March 19, 2019
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Inspiring testimonials displaying integrity and excellence of award winners were shared at ceremony
2019 Hospitality Superstar Award winners and Bob Klein Legendary Service Award winners.

ARLINGTON, Va. - The Arlington Chamber of Commerce today honored more than 80 front-line workers in Arlington's hospitality industry at the 15th Annual Hospitality Awards at the Sheraton Pentagon City HotelThese prestigious awards are presented each year to hospitality workers who deliver outstanding customer service, exhibit excellence in their roles, and continuously exceed their job descriptions. 

"Tourism is crucial to our region's economy, and this year's award recipients help make this industry thrive," said Chamber President & CEO Kate Bates. "The Chamber is proud to honor these hardworking people, whose dedication and willingness to go above and beyond helps make Arlington an welcoming place for tourists, business travelers, and residents."

During the ceremony, Bates read inspiring testimonials of how each Hospitality Superstar Award winner has displayed integrity and dedication in his or her work, along with examples of how they have gone above and beyond their job requirements. One winner,  Zainab Wurie of the Residence Inn by Marriott - Arlington Courthouse made a special connection with Ernie, a 14-year-old Border Collie, who belonged to one of the hotel's long term and valued guests. She played with him daily over the several weeks of their stay, and even went to visit him after her shifts. She formed such a strong bond, that when Ernie passed, Wurie reached out to the owner to share fond memories of Ernie and even arranged a private memorial for the grieving pet owners. The guests were so grateful that they are still in contact with her today and look forward to their return, along with their new furry friend.

Edgar Barrientos Grijalva of the Holiday Inn Rosslyn is another example of an employee who cares for guests above and beyond the call.  A guest saw him waiting for an elevator, and advised him that the refrigerator in his room wasn't working. He stopped what he was doing and immediately retrieved a new refrigerator for the guest. He replaced the old one with the new one in under five minutes, and the guest was thoroughly amazed at the speed and quality of his service.

Those in attendance paused for a moment to remember Ralf Hoffmann, who worked in the culinary arts for more than 30 years before joining the Hyatt Centric Arlington nearly eight years ago. He began as the executive chef before moving into the hotel's general manager's role. Truly a cherished colleague, mentor, leader, and friend, Hoffman embodied the Hyatt's purpose to "Care for people so they can be their best." Sadly, last July, Hoffmann lost his battle with cancel only 30 days after his initial diagnosis and is survived by his wife Heather and two sons.

The ceremony also honored 22 individuals with the Bob Klein Legendary Service Award for their 25 or more years of service in the Arlington hospitality industry. This award was renamed several years ago in honor of Bob Klein, the late General Manager of the Holiday Inn National Airport/Crystal City, who was instrumental in creating  the Hospitality Awards program and ensuring its success for the first five years. This year's winners include: Jorge Salamanca of the Hyatt Regency Crystal City, Yirga Semere of the Crystal City Marriott, Carl Ford of the Key Bridge Marriott, Phillip Hammond of the Crystal City Marriott, Martha Novoa of the Westin Crystal City, Jose l. Ezeta of The Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City, Husam Aziz of the Holiday Inn Ballston, Nga Nguyen of the Holiday Inn Ballston, Cornelio Cerda of the Key Bridge Marriott, Thuong Duong of the Holiday Inn Rosslyn, Mamadou Bah of The Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City, Anthony "Tony" Smith of the Hyatt Centric Arlington, Novlette Henry of the Crystal Gateway Marriott, Susie Papee of the Crystal Gateway Marriott, Xue Huang of the Hyatt Centric Arlington, Hawa "Momina" Hassen of the Crystal Gateway Marriott, Carlos Merino of the Crowne Plaza Crystal City - Washington, D.C., Ruth Crone of the Holiday Inn Ballston, Linda Dais of the Hyatt Regency Crystal City, Jeffrey Roberts of The Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City, Everett Joseph of the Hyatt Centric Arlington, and Mildred Price of the Hyatt Centric Arlington.


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Founded in 1924, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce is a member-centric, volunteer-based, nonprofit organization of approximately 700 businesses committed to the economic and civic well-being of the community. For more information or to become a member, visit the Chamber website.