Recipients of Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau’s SUNsational Service Courtesy Awards, from left to right: Andrew Slegel, William Lanzziano, Heather Punko, Alexis Underhill, Viveen Persuad, Stacy Ritter (Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB President and CEO), Alourde Lambert, Charlotte Phynes Garcia, Michael Bernstein, Janice Hall, and Etienne Polycarpe.

GREATER FORT LAUDERDALE CELEBRATES NATIONAL TOURISM DAY AND SUNSATIONAL SERVICE COURTESY AWARDS FOR HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY WORKERS 

GREATER FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (May 11, 2018) – On Thursday, May 10, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau commemorated National Travel & Tourism Week at an annual luncheon at the Broward County Convention Center, by celebrating the value of travel and tourism in the destination. The event, attended by approximately 500 industry partners, also honored members of the local hospitality community for excellence in service in going above and beyond their normal job responsibilities to ensure favorable visitor experiences. The annual SUNsational Service Courtesy Awards recognized 10 recipients out of hundreds of peer-submitted entries and was judged by a panel of industry experts.  

“We are so grateful for our hospitality industry colleagues, and we recognize the important role they play in making Greater Fort Lauderdale the popular and welcoming destination it is today. They are our most important asset in helping to create positive and lasting memories for our millions of visitors each year,” said Stacy Ritter, President and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Their exceptional commitment is one of the reasons Greater Fort Lauderdale has become a favorite destination for leisure and business travelers alike.”   

Each award winner received prizes including a two-night hotel stay and $100 dining credit, Hello Sunny luggage, a SUNsational Service Courtesy Award plaque, a $100 Play Pass for two at Xtreme Action Park and two VIP packages from Gulfstream Park, plus souvenirs. All 131 awards nominees received two Grandstand tickets for this year’s Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade, a Hello Sunny luggage tag and a T-shirt. 

This year’s winners and their stories include:

  • Alexis Underhill, Employee at Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi
    Alexis Underhill is an employee with the Water Taxi team who was tasked with returning a purse that was left on a water taxi boat to a local guest. After an extensive online search that turned up the name and location of the school the guest attended, Alexis tracked down the student on Instagram. When the photo ID and Instagram profile photo matched, Alexis quickly messaged her to explain that her purse had been found. The student was elated, and even more so when she learned that all her belongings were intact. Alexis’s efforts turned a potential nightmare into a happy solution for one lucky visitor.  
     
  • Alourde Lambert, Guest Room Attendant at Riverside Hotel
    Operating a hotel under hurricane conditions is a tough task and keeping employees on the job during a natural disaster can be a challenge since most are eager to be home with their families.   When Hurricane Irma threatened South Florida last year, guests at the Riverside Hotel were able to count on one single housekeeping employee who volunteered to work during the storm: Alourde Lambert.

    Thankfully, the hotel suffered little hurricane damage - the lights stayed on and the hotel sheltered travelers, residents, employees, and their family pets. Alourde worked long hours to keep everyone comfortable during the storm, fulfilling requests from guests, tidying the lobby and other public areas, and staying on top of mounting laundry duties during her 17-hour shifts. Just like the power that remained on throughout the hurricane, Alourde never lost her buoyant persona, making sure everyone got the attention they needed.
     
  • Andrew Slegel, Head Senior Chauffeur at A1A Airport & Limousine Service
    There’s a reason that Andrew Siegel is the chauffeur everyone wants to hire for their transportation needs. His kind and caring nature, intimate knowledge of the area, and dedication to doing his job right ensures that clients receive an exceptional experience.

    For one group of tourists, he scheduled a full day of post-cruise sightseeing before they returned home. During the span of just a few hours, Andrew took the visitors to feed tarpon, jet-ski, and shop at Sawgrass Mills. The clients emailed Andrew’s supervisors to let them know that they had more fun with him than they had during any of the cruise experiences — and that he was the best chauffeur they had ever used. 

    Another example was the care he took of an elderly woman who was confused upon arrival and couldn’t remember where she was going. After looking through a notepad filled with addresses the client had with her, Andrew helped call her family to determine the hotel she had booked, took her there and made sure she was safe and secure. He further stayed in touch with her and her family, and they were extremely grateful for his kind and caring service.  
     
  • Charlotte Phynes Garcia, Concierge at The Diplomat Beach Resort
    Charlotte might as well be called the proposal planner for all the TLC she extends to guests during their romantic stays at the resort. One anxiety-ridden guest didn’t have a plan of how to pop the question, and Charlotte helped the guest prepare an elaborate proposal with hearts as the central theme. After a room upgrade for better photos to commemorate the day, Charlotte decorated the hallway and suite with hearts, petals, and balloons. Right before the proposal, Charlotte surprised the couple with a photo session on the beach for a truly memorable engagement. In another engagement story, a guest showed Charlotte a photo of a heart in the sand filled with petals. Charlotte rolled up her sleeves and got to work, digging a 6-foot-wide heart on the beach and filling it with petals to make the guest’s proposal come to life.
     
