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Tourism director receives inaugural NC Champion Award

Henderson County Tourism Development Authority Director Beth Carden accepts North Carolina Champion Award from Visit NC Director Wit Tuttell. Henderson County Tourism Development Authority Director Beth Carden accepts North Carolina Champion Award from Visit NC Director Wit Tuttell.

Henderson County tourism director Beth Carden received the inaugural North Carolina Champion Award on Thursday in a surprise presentation during the Tourism Development Authority's eighth annual tourism conference at Blue Ridge Community College.

Wit Tuttell, executive director of Visit North Carolina, presented the award to Carden, who was appointed to lead the county's tourism agency in 2012.

“Beth Carden has been a great partner to Visit North Carolina,” Tuttell said. “Whenever we have needed anything at all, her answer has always been yes. Henderson County tourism has experienced strong growth during her tenure and that is a direct reflection of her leadership.”

The Champion Award honors leaders who have provided outstanding service to the tourism industry over an extended period of time. It recognizes individuals whose commitment has led their organization to new heights through sustained excellence. Tuttell praised Carden for her vision and strong leadership as executive director of the Henderson County Tourism Development Authority for the past seven years. It was an especially poignant given that Carden plans to retire in September.

Keynote speaker Chris Cavanaugh of Magellan Strategy Group in Asheville also praised Carden’s leadership during his presentation about the changing landscape in tourism marketing. Cavanaugh touched on technology, the advent of online travel planning and the rise of a new traveling population made up of millennials and multi-cultural travelers.

The conference, which drew a record crowd of 200, was attended by people from all aspects of the tourism industry, including hotels, attractions, breweries, wineries, cideries, restaurants and retail shops. It also attracted tourism executives from other areas of the state.

Following the keynote presentations, the tourism industry people attended professional development sessions that allowed to learn more about certain aspects of the tourism industry. Henderson County is the only county in North Carolina to host an annual tourism conference, and it is free to all members of the local tourism industry.