Wilmington, NC - The Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau [CVB] is pleased to announce that Joanna Zazalli, visitor and member services coordinator for the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, has been awarded the inaugural Tourism Star Award. Kim Hufham, President/CEO of the New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority [TDA] d/b/a Wilmington and Beaches CVB, presented the award to Joanna Zazalli during the CVB’s annual Travel Rally Breakfast, held on May 12th at the Wilmington Convention Center. The award recognizes hospitality and tourism industry professionals who exemplify the qualities of selfless spirit of service and leadership in their work experience.

During National Travel and Tourism Week, which is observed annually in early May, the CVB rallies the industry to share the importance of travel and tourism to our economy. In accordance with this year’s theme—Faces of Travel—the CVB recognized people in the local hospitality industry who demonstrate excellence and keep the industry strong. In addition to launching a new #GoLocal campaign featuring videos of local hospitality business owners and employees, the CVB created the inaugural Tourism Star Award in honor of Jane Peterson, the CVB’s first executive director, who passed away in 2016.

“The CVB is excited to recognize an industry professional who demonstrates excellence as a local shining star of tourism. The timing proved to be a great tie-in with the Faces of Travel theme for this year’s National Travel and Tourism Week celebration,” states Kim Hufham. “We developed a list of award criteria and reached out to our industry partners for submissions. Based on the enthusiastic response, the CVB plans to make the Tourism Star Award an annual award that will be presented during National Travel & Tourism Week.”

Each nominee was a strong candidate in their respective fields, which made the selection process difficult. Joanna Zazalli stood out as a deserving shining star who goes the extra mile to provide service to visitors, thereby enhancing their experience.  As the Aquarium’s visitor and member services coordinator, Joanna and her staff greeted more than 472,000 visitors in 2016. According to the nomination form submitted by Peggy Sloan, Director of the North Carolina Aquarium of Fort Fisher, Joanna is a dedicated professional who practices service leadership, understands the value of tourism, and truly embraces the challenge of creating exceptional experiences for our visitors. The Aquarium’s visitor surveys show 98% of its visitors receive very good or excellent customer services. Much of this success can be attributed to Joanna Zazalli and the Guest Services staff she leads with knowledge, enthusiasm, and customer service training.

“In the context of going the extra mile for visitors, I almost have to ask what Joanna hasn’t done,” wrote Peggy Sloan. “She is the first one to take a visitor aside if there is a problem and to fix it. Joanna notices everything. If a visitor looks unhappy or confused, she will make a point of asking questions to make sure that each person is having a great experience. If a visitor seems particularly excited or happy, Joanna will share in the moment and celebrate with them. She comes in early, stays late, works every holiday (the Aquarium’s busiest days) and in six years has worked a self-imposed schedule of split-days off so she can always be available on at least one weekend day. Visitors remember Joanna and come back year after year, rekindling a genuine friendship that makes their memories of the Aquarium, and our region, truly special.”

The New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority d/b/a Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau is the official destination marketing organization of New Hanover County which stimulates economic development through the promotion of travel and tourism. For more information, go to WilmingtonAndBeaches.com. You can also find us on Facebook at Facebook.com/CapeFearCoastNC and Twitter and Instagram, @WilmingtoNCoast.



Connie Nelson
Wilmington CVB
910-341-4030 x120