A star-powered marketing campaign, a Halloween celebration that digs deep into the past and a TV talk show that proudly calls Springfield home were among the award winners at the annual Governor's Conference on Tourism Oct. 8-10 in Columbia.
Eight awards were presented during the conference to individuals, organizations and events for their efforts to boost tourism in the Show-Me State.
"Attracting visitors to a region requires skill, creativity and determination," said Ward Franz, director of the Missouri Division of Tourism. "These awards recognize outstanding work to bring tourism dollars into our state."
The award winners are:
Hall of Fame Award: Presented to an individual who has worked in the tourism industry for a minimum of 10 years and whose contributions have significantly and measurably impacted tourism in Missouri.
Recipient: Gary Figgins, publisher of Show-Me Missouri magazine. Figgins has been promoting Missouri as a tourism destination for more than 20 years with his magazine - featuring places to visit in the Show-Me State - and as a long-time member of the Missouri Travel Alliance board of directors.
Marketing Campaign Award: Recognizes an effective integrated marketing campaign that results in increased tourism and economic benefit to a region.
Recipient: Explore St. Louis for its In the Know campaign. The ad campaign features actors Sterling K. Brown and John Goodman, track and field athlete and Olympic medalist Jackie Joiner-Kersee, and radio and television personality, producer and writer Andy Cohen sharing their passion for their hometown and favorite places to visit.
Innovator Award: Honors a small tourism organization or individual who achieves significant results on a modest budget.
Recipient: City of Warsaw. Through local partnerships and a focus on the outdoors, Warsaw has worked to transform the town into a recreation destination. A waterfront trail system - connected to its revitalized downtown - garnered the city national recognition as one of the most bike- and pedestrian-friendly small cities in the country.
Pathfinder Award: Recognizes an event or organization that successfully develops a niche tourism market.
Recipient: Legends & Lanterns, a multi-weekend Halloween celebration held during October in St. Charles. The family-friendly event on historic Main Street draws its inspiration from the past, featuring witches, villains and other infamous characters from history.
Navigator Media Award: Presented to a media outlet that promotes tourism in Missouri and its importance to the state's economy.
Recipient: Jeff Houghton, creator and host of The Mystery Hour, a talk/variety show filmed in Springfield. In addition to featuring Missouri destinations and attractions, the monthly taping of the show at the historic Gilloiz Theater has become an attraction itself.
Rising Star Award: 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.
Recipient: Melissa Mohler, director of tourism in Clay County. Mohler worked to establish the county's new tourism office as an official destination marketing organization and qualify for a matching marketing grant to attract visitors to the region.
Hospitality Award: Recognizes an individual, business or organization that has demonstrated excellent customer service.
Recipient: Greg Maxon, Greater Saint Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau. Maxon has spent much of his career promoting the St. Charles area. He currently focuses on bringing sporting events and group tours to the city.
Sen. Emory Melton Legislative Award: Honors an individual who recognizes the value of tourism to the state and works through the legislative process to support Missouri's tourism industry.
Recipient: David Sater, state senator representing the 29th district and member of the Missouri Tourism Commission. Sen. Sater was recognized for his efforts to promote the impact of the tourism industry on Missouri's economy.
In addition to the awards presentation, the conference featured education workshops and guest speakers who addressed 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.