Pictures of 2024 Award Winners

  • Paul Broun Award for Marketing Initiatives
  • Larry Allen Tourism Leadership Award
  • Al Burruss Award for Creative Expression
  • Paul Nelson Award for Outdoor Recreation and Preservation 
  • Tom Kilgore Lifetime Achievement Award

      Bill Hardman Sr. Tourism Champion Awards

  • Private Sector Champion Award
  • Partnership Champion Award
  • Product Development Champion Award
  • Government Champion Award

Awards Eligibility

Any individual, organization or business that serves the tourism and travel industry in Georgia, including non-profit organizations, public service agencies, communities, regional travel associations, private businesses in the tourism and travel industry, and those who work for or are elected to local or state government.

Nominees must posses these attributes to qualify for an award:  Leadership, Creativity, Initiative, Innovation, Customer Service, and Partnership. Statements explaining how nominee demonstrates all six attributes should be included in the narrative section of the nomination form.

Generally the end of November.  The awards committee will announce the deadlines each year.

How to Submit a Nomination
Using our online form please provide the following information:
1.  Submitter Contact Info
2.  Nominee Contact Info
3.  Award Nominated For - You must select at least one award for your nomination to be considered, but you may also select more than one. The Awards Committee reserves the right to transfer a nomination to another award category as they deem appropriate.  
4.  Budget category of project/organization nominated.
5.  A narrative stating the reasons you are nominating this individual/organization, not to exceed 200 words.  Include how nominee demonstrates all six award qualifying attributes: Leadership, Creativity, Initiative, Innovation, Customer Service, and Partnership.
6.  Biography of the individual or background/mission of the organization, including the number of years established/spent in the tourism industry.
7.  For all nominations for Paul Broun Award for Marketing Initiatives and Al Burruss Award for Creative Expression include deliverables of the project nominated, for example increasing website traffic, visitors, lodging room nights, leads, or other metrics. 
8.  A photo of the individual nominee or logo of the organization nominee.
9.  Up to two letters of reference, collateral materials or other documents that will help to showcase the award criteria attributes to the committee.  Please do not send more than two.  The committee may disqualify a nomination that does not follow these specific instructions. 

Award categories, descriptions, and previous recipients:   

Presentation of 2024 Georgia Tourism Awards, GACVB Annual Conference

Paul Broun Award for Marketing Initiatives recognizes the entity that demonstrates an effective and unique marketing initiative. Given in memory of Senator Paul Broun of Athens who was a huge supporter of tourism. He was elected in 1963 and served many years in service to Georgia. He served as Chairman of the Economic Development, Tourism and Cultural Affairs Committee and played a vital role in the development and appropriations of tourism funding.

  • 2024 Blairsville-Union County Chamber Blaze to Blairsville (Budget Category under $1 million)
  • 2024 Golden Isles CVB | Edge of the Ocean (Budget Category over $1 million)
  • 2023 Lake Lanier Olympic Water Park Campaign, Gainesville CVB (Budget Category under $1 million)
  • 2023 Pick Ellijay, Gilmer County Chamber of Commerce (Budget Category over $1 million)
  • 2019 March Meatness - Explore Gwinnett (Budget Category over $1 million)
  • 2019 Fall in Love with Tville - Thomasville Visitors Center (Budget Category under $1 million)
  • 2018 Dunwoody Defined - Dunwoody Convention + Visitors Bureau
  • 2017 History Has a Name - Henry County CVB
  • 2016 Ansel Adams: Before & After - Booth Western Art Museum
  • 2015 Visit Savannah
  • 2014 "Mansions, Moonshine & Gold Mines" - Historic Roswell CVB, Dawson County Office of Tourism and Dahlonega-Lumpkin County       Chamber & Visitors Bureau
  • 2013 The Golden Isles Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • 2012 Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • 2011 Columbus CVB - “Meet me in Columbus, GA” film
  • 2010 The Magnolia Highway, Melanie Grace, Americus Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • 2009 Georgia’s Antebellum Trail Pilgrimage
  • 2008 Elizabeth Harvill, Vidalia CVB
  • 2005 Macon CVB
  • 2004 Andrew Ward, Cuscowilla Resort
  • 2003 Mark Valentine, Tanger Factory Outlet Centers in Commerce, President of the Northeast Georgia Mountains Travel Association
  • 2000 Judy Renfroe, Cobb CVB
  • 1999 Robert King and Jay Bucek

