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2018 Top HAT Winners


Winners for the 2018 Top HAT Awards have been announced!

Below are the winners in all award categories for the 2018 New Mexico True Top HAT Awards.


Outstanding Attraction

Los Alamos Nature Center

Pajarito Environmental Education Center

The Los Alamos Nature Center and planetarium was constructed by Los Alamos County at the passionate request of hundreds of Los Alamos residents. Since its opening on Earth Day 2015, the nature center has become known around the US and beyond as a must-see attraction for visitors to Northern New Mexico. The nature center serves over 40,000 people annually with interactive and engaging exhibits, fun and beautiful gardens and outdoor play areas, events (both ongoing and special) and school field trips and lessons. Much of our in-state tourism is a result of field trips from schools, camps, and other types of groups visiting from around New Mexico. Los Alamos strives to show visitors from out of town that it is more than just a day trip. The nature center, along with exciting planetarium films like National Parks Adventure, gives people another reason to spend more time in Los Alamos.

Outstanding Event

Monuments to Main Street

Visit Las Cruces

Monuments to Main Street is a month-long celebration of nature and history tours, concerts and film festivals, local flavors and local agriculture, and the great Southern New Mexico outdoors. The month of September is full of special events and activities offered by the community to showcase the region’s vibrant culture. The entire month of interesting tours specific to Las Cruces consolidates the very best of the area and provides tourists a timeframe where coming to Las Cruces is an absolute must. Now in its third year running, Monuments to Main Street continues to bolster tourism by highlighting Las Cruces’ greatest shows, exhibits, and events to promote the city as an accessible, history-rich destination. The emphasis of the attraction is to consolidate and heavily market outdoor recreation, local historic tours, and arts & entertainment to provide a concentrated taste of all that Las Cruces has to offer.

Best New Experience

Taos Vortex

Meow Wolf / Town of Taos

Meow Wolf’s convergence of art and music experiences led to the idea to create an immersive experience that was more than just a few hours, but a few days, that highlighted both art and music. This idea led to Meow Wolf’s first ever music festival, Taos Vortex officially took place on August 3 – 4 at Kit Carson Park in Taos. The festival featured performance artists, as well as unique installations throughout the park and offered camping, food and drink, and luxurious add-ons. Taos Vortex was designed to showcase the best in music of different genres – from rock to electronic dance – and immerse visitors in out-of-the-ordinary art. Taos Vortex, while still a Meow Wolf entity, was not an expansion on the House of Eternal Return installation, but rather an expansion on the Meow Wolf brand itself. Taos Vortex kept the central values of a Meow Wolf adventure, which are immersiveness, fun, exploration and inclusivity, but unfolded a new story that had not yet been told yet.


Best Broadcast Campaign

Santa Fe County

"Travels with Darley" television Episodes

Agency: DCN Creative

Santa Fe County collaborated with DCN Creative to produce two, half-hour episodes focused on arts and culture and outdoor adventures in Santa Fe County. The episodes were broadcast to PBS affiliates, and received additional promotion through the US Forest Service and National Forest Foundation partners. The goal of this campaign was to build on the historical and cultural reputation of Santa Fe County, appeal to the traveler’s desire for immersive, local and authentic experiences, and the grow preference for Santa Fe County among active travelers and outdoor enthusiasts. The results of the campaign netted website traffic growth by nearly 300%, and an increase in lodgers’ tax by 25% during the period the episodes aired.


Best Print Campaign

La Fonda on the Plaza

Spirit of Authenticity

Agency: Ideas and People

As one of Santa Fe’s most historic hotels and an anchor of the plaza district, La Fonda on the Plaza developed a print campaign that highlights its history and commitment to excellence that has been exemplified in its world-class hospitality for almost a century. The Spirit of Authenticity campaign sought to inform the target market of La Fonda’s rich history and reputation as an authentic New Mexico cultural destination. The campaign’s common theme - history, tradition, authenticity, craftsmanship and hospitality - were depicted with clean, aesthetic photography and smart composition. The campaign is attributed to a 10% increase in occupancy, and a 45% increase in revPAR.


Best Digital Campaign


The City Different

Agency: Fuseideas

Santa Fe wanted to build awareness around the city as a a premier travel destination and generate increased visitation and engagement with the santafe.org website. The goals of the campaign were to achieve a 30% increase in media impressions, drive an increase of 24% in traffic to the campaign’s landing page, and contribute to growth in occupancy. The campaign was developed to communicate that Santa Fe is a unique, multi-sensory experience with a rich and authentic sense of place – from the adobe architecture to the collection of unique sights, sounds, tastes, interactions and feelings generated by the multi- cultural history and heritage of the city and its people.    


