The Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (RACVB) today announced the recipients of its Hospitality Hero Awards, which honor workers in the area’s hospitality industry who provide exceptional customer service.

The awards are part of the efforts of the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau to honor and recognize employees in the hospitality industry as part of National Travel and Tourism Week, May 19-May 25. Honoring these contributions helps shine a light on workers in the hospitality industry and their impact on travel and tourism.

Nominations were submitted to the RACVB from March 18 to May 6, 2024, by residents and visitors that experienced their hospitality excellence. Nominees contributed to the travel and tourism experience in Rockford and Winnebago County and were selected based on exemplary customer service and impact on the community.

Award categories included Hotels, Attractions, Sporting Venue, Entertainment/Meeting Venue, and Restaurant/Bar/Catering. Nominees honored currently work within the hospitality industry within Winnebago County.

The recipients received a gift card, award plaque and Rockford themed gift basket to honor their exemplary service. The following individuals were honored with Hospitality Hero Awards during the 2024 Travel & Tourism Week:

Tina Sumner, Holiday Inn Express, with over two decades of experience in the hotel industry, Tina consistently exhibited exceptional customer service, demonstrating kindness, dedication, and pride in her work.

Gina Brown, Discovery Center, nominated for leadership, problem-solving skills, and inclusive approach made her an exemplary role model, setting high standards for customer service and staff empowerment.

Donna Johnson, Savor/ASM, recognized for remarkable contributions and dedication to excellence in the hospitality industry with over 26 years of consistent exceptional service and a strong work ethic.

Karla Graham, The Office, embodies excellence, always greeting others with a smile and friendly conversation, sharing her passion for supporting local businesses with great recommendations, and demonstrating extraordinary kindness.

Milton Phillips, UW Health Sports Factory, goes above and beyond to provide customer satisfaction and revenue to the UW Sports Factory. Milton has an approachable demeanor and provides top-notch service.

“It is a pleasure to acknowledge the diligent work and excellent service of these heroes of our local hospitality industry. Their excellence helps tourism to flourish in the city of Rockford and Winnebago County,” said John Groh, president/CEO of the RACVB. “Congratulations to the award recipients and thank you for your hard work!”

Established in 1983, National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW) is an annual celebration of the U.S. travel community and travel’s essential role in stimulating economic growth, cultivating vibrant communities, creating quality job opportunities, inspiring new businesses, and elevating the quality of life for Americans every day.

About: RACVB is responsible for promoting the Rockford region as an attractive travel destination and enhancing its public image as a dynamic place to live and work. Through the impact of travel, RACVB strengthens the economic position of the region and provides opportunities for people in our communities.


Elizabeth Falls, RACVB Marketing Manager, 815.708.0089,