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Nominations for The 31st Annual Tourism Professional of The Year Are In!

Academy of Hospitality and Tourism (AOHT) is pleased to announce the nominees for the 31st Annual South Florida Tourism Professional of the Year award. This year’s nominees represent a cross-section of the local hospitality and tourism industry who have contributed to elevating Greater Miami and Miami Beach’s travel and tourism industry to one of the most admired and successful in the world. Additionally, nominees have enthusiastically supported programs to create an educated, professional industry workforce for the future.

Ralph Pagano

Belkeys Nerey

The nominees for the Tourism Professional of the Year are:

  • Steve Adkins, Miami-Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce

  • Ali Bibeau, Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB)

  • Amir Blattner, Hyatt Regency Miami

  • Ralph Cutié, Miami-Dade Aviation Department

  • Hydi Webb, PortMiami

On November 10, 2022, the AOHT Advisory Board will hold its annual award luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Miami to recognize all of the outstanding nominees and to announce the recipient of this year’s coveted Tourism Professional of the Year award. The Hyatt Regency Miami is also the Presenting Sponsor of this highly anticipated award luncheon. Show Technology, a South Florida based audio visual production company, is supporting the event as a Signature Sponsor.

Mathias Zeek

Featured speakers at the luncheon include internationally recognized celebrity chef Ralph Pagano. Ralph has been to Hell and Back with Gordon Ramsay, battled Iron Chef vs Bobby Flay and is internationally known as the Pressure Cook. He is also the host of Ralph on the Road on Lifetime TV and the voice of food, drink and gambling on the Paul Castronovo Show on Big 105.9. Ralph makes teaching good to kids his business and is the Chef Chairman of The Education Fund of Miami-Dade County.

Emcee host of the luncheon is five-time Emmy award-winning journalist Belkys Nerey, who was born in Havana and raised in Long Island and Miami. Completely bilingual, Ms. Nerey started her television career as a reporter for a South Florida cable station. In 1994 she joined WSVN-7. During her tenure at the Miami Fox affiliate, she has covered major news stories and co-anchored the pop-culture driven Deco Drive. Ms. Nerey currently anchors the 5, 6, 10 and 11 pm newscasts on WSVN-7.

Distinguished past recipients of the Tourism Professional of the Year Award include Dr. Peter Ricci, Florida Atlantic University; Dr. Paul George, History Miam; George Neary, Tours “R” Us; Wendy Kallergis, Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association (GMBHA); Henry Delgado, Smith & Wollensky; Rocco Angelo, Florida International University Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management; William Talbert, III , GMCVB; Alvin West, Sr., GMCVB; and Academy Founders, Stuart Blumberg (Retired) GMBHA; Bob Dickinson (Retired) Carnival Cruise Lines; and the late Alyce Robertson, Miami-Dade Downtown Development Authority; the late Tony Goldman, Goldman Properties; and the late Jeanne Westphal.

Attendees will also enjoy an art exhibit presented by Hialeah Gardens Senior HS Art Students along with various works of art by Zeek Mathias. Zeek is a renowned multimedia artist who holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in behavioral science. He is also the founder of Juicing with Art, a subsidiary of Infinite Imprint and has received numerous recognitions for his artistic work.

Celebrating 35 years of success, the Academy of Hospitality and Tourism is a member of the non-profit, NAF. NAF has refined a proven model that provides young people access to industry-specific curricular, work-based learning experiences and prepares them for college and industry careers. Academies (Hospitality & Tourism, Culinary, Education, and Arts and Entertainment) are in 20 Miami-Dade County public high schools. Proceeds of the luncheon benefit work-based learning activities and scholarships for AOHT students and professional development for teachers.

Tickets for the South Florida Tourism Professional of the Year Award luncheon are $130.00 for an individual ticket or $1250 for a table/vendor sponsorship. Tickets can be purchased online at , go to

By ML Staff. Images Courtesy of Tourism Professional Of The Year


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