(Nov. 15, 2019) Residence Inn by Marriott Sales and Marketing Manager Courtney Blackford was presented the New Professional of the Year award during the annual Maryland Tourism Travel Summit, held at the Rocky Gap Resort Casino in Flintstone, Maryland, on Thursday, Nov. 7.
Blackford, who has been working for the 52nd Street hotel for two years, said she was completely surprised when her name was called.
“I think it came as such a shock because we are still such a new hotel and I’m still very new to this whole industry,” Blackford said. “So, to be recognized amongst my peers and to have this hotel be accepted in the community after such a short time of being open was just incredible.”
To qualify for the award, a nominee must work in a tourism-related company that is a member of the Maryland Tourism Coalition, have worked in a new position or capacity in the tourism industry for no more than three years and must be an active participant in industry-related activities.
Blackford’s job consists of promoting the hotel through group sales, event or holiday packages, organizing banquets and weddings, corporate events and offering tours of the facility. She also helps coordinate events held at the hotel.
Blackford said originally, she was not planning on going to the summit, as she was hosting an Art League of Ocean City event at the hotel.
“I didn’t think I was going to be able to attend the summit because I was going to be here for that event, then the coalition reached out to our general manager and said, ‘Hey, I can’t tell you which one, but Courtney has won an award, so she should be present at least at the awards ceremony,’” she said. “I knew I had an award … but I didn’t know what award it was going to be.”
Blackford plans to attend next year’s summit, citing how insightful and what a good experience this one was.
Blackford is deeply involved with the community, hosting events at the hotel that benefit local charities, including Believe in Tomorrow, a respite housing program for children with terminal or debilitating illnesses, the Art League of Ocean City and other various organizations.
In fact, Blackford has been approached by Believe in Tomorrow Respite House Coordinator Wayne Littleton about becoming a Prom Queen candidate next year.
“I guess one of the things that made me eligible for the award was all the recognition we received from Believe in Tomorrow, working with them and raising money for the Children’s House by the Sea, which I’m very passionate about,” Blackford said. “We did the Breakfast with Santa event here last year and I think to date we raised the most money for any Breakfast with Santa, which is awesome. So, we’re doing that again this year and I’m looking forward to working with them to raise more money.”
Blackford plans to branch outside of Ocean City with her role as the sales and marketing manager, especially now that she has a sales coordinator to work alongside her.
“I was kind of a one-[wo]man team for the first year and a half, and now I have a sales coordinator in the sales office,” she said. “It’s given me the opportunity to maybe branch out a little bit more, get out of the hotel, and continue to build some exposure for the hotel, maybe in some different markets, not just in Ocean City.”
None of this would have been possible, she said, without the support of her family and work family.
“I can’t take full credit,” Blackford said. “I really have to thank my team here … it’s everybody here; it’s Rose, our breakfast attendant who bakes fresh banana bread for our guests. It’s Zina at the front desk, it’s our maintenance department who is there in a heartbeat to help a guest out with anything. It’s providing the experience, and I think without them, I wouldn’t have gotten this award.”