Best Social Media Campaign

Sunrise Springs Spa Resort

Seasonal Sunrise

Sunrise Springs Spa Resort utilized Instagram to increase overall presence and engagement with the Instagram community. #seasonalsunrise was an Insta-meet campaign that we organized seasonally, inviting 20 social media influencers to come experience our resort. With each meeting we gave the group a tour and created an agenda featuring our Spa and Experiential Activities. Each meeting was also a photo contest with the winning influencer receiving a gift certificate to the resort. #sunrisespringsin(seasonname) was coupled with the Insta-meets as a coinciding internal campaign. We circulated an informational card (attached) throughout the resort encouraging our guests to take photos of their experience and post to the hashtag as a photo contest. The winner received a gift certificate to the resort. Success of the campaign was measured by posts generated and number of likes and comments generated by those posts. The overall increase of Instagram followers during the campaign was also used as a metric, a 157% increase in followers occurred during the campaign.


Most Innovative Campaign

Village of Jemez Springs

Soak it All In Photo Contest

Agency: InPress LLC

In 2015, the Village of Jemez Springs overhauled its branding and marketing strategy, condensed with the tagline: “Unplug. Reconnect. Soak it all in.” Staying committed to the tagline, the Village of Jemez Springs launched the Soak It All In photo contest for FY17/18 as strategy to increase brand awareness and visitor engagement. While the campaign was open for participation for all visitors, it was targeted towards amateur photographers to encourage the production of high quality depictions of the destination. The contest concluded with an exhibit of the entries, bringing the village tourism industry and the highly engaged visitors together.


Back-of-House Food & Beverage Employee of the Year

Charles Guiswite

Executive Pastry Chef

Isleta Resort & Casino

Charles has been with Isleta Resort and Casino for eight years and as the Executive Pastry Chef for a full service resort and casino, he is responsible to provide everything related to pastry, desserts and bread for this entire operation. He does this with a small team of devoted culinarians that produce huge amounts of product for our restaurants and catering services. Charles' talent with pastry and chocolate is second to none in the Rio Grande Valley, he designs and executes incredible Chocolate sculptures, ten foot tall Gingerbread Houses and creative desserts for their fine dining Embers Restaurant.


Front-of-House Food & Beverage Employee of the Year

Tony Romero

Lead Server

Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town

In March of 2000 Tony started as a busser and worked his way to Lead Server. Tony is one employee that will consistently go out of his way to help the team. He is always the first to volunteer to help the team. He is never afraid to jump in and help when he is needed no matter the task. A few years ago, Tony took it upon himself to make sure that the bar cleanliness standard was improved. He organized the bar and implemented cleaning protocols that everyone follows to this day. He is always looking for ways to improve the restaurant’s operations in all areas. He has shown the team more efficient ways to work and how to ensure the details are not missed. Tony goes above and beyond for his guests, he treats them like they are family. He is a perfectionist and it shows in every plate and presentation he delivers. He never lets his presentation lack, he always makes sure that what he serves is how he would want it served for himself. Tony is truly an asset to this company and has been for 16 years.


Back-of-House Hospitality Employee of the Year

Veronica Corona

Housekeeping Manager

Sheraton Albuquerque Uptown

Veronica is a quick study and very bright, and although starting her career at the age of 16, she has gone from Housekeeper to Front Desk and ultimately to the Group Rooms Coordinator for the Sales Office. Although the Sales office wanted very much to keep Veronica, she was offered the Housekeeping Manager position of which she has been in for the past year very successfully. As all of us in the Hotel business are quite aware, turnover percentages tend to be through the roof, especially in Housekeeping. But all that has changed with Veronica’s turn at the helm. For the past year Veronica has impacted turnover percentages by playing an important role in making sure housekeeping staff are well trained and have what they need to be set up for success! Veronica has gone out of her way to assist customers and personalize their experiences. She has instilled in her team how important it is to have an efficient lost and found department and goes out of her way to make sure guests are returned their forgotten belongings. She has taken it upon herself to make sure things are overnighted or we have seen she and her team chasing guests into the parking lot with their forgotten item.


Front-of-House Hospitality Employee of the Year

Leslie Sanchez

Night Auditor

Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town

A Night Auditor completely controls the transactions of the day.  They check all reservation discrepancies, post charges and generates folios, updates housekeeping status and closes cash counters.  Basically, this person is tasked with running the hotel during the graveyard shift and most important allows the GM to sleep at night!  Most people would not take on this important role and responsibility. Except Leslie, she has been doing this for over 31 years. She has the most incredible work ethic I have seen in an individual.  She has had life changing events which most people would be devastated and might crumble, but Leslie is standing strong. To say that Leslie is a loyal and committed team member is an understatement. She always takes pride in making sure no detail is left to chance.