Larry Allen Tourism Leadership Award recognizes an individual who demonstrates excellence in leadership skills and abilities. Given in memory of Larry Allen, who was General Manager of Stone Mountain and exemplified all around friendship, support and leadership in the tourism industry.

  • 2024     Cookie Smoak, ATL District CVB
  • 2023     Gary Wheat, Visit Macon 
  • 2019     Stacey Dickson, Lake Lanier Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • 2018     Jan Hackett, Fannin County Chamber of Commerce
  • 2017     Julie Ford Musselman, GACVB
  • 2016     Leah Poole, Liberty County CVB
  • 2015     Rashelle Beasley, Albany CVB
  • 2014     Barry White, Augusta CVB
  • 2013     Laurie Rowe, Laurie Rowe Communications
  • 2012     Tonya Rosado, Kingsland CVB
  • 2011     Theresa Jenkins, Marietta Visitors Center
  • 2010     Joe Marinelli, Visit Savannah
  • 2009     Lisa Smith, Rome CVB
  • 2008     Peter Bowden, Columbus CVB
  • 2006     Jane Sowell, Milledgeville CVB
  • 2005     Chuck Jones, Athens CVB
  • 2004     Steven Longcrier, Georgia Civil War Heritage Trails, Inc.
  • 2003     Dan Rowe, Banyan Tree Consulting Group
  • 2000     Lt. Gen. E.G. Shuler, Jr.

Al Burruss Award for Creative Expression recognizes an individual or entity that develops a creative community public relations initiative. Representative Al Burruss of Marietta was the majority leader and a huge tourism advocate. He was instrumental in using his creativity and energy to get the Tourism Division its first major appropriation in 1985 of $2.5 million which was a drastic increase from the $300,000 allocated in prior years.

  • 2024     Gainesville CVB | From Gainesville with Love (Budget Category under $1 million)
  • 2024     Cobb Travel and Tourism | Cobbunity (Budget Category over $1 million)
  • 2023     Golden Isles CVB and Silver Bluff Brewing (Budget Category over $1 million)
  • 2023     Think Tifton, Tifton-Tift County Tourism Association (Budget Category under $1 million)
  • 2019     Golden Isles Hospitality Celebration (Budget Category over $1 million)
  • 2019     Free-Range GVL - The Gainesville CVB (Budget Category under $1 million)
  • 2018     Woodstock Visitors Center - Woodstock CVB
  • 2017     HAAS Public School Transportation Fund - Booth Western Art Museum
  • 2016     Dunwoody Convention + Visitors Bureau
  • 2015     Discover DeKalb Destination Guide
  • 2014     Explore Gwinnett - Gwinnett Tourism Awareness Program
  • 2013     DeKalb Convention & Visitors Bureau - We Are DeKalb Magazine
  • 2012     Visit Savannah
  • 2011     Ath-Fest and the UGA New Media Institute - the Ath-Fest iPhone App
  • 2010     Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau - Key to Successful Meetings Campaign
  • 2009     Macon CVB  - Macon Rocks! USB Guitar Flash Drive
  • 2008     Marietta CVB  - Hip to be Square
  • 2005     Augusta Metropolitan CVB - Played Augusta Campaign
  • 2004     Janice Marshall, Macon CVB
  • 2003     Bill Marshall, Trenton Downtown Development Authority
  • 2002     Peggy Miller, Macon CVB
  • 2000     Margaret Strong
  • 1999     JoAnne Lewis

Paul Nelson Award for Outdoor Recreation and Preservation was established in 2013 to honor Paul Nelson. Paul had a passion for Georgia’s state parks and devoted his professional life to sustaining and improving the state’s natural resources. He spent most of his career working for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, where he last served as assistant director of its parks, recreation, and historic sites division.

