This past Friday, May 15, the Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Athens Welcome Center hosted hospitality industry representatives and local elected officials at the annual Tourism Breakfast at the the University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education. In addition to a Mayoral proclamation that recognized May 9-17, 2009, as Tourism Week in Athens, the CVB also presented the annual Athens Hospitality Awards.

The Hospitality H.E.R.O.E.S. (Hospitality Employees Recognition of Excellent Services) of the Year award recognizes a front-line employee who has exceeded normal expectations to provide excellent service to visitors and residents. This year's winner is Lesley Nelms, Executive Housekeeper for Hilton Garden Inn. Among other efforts, Ms. Nelms worked almost 48 non-stop hours during the surprise snowstorm this year to keep guests comfortable. Click here to learn more about the award and see the winner's speech.

The Classic Host Award recognizes a local individual committed to bringing to Athens a new convention, meeting, or event generating a significant economic impact. The 2009 Classic Host Award winner is Johnny Fowler. Fowler routinely secures and serves Athens' largest convention, the Northeast Georgia Methodist Conference. The convention has met in Athens 10 of the past 11 years, bringing 3,000 attendees and an economic impact of between $2 and $3.5 million annually to Athens. Click here to learn more about the award and see the winner's speech.

The Louis Griffith Hospitality Leadership Award honors an outstanding individual in the local hospitality industry who displays foresight and exceptional leadership skills to impact the Athens-Clarke County hospitality industry and the community as a whole. This year winner is E.H. Culpepper. Culpepper has served Athens for over five decades and has included numerous leadership roles on the local, regional and state level. Click here to learn more about the award and see the winner's speech.

Check out Mayor Heidi Davidson's comments on tourism below.