Hospitality professionals receive Mary Brennan Tourism Award


The RI Hospitality Association (RIHA) recently honored Lara Salamano, Chief Marketing Officer, Rhode Island Commerce Corporation and Warwick-based Experience Rhode Island Tours with the Mary Brennan Tourism Award at the “Stars of the Industry” Annual Meeting and Awards Ceremony at Twin River Casino.

This award is named for Mary Brennan, the “official den mother of tourism in Rhode Island.” Mary served as the Director of Marketing for the Rhode Island Airport Corporation and helped lay the foundation for many of the tourism initiates in place today.

Lara Salamano, Chief Marketing Officer of the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, leads marketing campaigns to bring more tourists and businesses to the state. Salamano is a graduate of The University of Rhode Island and holds years of experience promoting brands, she worked at Viacom for names like Nickelodeon and TV Land. Salamano has a proven track record of developing and implementing brand-marketing strategies across multiple networks, platforms and demographics. She believes in affecting positive change for the way this state is marketed and shares Rhode Island’s hospitality success across the nation.

Experience Rhode Island Tours, founded by Jon and Ted Stricklin, is a family business and a success story. These brothers grew up in Warwick and wanted to show people what is great about the state. In 2013 they launched Experience Rhode Island Tours and today they offer over 20 daily tours and group outings. Their combination for love of people and Rhode Island has brought the business three years of 5 out of 5 ratings of TripAdvisor and three Certificate of Excellence awards.

“It is with great honor that I congratulate Lara Salamano of the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation and Jon and Ted Stricklin of Experience Rhode Island Tours as our Mary Brennan award winners this year,” said Dale J. Venturini, President and CEO of RIHA. “We are so fortunate to have Lara in the Ocean State to tell our story, and Jon and Ted are true champions of Rhode Island’s tourism economy.”

Warwick residents also receiving awards at the ceremony and the companies they work for include: Frank P. Agresti Sr. The Hampton Inn and Suites Providence Warwick Airport, Hotel Employee of the Year; Barbara Caswell, Chelo’s Hometown Bar & Grille, Restaurant Employee of the Year; Jarod C. Chelo, Chelo’s Hometown Bar & Grille, Emerging Leader Award; Laura DeStefanis, Providence Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau, Tourism Employee of the Year; Daniel C. DiPietro, VIP Lounge of Twin River Casino and Shipyard Pub, Emerging Leader Award; Jackson Donoyan, NYLO Hotel, Boss of the Year; Wayne L. Hemond, Chelo’s Hometown Bar & Grille, Restaurant Employee of the Year; Luke McDonald LAZ Ultimate Hospitality, Allied Employee of the Year; Richard Silvia, The White Horse Tavern, Chef of the Year; Liliana Teixeira, Renaissance Providence Downtown Hotel, Hotel Employee of the Year and Melissa A. Williams, Twin River Event Center, Emerging Leader Award.


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