By Joel Hall
The tourism industry adds $1.22 billion to the county's economy annually, according to the Clayton County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). On Tuesday, the individuals whose actions have encouraged people to come, stay, and spend money in the county, were honored.
The CVB held it's second Golden Service Awards at Arts Clayton on Tuesday afternoon.
In a special ceremony, Historical Jonesboro/Clayton County Inc., Volunteer Kay Dreyer; Vintage Photography and Triple L Electric Owner Larry McDonald; and Comfort Suites Atlanta Airport Assistant General Manager Sara Skeen, were recognized for their commitment to customer service, and promotion of the county's tourism assets.
In addition to the Golden Service Award recipients, State Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Ellenwood) was honored with the Friend of Tourism Award for his role during the past two legislative sessions in pushing through legislation allowing Clayton County and the cities of Morrow and Jonesboro to increase their hotel-motel tax rates.
Tourism serves as an "economic engine" for the state of Georgia, second only to the agriculture industry, in terms of the revenue it generates, said CVB President and CEO Pat Duncan. He said the Golden Service Awards honor the people behind the scenes who allow the county to share in the benefit.
"I think it's important to recognize those who go above and beyond the call of duty, and show superior hospitality in their industry," Duncan said. "If it is a hotel clerk who is invited, it makes the hotel a warm, and inviting place. If it is a gas station clerk providing good service, it makes people feel good about going in there.
"Customer service is good for everybody," he added. "Each of these recipients is well-deserving of this award. These are the kind of people that visitors remember, and tell their friends and family about."
Awardee Dreyer said she has worked as a volunteer with Historical Jonesboro/Clayton County, Inc., since 1980, and has served as a docent at Stately Oaks Plantation since 1986. During that time, she has given numerous tours of Stately Oaks, served as a past president for the historical society, and chaired several cultural events. Dreyer said that over the years, she has tried to give visitors a memorable experience, because that is what she would want if she were visiting.
"I want them to feel like their visit and their time in Clayton County was something they will remember," Dreyer said. "When people are all on the same mindset to make people feel comfortable, it makes a big difference."
Businessman McDonald, who has operated both an electrical company and a photography business in Jonesboro since the early 1990s, was recognized for numerous in-kind services of electrical and photography work for organizations such as Arts Clayton, Historical Jonesboro/Clayton County, Inc., the Clayton County CVB, and the Morrow Business and Tourism Association. He said helping tourism-related businesses succeed will ultimately help the county succeed.
"I wanted them to be successful, so I try to do what I can," McDonald said. "It helps the city, it helps me and my business, and it gives everybody a chance to excel. I'm hoping to set an example for everybody to work together. It takes a united effort to make anything work."
Hotel manager Skeen was sick on Tuesday and unable to receive her award in person, according to the CVB. Since 2009, Skeen has worked diligently to promote Clayton County tourism assets to visitors at Comfort Suites Atlanta Airport, and has given generously to local tourism organizations, officials said.
Glanton, who was present, said recognizing service-minded individuals in the county will help the county have more to offer in the long run. "It's always good to know that what you are doing is impacting the community in a positive way, and helping the community continue to thrive," Glanton said. "I think tourism in Clayton County is an opportunity for a tremendous increase in revenue ... It takes all of us working together to make this wheel turn."