  • 2024    Explore Brookhaven | Lynwood Park 
  • 2023    Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve Initiative
  • 2019    Arabia Mountain Heritage Area Alliance
  • 2018    Becky Kelly, Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites (DNR)
  • 2017    Adventure Lodges of Georgia - Coral Hospitality Georgia, LLC
  • 2016    Augusta Canal Authority
  • 2015    The PATH Foundation
  • 2014    Whitewater Columbus, GA - Columbus CVB

Tom Kilgore Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes an individual who exemplifies outstanding lifetime commitment towards tourism. Named for Tom Kilgore, legislator from Douglasville, who was an early advocate and champion of tourism. Tom was one of the architects of the Hotel/Motel Tax legislation.  In 2011, the Governor's Tourism Conference Lifetime Achievement Award and the GACVB Tom Kilgore Award were combined to form the current Tom Kilgore Lifetime Achievement Award.  

  • 2024     Jennifer Cruce, Visit Sandy Springs
  • 2023     Janet Rodgers, Alpharetta Convention& Visitors Bureau
  • 2019     Peter Bowden, Visit Columbus GA
  • 2018     Tyron Spearman, Tifton-Tift County Tourism Association
  • 2017     Bill Chapin - See Rock City, Inc.
  • 2016     Ellen Archer, Cartersville-Bartow County CVB
  • 2014     Dotty Etris, Historic Roswell CVB
  • 2013     Bruce Green, Georgia Department of Economic Development
  • 2012     Ginger Taylor, Retired, GDEcD
  • 2011     Jeannie Buttrum, Classic South Regional Representative

Lifetime Achievement Award

  • 2010     Sabra McCullar, Warm Springs Tourism
  • 2009     Bill Hardman, Jr., Southeast Tourism Society
  • 2008     Spurgeon Richardson, Atlanta CVB
  • 2004     Earlene Crews, Kingsland Tourism Authority
  • 2003     Louis Griffith, Athens Convention & Visitors Bureau

Tom Kilgore Award

  • 2010     Marguerite Copelan, Madison CVB
  • 2008     Judy Renfroe, formerly of the Cobb CVB
  • 2007     Brenda Price, GACVB, Columbus CVB

Bill Hardman Sr. Tourism Champion Awards
This series of awards was renamed in honor of Bill Hardman Sr. in 2014 in recognition of his tireless support and guidance to the entire tourism industry. There are four categories under the Tourism Champion umbrella in which a Tourism Champion award may be given: Private Sector, Partnership, Product Development, and Government. Award recipients are individuals and organizations that have taken leadership roles in developing tourism opportunities in communities across the state.

Private Sector Champion Award is given to an individual within the private sector who has worked tirelessly to spread the message and garner support for Georgia tourism. The first recipient of this award was Phil Jacobs, President, Georgia BellSouth. As founder of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s tourism committee, Jacobs has long been a proponent of the state’s tourism industry as a viable, promising tool for economic development.

  • 2024     Richland Distilling Company
  • 2023     Georgia Hotel & Lodging Association
  • 2019     Jason Reott, Georgia Peach World
  • 2018     Paul Milliken, "Good Day Atlanta" on WAGA Fox 5
  • 2017     Craig Miller, Craig Miller Productions
  • 2016     Xavier Roberts, Babyland General Hospital
  • 2015     Jon Brasher, Atlanta Magazine Custom Media
  • 2014     Jeffrey Mills, Mills Marketing Group
  • 2013     Matt Greene and Tom Duke, Populace, Inc.
  • 2012     Jim Nelems, Marketing Workshop, Inc.
  • 2011     Rodney Musselman, Hilton Savannah DeSoto
  • 2010     Larry Halpern, Positive Energy
  • 2009     Sean McGinnis, Emmis Publishing
  • 2008     Trent Mercer, Streeter Printing
  • 2005     Spurge Richardson, Atlanta CVB
  • 2004     Paul Wood
  • 2003     Phil Jacobs, BellSouth

Partnership Champion Award is given to an alliance that collaborates to increase visitation and tourism expenditures in Georgia. The first recipient of this award was Georgia Department of Transportation which partnered successfully with GDEcD and provided the official state maps for distribution at Georgia’s Visitor Information Centers.

