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News: Texas travel industry briefs


April 2014

Four travel industry professionals received prestigious awards during ceremonies at the 59th annual Texas Travel Counselors Conference held in South Padre Island.

The conference is a meeting of Texas travel industry professionals and representatives of Texas Department of Transportation’s Travel Information Division, the Texas Travel Industry Association, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the American Automobile Association, and city information centers.

Lone Star Award


Texas Highways magazine’s Editor Jill Lawless received the Lone Star Award for her outstanding service to Texas’ tourism industry.

She is credited as a driving force behind Texas Highways magazine, the award-winning travel publication for Texas’ diverse tourism destinations and colorful culture.

jill2Lawless began her 20-year career with the magazine as an intern and has climbed the ranks as its top editor. She has influenced and shaped the content of the magazine through many of its transitions, including the addition of a digital online sector, and her pivotal role in the magazine redesign for its 40th Anniversary this year.

“Jill has been a fixture at Texas Highways magazine for many years, and is one of the key reasons the publication enjoys its loyalty and appeal among readers across the world that it does today,” says Travel Information Division Director Margo Richards. “She is a hard worker, a tireless professional and well deserving of this award.”

TxDOT Roadrunner Award

monicaMonica Freeman, a TxDOT Texas Travel Information Center counselor received the 2014 Roadrunner award for her excellent customer service and outstanding dedication to Texas tourism. Freeman is based at the Texas Travel Information Center in Denison, which served more than 200,000 visitors in 2013.

Freeman began her career in 2010 at the Travel Information Center in Wichita Falls, before transferring to Denison. She became a state and nationally certified Travel Counselor in 2011 and routinely demonstrates outstanding leadership and innovation, particularly for tourism events hosted by the Denison Travel Information Center. She routinely demonstrates leadership in coordinating numerous tourism and safety campaigns at her center, including the OU-Texas football weekend “Arrive Safely to the Game” event, as well as Highway Work Zone Safety Awareness and Distracted Driving events.

“Monica has shown exemplary service, initiative and creativity in her time with the department,” says Richards. “Her willingness to go the extra mile for customers and follow through on details makes her a valuable asset to our division, and she is very deserving of this award.”

TxDOT operates 12 Texas Travel Information Centers at points of entry to the state and at the Capitol Visitor Center in Austin.

Gene Phillips Hospitality Award

Longtime tourism industry professional Jerry Holt of Traders Village in Grand Prairie was named the 2014 recipient of the Gene Phillips Hospitality Award.

The award recognizes Holt’s career-long contributions, involvement in legislation, and work that specifically impacts Texas’ $65.7 billion travel and tourism industry.

The Gene Phillips Hospitality Award is named in honor of the late Gene Phillips, who managed Aquarena Springs in San Marcos and was an influential, driving force in the emerging tourism industry during the 1970s. Each year the award is presented by TxDOT Travel Information Division staff and recognizes one person for his or her outstanding lifetime accomplishments within the Texas travel and tourism industry.

With 40 years of experience in Texas tourism, Holt is currently in sales, tourism and promotions at Traders Village in Grand Prairie, considered the largest weekly flea market, shopping and vendor marketplace of its kind in the U.S.

He previously served as vice president of the Amarillo Convention and Visitor Council for 18 years, where he oversaw, managed and was involved in most all tourism initiatives, visitor programs and outreach, and marketing. Before that, he spent 20 years in sales and marketing with the Six Flags Corporation, where he started as a seasonal ride operator while in high school.

Throughout his career, Holt has been a regular fixture on committees and boards for the Texas Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus, Texas Tourism Industry Association, Panhandle Days in Austin, the Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation, the Tourism Advisory Council for the Office of the Governor Economic Development and Tourism, and many others.

“Jerry Holt has been the kind of worker who represents the best of the Texas tourism industry,” says Richards. “He remains a consummate ambassador for the state and is a perfect fit for the Gene Phillips award.”


Texas Travel Information Center Visitor Numbers


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