  • Etienne Polycarpe, Banquet Captain, Pelican Grand Beach Resort
    Etienne’s quiet, hard work might be difficult to see. But when you notice a resort banquet department running seamlessly and efficiently, or four happy and healthy boys with a loving father, you will realize that it’s Etienne’s dedication behind the scenes that makes it all possible.

    Etienne doesn’t care for accolades or special treatment. Born in Haiti with a military background, he came to Florida and started work at the Pelican Grand Beach Resort where he has transformed the banquet department into one that provides world-class service, and spends long hours making sure that great service is delivered daily.  

    That dedication is also evident in his family life. Etienne lost his wife and is a single father to his four sons. In addition to serving in the banquet department, he oversees homework completion and school chauffeuring. His handling of a family crisis also highlights Etienne’s dedication to his work. From Christmas to March in 2016, one of Etienne’s sons was hospitalized with a serious infection. Etienne continued to go above and beyond at work even when he was spending nights at the hospital with his son, insisting that he not be given preferential treatment over his fellow employees during that stressful time.
     
  • Heather Punko, Manager at GG’s Waterfront Bar & Grill
    Heather helped a new bride save her wedding day when overeager guests absconded with vases florists used for the floral centerpieces. While the flowers were fine to keep, the vases were too expensive to give away as party favors. Heather stepped in to make the calls, and provided comfort to the upset bride and the inconvenienced guests. She kept the restaurant open to make sure all of the vases were returned so that the bride didn’t have to pay for them. This kind of service earned Heather and the restaurant a chance to see the couple again when they return to celebrate their first anniversary. 

    Heather always makes sure she puts a personal touch on service. From making sure guests sit at the same table where they enjoyed meals with their late mother, to delivering surprise gift cards to out-of-town guests, in everything she does she constantly dazzles her guests.
     
  • Janice Hall, Training Specialist at Dream Vacations
    Janice already has enough on her plate, getting over 200 travel agents per year up to speed on the area in addition to making sure over 1,000 more have continued training. But that didn’t stop her from becoming a stand-in daughter for a mother of a travel agent in crisis. After the mother was hospitalized following a cruise, Janice checked on her at the behest of the travel agent. Janice stayed in touch until the travel agent could arrive, keeping the mother company and even taking her out for lunch.
     
  • Michael Bernstein, Server at Billy’s Stone Crab Restaurant
    Michael doesn’t let a little water scare him. He went above and beyond his duties as a server when he volunteered to retrieve a guest’s dropped belongings in the Intracoastal Waterway. Michael brought in his own scuba diving gear and found the wallet and phone the next morning, making the guest extremely grateful for his efforts.
     
  • Viveen Persuad, Customer Service Agent at CARIBBEAN AIRWAYS - Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport
    It took Viveen only a couple of days to recognize a man in crisis at the airport. A wheelchair-bound double amputee had been living in the airport for four months. Viveen took the initiative to speak with the man and get in contact with his sister, who had no way to bring him to her in Houston. Viveen organized an informal fundraiser to pay for the man’s flight and make sure he was properly fed. The next day, he joined his sister, making the family complete once more — all because of Viveen’s extra efforts.
     
  • William Lanzziano, Bell / Valet Captain at Bonaventure Resort & Spa
    William started as a server and rose to his role over the course of three decades during his time at Bonaventure. William’s service is irreplaceable, shown by the lives he’s touched during his tenure.

    William has always gone above and beyond to make sure the people around him are happy and comfortable. His dedication is most evident in the special relationship he has developed with crew members of Azul Airlines from Brazil. William makes a special point to always meet the Azul staff and make them feel comfortable while they are a long way from home. When an Azul captain on an incoming flight reported feeling sick, it was William who met him, cared for him and called paramedics to attend to him. The paramedics immediately took the captain to the hospital for emergency surgery – saving his life. William also made arrangements for the captain’s mother to come to Florida to be with her son, often serving as her driver.  

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About Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County
From the seagrass to the sawgrass, Greater Fort Lauderdale, located in Broward County, boasts more than 34,000 lodging accommodations at a variety of hotels, luxury spa resorts, and Superior Small Lodgings reflecting a vibrant cosmopolitan vibe. Visitors enjoy 23 miles of Blue Wave certified beaches, discover 300+ miles of inland waterways that run from the Intracoastal Waterway to the Everglades, dine at thousands of restaurants and eateries, get immersed in a thriving arts and culture scene and indulge in top shopping.

For more information, contact the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) 22-SUNNY or visit sunny.org. Get social and engage with Greater Fort Lauderdale on social media channels including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @visitlauderdale.

Media Contact:
Jessica Savage
Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB
Tel: 954-767-2444
E-mail: jessicasavage@broward.org

Sabrina Rios
Finn Partners
Tel: 954 368 9817
E-mail: Sabrina.rios@finnpartners.com