to individuals and organizations for their efforts to attract visitors to the Show-Me State.

“We are pleased to honor the award recipients for their innovative efforts to increase tourism and boost our state’s economy,” said Ward Franz, director of the Missouri Division of Tourism. “Making sure potential visitors know about everything Missouri has to offer requires a great deal of skill and creativity.”  

The tourism awards were presented by Scott Hovis, chair of the Missouri Tourism Commission and Franz.

Hall of Fame honoree

Dan Lennon, former director of the Missouri Division of Tourism, was inducted into the Missouri Tourism Hall of Fame, an honor given to individuals who have worked in the industry a minimum of 10 years and whose contributions have significantly and measurably impacted tourism in Missouri.

Lennon retired in January 2018 after serving as director since 2015. During his tenure, Missouri welcomed a record 42 million visitors in the state and saw tourism-related spending top $16.8 billion – also a record.

Prior to becoming director, Lennon was deputy director for strategic communications for the division from 2013 to 2015. Lennon brought more than 20 years of tourism marketing and brand-management experience to the division, including 10 years as vice president of marketing and public relations for the Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau.

As a member of the singing Lennon family, Lennon was a co-producer and vocalist in the Lennon Brothers Swing Music Show in Branson from 1994 to 2002.

Award winners

Other awards presented at the conference include:

Marketing Campaign Award: The Table Rock Lake Chamber of Commerce received the Marketing Campaign Award, which recognizes effective integrated marketing campaigns that result in increased tourism and economic benefit to a region. The chamber was honored for its multi-faceted campaign that included digital media, print, television and outdoor advertising that focused on attracting new and repeat visitors. The campaign resulted in 80,000 additional trips to the Table Rock Lake area, generating an estimated $75 million in revenue.

Pathfinder Award: The Big River Steampunk Festival, held annually in Hannibal, was presented with the Pathfinder Award, which recognizes an event or organization that successfully develops a niche tourism market. The Steampunk Festival is a celebration of invention, art and science that attracts a creative group of attendees – many in costume – from across the country who imagine what life would be like if the steam power of the Industrial Revolution fueled modern technology.

Innovator Award: Perry County Heritage Tourism was the recipient of the Innovator Award, which honors small tourism organizations that produce significant results on a modest budget. With just $13,000 in seed money, Perry County Heritage Tourism hosted the four-day Great American Solar Eclipse Event, attracting thousands of visitors from 16 countries and 36 states as well as science teams from universities in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Minnesota who traveled to Perry County to study the eclipse.

Navigator Media Award: The Missouri Life television show received the Navigator Media Award, presented to a media outlet that promotes tourism in Missouri and its importance to the state’s economy. Each 30-minute episode of Missouri Life features one location and highlights the area’s Missouri-made products, food and restaurants, history and heritage, local artists and entertainers, notable residents, beautiful surroundings and interesting facts about the location.

Rising Star Award: Trish Erzfeld was presented with the Rising Star Award, which honors an individual who has worked for a tourism-related organization less than five years or who has transitioned to a new role and made significant advancements to the organization’s efforts. Erzfeld was recognized for her work as director of Perry County Heritage Tourism and her role in several major events and attractions including Perryville’s Great American Solar Eclipse Event in August 2017 and the new Missouri National Veterans Memorial.

Hospitality Award: The Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau received the Hospitality Award, which recognizes an individual, business or organization that has demonstrated excellent customer service. Over the past five years, Columbia’s Certified Tourism Ambassador Program has conducted 58 classes resulting in 720 people being certified as tourism ambassadors for their city. Columbia is the only city in Missouri that provides this national ambassador certification program.

Sen. Emory Melton Legislative Award:
Scott Hovis, chair of the Missouri Tourism Commission, was the recipient of the Sen. Emory Melton Legislative Award, which ­honors legislators and tourism industry members who work closely with the legislative process to support Missouri’s tourism industry. Honorees recognize the value of tourism to the state and work to ensure the industry continues to flourish. Hovis, of Jefferson City, was recognized for his service to the Missouri Tourism Commission and his effective collaboration with elected officials as well as the business community.

In addition to the awards banquet, the Missouri Governor’s Conference on Tourism features educational workshops and guest speakers who address a variety of topics related to the tourism industry.


The Missouri Division of Tourism, a division of the Missouri Department of Economic Development, works to market the Show-Me State as a destination for travelers and to increase the number of tourists and travel-related spending. In Fiscal Year 2017, Missouri welcomed a record 42 million visitors and saw a record $16.8 billion in tourism-related spending.