  • 2024     Visit Athens | Cities of the SEC
  • 2023     Artesian Alliance: Chehaw Park & Zoo, Flint RiverQuarium, Thronateeska Heritage Center
  • 2019     Historic Pews & Pulpits Ramble
  • 2018     Hospitality Highway Partnership
  • 2017     Visit Savannah, Golden Isles CVB & Visit Tybee - Port Wentworth Visitor Information Center
  • 2016     Georgia Grown
  • 2015     Golden Isles Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • 2014     Visit Savannah and Savannah Area Tourism Leadership Council
  • 2013     Athens Historic House Museum Association
  • 2012     Georgia Historical Society
  • 2011     Luckie-Marietta District, Atlanta
  • 2010     Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter
  • 2009     Georgia DOT- Discovery, Education, and Heritage Tourism of the Old Federal Road in Georgia
  • 2008     Clarks Hill Partnership of Georgia – Columbia, Lincoln, McDuffie, Warren and Wilkes Counties
  • 2005     Mike Beatty and Jim Finch, Department of Community Affairs
  • 2004     Lonice Barrett and Paul Nelson, Department of Natural Resources
  • 2003     The Georgia Department of Transportation

Product Development Champion Award is given to 
a partner agency or individual for outstanding work 
in attracting capital investments for tourism projects.
The first award recognized Nancy Cobb, OneGeorgia Authority, which leveraged the state’s tobacco settlement funds to attract capital investments for tourism projects in the state’s rural areas.

  • 2024     Destination Augusta | Authentic Augusta Experience Collection
  • 2023     Dave Curtis and Leon N. Weiner & Associates, Inc., Jekyll Island Redevelopment
  • 2019     Augusta & Co. - Augusta Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • 2018     Columbia County and Columbia County CVB - BMX Track
  • 2017     Brews & Q's Trail - Historic Heartland Travel Association
  • 2016     The Georgia Grown Trail 41 Association, Inc.
  • 2015     Georgia Grown Trail 37 Association
  • 2014     Gone With the Wind Trail Association
  • 2013     Caroline Figiel & Danny Jones, Creative Digital
  • 2012     Destination Brooks
  • 2011     Augusta Canal Authority / Augusta Canal National Heritage Area 
  • 2010     Flat Creek Lodge
  • 2009     Martin Harmon, Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation
  • 2008     The Welcome Center of Forsyth/Monroe County
  • 2004     Sabra McCullar, Warm Springs Tourism
  • 2003     Nancy Cobb, OneGeorgia Authority

Government Champion Award is given to an individual or group who has shown extraordinary support of tourism through their legislative or organizational efforts.

  • 2024     City of Macon | Mayor Lester Miller
  • 2023     Mayor Lee Kinnamon, Americus, Georgia
  • 2019     Tyler Reinagel, Georgia Department of Community Affairs
  • 2018     Representative Hank Johnson, United States House of Representatives
  • 2017     Commissioner Russell R. McMurry, Georgia Department of Transportation
  • 2016     Commissioner Gary Black, Georgia Department of Agriculture
  • 2015     First Lady Sandra Deal, State of Georgia
  • 2014     New Harmonies:  Celebrating American Roots Music, Georgia Humanities Council
  • 2013     Representative Jason Shaw, Georgia House District 176
  • 2012     Lamar Paris, Sole Commissioner of Union County
  • 2011     Rep. Lynn Smith
  • 2010     Rep. Ben Harbin
  • 2009     Rep. Larry O’Neal
  • 2008     Rep. Ron Stephens
  • 2004     Sen. Jeff Mullis and Rep. Butch Parrish
  • 2003     Rep. Mickey Channel and Rep. Ron Stephens

Destination Marketing Visionary Award

  • 2024   Discover Darien | Save the Kit Jones