Supplier/Vendor of the Year

Routes Bicycle Tours & Rentals, Inc.


As a small, locally-owned business headquartered in Old Town Albuquerque Routes is dedicated to creating and promoting active tourism opportunities that showcase our state’s natural beauty, culture, and heritage in a unique way. Routes is positioned to help the state’s tourism economy / marketing as a whole; when the tourism sector succeeds & grows, everyone benefits. To further this effort, Routes is also closely involved with Visit Albuquerque and the New Mexico Tourism Department, and the owners have been involved in multiple community forums, “travel tanks”, and events to help benefit the economy as a whole. Routes believes cycling is a healthy and amazing way for locals and visitors to experience New Mexico, and that their products (and bicycles) ultimately make people happy on a basic level. As such, their corporate philanthropy and volunteerism is focused on three main areas: (1) improving cycling infrastructure & cleaning/help improve local trails; (2) helping people get on bikes / ride who would not otherwise be able to, either financially or physically; and (3) leveraging their unique products and vendor relationships to raise money for local non-profits and tourism-related organizations via silent auctions, unique hospitality packages.


Hospitality Professional of the Year

Damen Kompanowski

Sheraton Albuquerque Uptown Hotel

Position: General Manager

Damen is a very involved general manager. He has served on the following Boards as member and Chairman, such as: VisitABQ, Greater Albuquerque Innkeepers Association, and City of Albuquerque Lodgers Tax Advisory Board as well as a member of the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce. He also serves on the Academy for Cancer Wellness in Tucson, AZ. He heads up our Hotel’s involvement with our neighborhood community in annual neighborhood clean ups as well as our Halloween partnership; a public event with a charity of choice selected each year. Damen has been a mover and a shaker on any of the committees he works on. He also participates on the Greater Albuquerque Innkeepers Association Golf Tournament that raises money for Hospitality Scholarships in New Mexico. His involvement on the Lodgers Tax Advisory Board has provided meaningful direction in how our Lodger's Tax money is distributed to better our tourism/convention community.


Tourism Professional of the Year

John Feins

Meow Wolf

Position: Director of Marketing

John is on the Santa Fe Economic Development Committee and Santa Fe Economic Development Review Committee, where among other things, he has begun encouraging the city to work more closely with visiting conference groups to provide a more 360 degree experience of New Mexico by partnering with cultural, humanities and economic groups for added value to their experiences. As a part of the new Emerging Medial Alliance, working primarily in communications and marketing but also to position Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico as a global nexus of Arts, Sciences, Technology and Humanities. John has directed a lot of carefully targeted and tracked marketing dollars into the drive market, but also into select markets in the west, playing an even larger role in attracting visitors to Santa Fe. While avidly adopting a concierge role, John and Meow Wolf routinely publish information about the region and the state as part of their own awareness efforts.


Limited Service Hotel of the Year

Comfort Suites Gallup


The Comfort Suites in Gallup has been the leader in their community for almost 10 years. They have received more awards and have had more stories written about their hotel than any other hotel in Gallup. The Comfort Suites has dedicated themselves 100% to not only providing the best customer service, but honoring all those who have worn the uniform of our country or are still wearing the uniform of our country and their families. The Gallup community knows that the Comfort Suites is always there to support local events and they know that Comfort Suites is the hotel to use when they have either business associates or family members here. A few years ago when business started taking off for the Comfort Suites Gallup many of the local restaurants and shopping industries wanted to be a part of this boom that was created. They have worked directly with many of the local restaurants and shopping in the downtown area to direct guests to them. Their goal is to ensure all guests have the most unforgettable lodging experience and will always want to return.


Full Service Hotel of the Year

Sunrise Springs Spa Resort

Santa Fe

Sunrise Springs is the only destination wellness and experiential spa resort in the state, representing a booming trend in our industry nationwide and giving New Mexico a gateway to this niche market. Sunrise Springs proudly represent the diversity of culture in our state with our Experiential Programming. Sunrise Springs supports the local community in several different ways. They support the Assistance Dogs of the West by giving a sponsorship of $25,000 and providing space for training puppies at the resort. Assistance Dogs of the West (ADW) builds successful working partnerships between clients and dogs that empower people and open doors to new opportunities. Since July 2018 Sunrise Springs has donated a value of $25,000 in kind donations to New Mexico Charities and $10,000 in in kind donations to Educational Institutes. In addition, Sunrise Springs sponsors our neighborhood community, the La Cienega Valley Association. They have also adopted Los Pinos Road and do bi-annual clean ups.




  • 1420 Carlisle NE, Suite #210                                              Albuquerque, NM 87110
  • Phone: 505.506.8624
  • Mail: info@newmexicohospitality.org