A number of Calgarians are sporting brand new white hats.

Calgary's 50th annual white hat awards were handed out Wednesday night to the best and brightest the city has to offer when it comes to tourism  — from the best concierge, to servers, to the volunteer of the year.

"The experiences offered by those recognized at the White Hat Awards are what truly make Calgary a great destination," said Christine Cusanelli, minister of Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation, in a release." The exceptional customer service these men and women provide — and the memories they help create — make the difference between an ordinary experience and an extraordinary one."

The Fairmont Palliser, Calgary International Children’s Festival and Centini Restaurant and Lounge were handed White Hat of the Year Awards for best accommodations, best festival and best restaurant, respectively.


An award recipient is honoured with a white hat. (CBC)

"We cannot underestimate the importance of tourism to the vitality of our city," said Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi in a release. "It’s an honour to be a part of a celebration of Calgary’s amazing tourism ambassadors. The optimism and excitement they have for Calgary is infectious and makes our city a better place."

Calgary officials say tourism pumps $1.3 billion into Calgary’s economy every year and employs one in 10 working Calgarians.

The city also welcomed 5.1 million visitors and enjoyed the largest percentage of tourism growth of any major Canadian city in 2011 with 8.1 per cent growth, according to the tourism industry.

"The Calgary White Hat Awards celebrate the frontline staff, behind-the-scenes workers and visionary leaders who are the lifeblood of the hospitality and tourism industry," said Tourism Calgary president Randy Williams in a release. "They are the heart and soul of our industry and the reason Calgary is famous for its western white hat hospitality."

More than 600 nominations were received this year, and 26 awards were given out.

Other award recipients:

  • Mayor’s White Hat Award: Peggy Blacklock, Calgary Airport Authority
  • Doug Johnson Service Award: Kendra Sam-Vi, Hotel Blackfoot
  • Media recognition award: Mike Morrison, Mike’s Bloggity Blog
  • Best server in fine dining: Jason Cameron – Chef’s Table at Kensington Riverside Inn
  • Best server in café/diner: Brenda Yip – Calgary Zoo
  • Best server in brasserie/bistro: Virginia Treasure – Best Western Plus Port O’ Call Hotel
  • Best server in banquets/catering: Mohammad Zolfagharian – Calgary Marriott Downtown Hotel
  • Best host(ess)/maître d’: Binh Chu – Elements Bistro and Bar at the Delta Bow Valley, Downtown Calgary
  • Best bartender/wine steward: Lester Fong – Calgary Flames Hockey Club
  • Best culinary services: Tommy Chan – Sheraton Suites Calgary Eau Claire
  • Best restaurant support/non-server: Vicky Simm – Calgary Flames Hockey Club
  • Best guest service in reservations/travel agent: Joseph Helmy – WestJet
  • Best ground transportation driver: Elmer Kari – Calgary Transit
  • Best spa, esthetics and wellness provider: Rebecca Carroll – Stillwater Spa at Hyatt Regency Calgary
  • Best concierge/bell service: Muhammad Rizwan – The Westin Calgary
  • Best customer service in retail: Deborah Boulette – Sobeys Millrise
  • Best customer service in airlines/in-flight service: Natu Shymka – WestJet
  • Best customer service in transportation/counter check-in agent: Rosanna Gardner – WestJet
  • Best guest service in accommodation/front desk agent: Karishma Sharma – Sheraton Suites Calgary Eau Claire
  • Best customer service attraction: Hadi Fares – Calgary Zoo
  • Best cleaning services: Loraine Govinda – Hyatt Regency Calgary
  • Best back of house: Sandi Lacombe – Calgary Stampede
  • Volunteer of the Year: Mary Hiebert – Driving Miss Daisy