Latest News

33165 02 Nov 2023

Greater Palm Springs was an opportunity to unite the hospitality community and highlight the positive impact of tourism

Greater Palm Springs Tourism and Hospitality Industry Honored at Champions of Hospitality Gala

(Greater Palm Springs, CA) – More than 650 hospitality professionals, students and their  families from across the Coachella Valley gathered to celebrate the spirit of Greater Palm  Springs tourism at the annual Champions of Hospitality Gala held yesterday at Renaissance  Esmeralda Resort & Spa in Indian Wells. The event presented by Visit Greater Palm Springs  was an opportunity to unite Greater Palm Springs’ hospitality community and highlight the  positive impact tourism employees have on local businesses and visitors.  

While the Champions of Hospitality Awards Gala celebrates the individuals and  organizations that embody the innovative spirit of the local tourism and hospitality industry,  the event also serves as a fundraising vehicle for the Greater Palm Springs Tourism  Foundation, raising more than $90,000 through sponsorships, silent auction and donations. At  the event, the Greater Palm Springs Tourism Foundation awarded $24,000 in scholarships to  four college students from across the Coachella Valley and five seniors from Coachella  Valley High School’s Hospitality Academy.  

NBC Palm Springs morning anchor Thalia Hayden and Telemundo 15 news anchor and  reporter Hernan Quintas emceed the Awards, which drew more than 175 nominations across  a variety of categories. Twenty individuals were recognized with the Hospitality Award for  enriching the overall visitor experience by providing exceptional customer service and  hospitality. Special recognition was made to seven individuals considered to be rising stars in the local tourism industry with the San Jacinto Rising Star Award. 

The Palm Award was presented to five individuals/organizations who elevate the Greater  Palm Springs brand and inspire more visitors to the destination by consistently ensuring  extremely high-quality guest services, unique experiences, or customer value. 

Two special awards were made to recognize those making a significant impact in the areas  of Sustainability and Diversity. The City of La Quinta was the recipient of the Oasis Award for  Sustainability for its program of working with every dining establishment in the city on  composting. Nathan Kelleher, Guest Relations and Club Lounge Manager at The Ritz Carlton,Rancho Mirage, was presented the Santa Rosa Diversity Award for developing programs  that support the LGBTQ+ community in the hospitality industry in the Coachella Valley. 

The culminating award of the event, the Spirit of Tourism Award, was presented to Tim  Leiweke, CEO of Oak View Group/Acrisure Arena, to recognize his embodiment of the spirit  of tourism in the valley and his diligent work to move the overall industry forward in both  actions and spirit. Paul Tollett, CEO & President of Goldenvoice and 2018 Spirit of Tourism  winner, made the presentation.


(by category) 


Awarded for enriching the overall visitor experience by providing exceptional customer service and hospitality.

Freddy Barragan, Aguilar Parker Palm Springs

Angie Bettinelli, Azure Sky Hotel

Heriberto “Beto” Caballero,Tommy Bahama Miramonte Resort & Spa

Margie Diaz, Meredith Lodging

Elizabeth Donate, Hilton Grand Vacations Club Palm Desert

Guillermo Esquivel, Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa, Indian Wells

Tim Fields, JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa

Jessica Gonzales, Acrisure Arena

Juan Gonzalez,TQLAS and The Hideout Kitchen + Bar

Levi Hernandez, Escape Room Palm Springs

Garth Hoyes, The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

Yolanda Leyva, Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage

Enma Lopez, Hampton Inn & Suites Indio

Martha Lucio, Hilton Palm Springs

Martin Oliveros, La Quinta Resort and Club

Griselda Perez, Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

Rosa Sanchez, Rancho Relaxo

Tatiana Schneider, The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage

Jennifer Torricelli, Café One Eleven at Agua Caliente Cathedral City

James Toscano, The Westin Rancho Mirage Golf Resort & Spa

Ioana Vasile, The Spring Resort & Spa



Awarded for leading in eco-friendly tourism and implementing green/sustainable practices into their business.

City of La Quinta


Elevates the Greater Palm Springs brand and inspires more visitors to the destination by consistently ensuring extremely high-quality guest services, unique experiences, or customer value.

Aric Ianni, Boozehounds 


Palm Springs Palm Springs Air Museum


Cathedral City Hot Air Balloon Festival

Sean Smith, CV BBQ

Daniel Spencer, The Spa at Séc-he and Sunstone Spa at Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage


Presented to an individual who has worked in hospitality or tourism for less than 5 years, or is under 40 years of age, and has contributed to the promotion of travel, tourism, and hospitality in Greater Palm Springs.

Nicole Benvenutti COJ Events, Inc.

Abril Betancourt, Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa

Jocelyn Gutierrez, ACME House Company

Gilbert Lujan, Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs

Jose “Chuy” De Jesus, Martin Lulu Catering and Events

Bianca Nolasco, Empire Polo Club

Christine Willinsky, FARM, Tac/Quila, Front Porch, and Clandestino



Recognizes an individual who, by advocating, educating, developing programs, and/or raising awareness of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) issues, has strengthened, and affected meaningful change to improve DEI in our hospitality and tourism industry.

Nathan Kelleher, The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage


This is the highest recognition presented annually to an individual whose dedication and commitment to the local tourism and hospitality industry has had a significant positive impact on the destination’s economy and quality of life.

Tim Leiweke, Oak View Group/Acrisure Arena

Coachella Valley High School Hospitality Academy Scholarship Award

Christopher Bravo 

Melanie Martinez 

Marifer Felix 

Anlle Murillo 

Mariela Herran

Greater Palm Springs Tourism Foundation Scholarship Recipients

George Cabrera 

Sebastian Jaimes-Miranda

Matthew January 

Itzel Posada

A full list of nominees may be found at


About Visit Greater Palm Springs

Visit Greater Palm Springs is the official tourism marketing agency for the nine-city  Southern California oasis of Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho  Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Indio, and Coachella. Founded in 1989  with a mission to positively affect the destination’s $8.7 billion tourism economy and  quality of life for its citizens, the organization serves more than 3,000 business partners,  providing sales, marketing and PR targeted to potential leisure travelers and event,  meeting, and convention group markets. 

About Greater Palm Springs Tourism Foundation 

The Greater Palm Springs Tourism Foundation is committed to economic mobility for  residents of the Coachella Valley and advancing our tourism workforce along with  improving sustainability and diversity, equity, and inclusion in our industry. Foundation  programs include college scholarships to local students pursuing degrees in hospitality,  supporting industry mentorship and internship programs, and providing grants to cities  for projects that enhance the visitor experience or advance accessibility, sustainability,  diversity, equity, or inclusion in our community.