The Tennessee Hospitality & Tourism Association recognized the “Stars of the Industry” at its annual gala event, held recently at the Gatlinburg Convention Center. The honors represent the pinnacle of recognition in Tennessee hospitality, and at the top of the list were Andy Marshall of A. Marshall Family Foods as Restaurateur of the Year, Ray Waters of Castlerock Asset Management as Hotelier of the Year, and the entire hospitality industry of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevier County as the Tourism Professionals of the Year, respectively.
“Hospitality and tourism make up the state’s second-largest industry,” said TnHTA President & CEO Greg Adkins. “Our honorees are all driving forces behind that success. They provide the top-notch guest service that keeps people coming back to Tennessee. We’re honored to have them as part of our membership, and we congratulate them on a job well done.”
Winners of these prestigious awards have dedicated their careers and continue to make fundamental contributions to the hospitality and tourism industry in Tennessee. Each year’s nominees and winners are hand-selected by a distinguished panel of previous winners, and are chosen for their shining character, demonstrated work ethic, leadership ability and inspiring vision.
Restaurateur of the Year Andy Marshall, a Memphis native, moved to Nashville as a child and started in his father’s Piggly Wiggly grocery store as a student at Middle Tennessee State University. Andy realized his dream of owning his own store when at age 26 he and his wife, Jan, purchased their first Piggly Wiggly. He soon owned three additional locations and was ultimately president of the Tennessee Grocers Association, but his love of food, music and community led him to his true passion. In 1998, he sold his stores and purchased Puckett’s Grocery in Leiper’s Fork, adding live music and a formal dinner program in 2002 before he opened Puckett’s Gro. & Restaurant in downtown Franklin. Today, A. Marshall Family Foods Inc. includes not only Puckett’s locations in the historic downtowns of Franklin, Nashville, Columbia, Murfreesboro and Chattanooga, but other concepts that include Puckett’s Boat House and Scout’s Pub in Franklin, Hattie Jane’s Creamery in Columbia and Murfreesboro, and Deacon’s New South in downtown Nashville. The company has been named to the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing private companies for four years in a row, and Marshall has been recognized among Nashville’s Most Admired CEOs and other honors.
Hotelier of the Year Ray Waters has spent more than 40 years working in the hotel industry. He began his career as a banquet waiter when Opryland Hotel opened its doors in 1997, and over 25 years with Gaylord Entertainment, he became senior vice president and general manager of the Opryland Hotel and Attractions Group, where he also oversaw the development and opening of the hotel’s $210 million Delta expansion project. Later, he was managing director of the Hilton Sandestin (Florida) Beach, Golf Resort and Spa, before returning to Nashville to become general manager of the Hilton Nashville Downtown from 2003-2013; he served as the regional director of full service hotels (Hilton Nashville, Union Station Hotel and Sheraton Orlando) for eight of those years. In 2013, he was named president of hospitality for Turnberry Associates, and oversaw three full-service hotels in Florida before again returning home in 2016 to become general manager of the Westin Nashville, under the ownership of Castlerock Asset Management. Today, he serves as vice president of Castlerock. Waters is a past president of the Greater Nashville Hospitality Association and the Tennessee Hospitality and Tourism Association, and has served on the board of directors for the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), the Nashville Sports Council and the Nashville Downtown Partnership, among others. In 2008, he was named AHLA’s General Manager of the Year for Large Properties, and Waters is also the co-author of The Educational Institute book Managing Conventions.
Mountain Tough is the way to describe the Tourism Industry of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville & Sevier County, who were collectively named the Tourism Professionals of the Year. When a catastrophic wildfire swept through the area last November, they pulled together, took care of their guests and each other, and have worked tirelessly since then to re-claim their place as one of Tennessee’s premier vacation destinations. Part of that effort has been communicating to the world that Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville are open for business and better than ever! The tourism industry of each city and county quickly jumped into action to help with relief efforts and then focused on marketing that Sevier County is still a premiere tourism destination.
“We honor these three cities and Sevier County for their hard work during and after the fires – there have been countless stories of compassion and perseverance shared with the community through the channels of the industry, and more I know that we haven’t heard,” Adkins said. “The industry was resilient and passionate about supporting their neighbors and guests in need, but in rebuilding and aggressively demonstrating that they were open for business and ready to serve. That is the embodiment of the spirt of tourism in Tennessee.”
The Tennessee Hospitality and Tourism Association is the voice of the lodging, dining, and tourism industry in the state of Tennessee. TnHTA provides education and training for industry employees and represents the interests of the hospitality and tourism industry at the local, state and national levels. The hospitality and tourism industry is the second largest in Tennessee, creating $19 billion in total economic impact representing over 10% of the workforce and producing $1 billion in state and local sales tax revenue for a consecutive 11 years. Learn more about TnHTA at www.tnhta.net.