Tuscaloosa, AL – Several Tuscaloosa County hotel and hospitality partners were recognized as well-deserved industry leaders during an event last week hosted by Visit Tuscaloosa at the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center.

On Thursday, November 3, Visit Tuscaloosa hosted the second annual Tuscaloosa Tourism Bash, an event designed to celebrate the hospitality and tourism industry and an opportunity to recognize exceptional hospitality partners. President and CEO Kelsey Rush, along with the Visit Tuscaloosa team, had the honor of surprising five individuals as Tuscaloosa County Hospitality Champions of the Year award recipients. There were four award categories: Hotel General Manager of the Year, Restaurant General Manager of the Year, Hotel Sales Professional of the Year and Archibald-Williams Hospitality Trailblazer.

The Hotel General Manager of the Year, Chereé Slaten, works for Triad Property Management. This award recognizes a hotel owner or general manager who shows exemplary customer and community service, is excellent in employee relations and motivates a team to pursue greatness.

Holding 14 years of experience with Triad Property Management, Slaten currently is the Regional Director of Operations. In her nomination, colleagues spoke highly of her leadership skills, diligence and positive approach.

The video announcing Slaten’s selection, which was shown at the event, can be viewed here:

The Restaurant General Manager of the Year, Craig Williams, own and operates The Avenue Pub and The Wine Market. This award recognizes a restaurant owner or general manager who shows exemplary customer and community service, is excellent in employee relations and motivates a team to pursue greatness.

Williams was lauded for his spirit of hospitality and advocacy for the city’s restaurant scene. It also was noted that Williams regularly serves in the role of mentor to his staff, student interns and others across the industry.

The video announcing Williams’ selection can be viewed here:

The Hotel Sales Professional of the Year, Heather Dill, comes from Embassy Suites by Hilton Tuscaloosa Downtown. Designed to recognize an individual who promotes and demonstrates excellence in the field of sales in hotels, this honoree goes above and beyond to build customer relationships, is creative in developing new business, and is a team player that motivates their team to excel.

Along with a well-established history of sales success, Dill was recognized for civic engagement. She serves as an adjunct faculty member at The University of Alabama and has served prominently on several committees, including an active role on the Elevate Advisory Committee for Cultural Arts and Tourism and on the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

The video announcing Dill’s selection can be viewed here:

The final recipients for Tourism Bash were awarded Archibald-Williams Hospitality Trailblazers. These individuals support the community’s hospitality industry or are in a non-managerial position at a hotel and put care into action and personify the heart of hospitality.

The first recipient, Sandra Fincher, has served Tuscaloosa’s hospitality sector with distinction for more than a decade. Currently a Housekeeper Extraordinaire at Holiday Inn Express & Suites University, her colleagues recognized her commitment to guest service, teamwork and dependability.

The video announcing Fincher’s selection can be viewed here:

Heide Patton with Travelodge Tuscaloosa was the evening’s final honoree. Currently a night audit clerk, her nomination cited Patton’s courteous nature and proactive approach have endeared to coworkers as well as guests for more than 20 years.

The video announcing Patton’s selection can be viewed here:

“It is a genuine privilege to celebrate Tuscaloosa’s hospitality workers and honor some of the industry’s key contributors,” said Kelsey Rush, president and CEO of Visit Tuscaloosa. “As Tuscaloosa hosts more visitors than ever and the city enters an exciting season of development and prosperity, Visit Tuscaloosa will continue to shine a light on the pivotal role this group plays in our experience economy.”

As Tuscaloosa’s destination organization, Visit Tuscaloosa is a community asset that strengthens the economic position and vitality of Tuscaloosa County through promotion, programming and advocacy. These efforts ultimately provide opportunity for our residents and create awareness for our destination. Visit Tuscaloosa’s sales and marketing efforts generate revenue for the community and enhance Tuscaloosa’s public image as a dynamic place to live, work, play and visit.


Group photo taken in front of red, blue and gold balloon arch. Facing the camera from left to right are Heather Dill, Sandra Fincher, Craig Williams, Heide Patton and Chereé Slaten
From Left: Heather Dill, Sandra Fincher, Craig Williams, Heide Patton and Chereé Slaten