Arlington Chamber lauds front-line exceptionality in hospitality industry

The Arlington Chamber of Commerce recently honored Hospitality Superstar Award recipients for 2020. (Chamber photo)

Arlington routinely ranks as tops in Virginia in terms of tourist and business-traveler spending, and those serving on the front lines of the hospitality industry are a good part of the reason why.

And on Jan. 28, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce’s annual Hospitality Superstar awards program honored dozens of those who continuously exceed expectations.

“Tourism is crucial to our region’s economy,” said Chamber president Kate Bates, lauding the “dedication and willingness to go above and beyond” of employees who “help make Arlington an appealing and welcoming place.”

Above and beyond? Consider this: You may have heard of giving someone the shirt off your back, but what about giving the tie off your neck? That’s exactly what Michael Boldini did.

“A business traveler attending a meeting realized that he didn’t have a tie, and, without hesitation, [Boldini] took his off and gave it to the guest,” the hotel said in its nomination. “The guest was most appreciative, and told the manager on duty that he ‘saved the day.’”

Or ponder the case of Zaafira “Fira” Jaya of Good Company Doughnuts, who added empathy to the menu.

Last November, Jaya spotted a customer who was hearing impaired, and sprang into action – using her sign-language skills to assist him with ordering lunch and a doughnut.

“The customer was very impressed with her alertness, signing skills, friendliness and excellent level of service,” her employer said in the nomination.

Sometimes, hospitality workers are called on to assist guests during times of extreme stress.

A visitor had come to the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City to stay as she prepared for the burial of her husband at Arlington National Cemetery, and was traveling with three children under the age of 5 in tow. Virginia Tancheva, who has worked at the hotel for 27 years, took the situation in hand, doing everything from walking the guest’s 1-year-old son to get his hair cut to obtaining speakers at the 11th hour so one of her late husband’s favorite songs could be played.

“She did everything in her power not only to help me achieve my extremely high goals of the perfect service for my husband, and to also manage to keep a smile on the faces of myself and my three children during this solemn time,” the guest told hotel officials. “She went out of her way to help my family in every possible way.”

Sometimes, the initiative of employees pays dividends to their employers. Such was the case with Walter “Wally” Bender, a key troubleshooter with the Crystal City Marriott.

Bender single-handedly discovered a problem with the piping in the hotel’s boiler room, then installed a new drain-line pipe to ensure the right amount of water was being distributed throughout the building. The result was a savings for the hotel of roughly $100,000.

Nearly every award recipient was lauded for going the extra mile and maintaining a Zen-like serenity even when things became hectic.

Juana Ventura of the Key Bridge Marriott was honored for her work accommodating a last-minute group booking and coordinating efforts to make the situation run smoothly.

“She has such a positive attitude in difficult times,” the hotel said in its nomination.

Many of the award recipients have a knack for defusing difficult situations, such as the case when Esther Alvarenga of the Residence Inn Arlington Ballston had to handle an irate client who needed a larger room than he had booked for a meeting.

“Her calm demeanor and friendly smile salvaged the situation, and her dedication to her job showed through when she didn’t hesitate for a second to set up the heavy tables all by herself,” the hotel said in its nomination.

Honorees for 2020 included Abdelhakim “Hakim” Ennaboulssi of Hyatt Centric Arlington; Ramin Torbati of Hungry Catering; Cesar Candeo of Westin Arlington Gateway; Antonia Rivera of Holiday Inn Ballston; Craig Pearson of Hungry Catering; Zolia Gonzalez of Residence Inn Arlington Ballston; Sandra Jaldin of Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City; Maria Arevalo of Residence Inn by Marriott-Rosslyn; Blanca Fuentes of Holiday Inn Ballston; Dominic Lewis of Residence Inn by Marriott-Rosslyn; Angela Young of Residence Inn by Marriott-Arlington Courthouse.

Also, Francisco Valdez of Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Co., Delci Taveras of Crowne Plaza Crystal City-Washington D.C.; Fred Korli of Residence Inn by Marriott Arlington Capital View; Johnny Zambrana of Westin Crystal City; Adela Ayala of Residence Inn by Marriott-Rosslyn; Walter Bender of Crystal City Marriott; America Martinez of Westin Crystal City; Christian Arias Segura of Crystal City Marriott; Satya Barua of Crystal City Marriott; Zaafira Jaya of Good Company Doughtnuts; Maribel Delgado of Crystal Gateway Marriott; Kimberly Moya Ruiz of Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Co.; Antonia Goncalves of Crystal Gateway Marriott.

Also, Edith Moreno of Crystal Quarters Corporate Housing; Hatim Najdi of Crystal Gateway Marriott; Santos Sandoval of Crowne Plaza Crystal City-Washington D.C.; Alice Kehoe of Key Bridge Marriott; Abdelaziz Zinbi of Crowne Plaza Crystal City-Washington D.C.; Kahalid Anwar of Crystal Gateway Marriott; Joseph Moore of Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City; Juana Ventura of Key Bridge Marriott; Ermias Gebrewold of Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City; Lulya Ghebremedhin, Crystal City Marriott at Reagan National Airport; Rovelyn Maqui of Homewood Suites by Hilton Arlington Rosslyn Key Bridge; Ed Bautista of Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City; Marcela Lopez de Azenas of Homewood Suites by Hilton Arlington Rosslyn Key Bridge.

Also, Max Harbour of A Main Event Caterers; Jose Lara Castillo of Homewood Suites by Hilton Arlington Rosslyn Key Bridge; Alexis Sauers of Residence Inn by Marriott Pentagon City; Lifen Ma of Hyatt Centric Arlington; Fatna Boughaba of Hyatt Regency Crystal City at Reagan National Airport; Jose Mario Alas of Hyatt Centric Arlington; Robert Willis of Residence Inn Arlington Ballston; Coral Ballon Flores of Hyatt Centric Arlington; Esther Alverenga of Residence Inn Arlington Ballston; Gian Viray of Renaissance Arlington Capital View; Michael Boldini of Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City; Mazen Abou Khir of Renaissance Arlington Capital View; Virginia Tancheva of Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City; Blen Gebreyesus of Renaissance Arlington Capital View; Amy Tecson of Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City.

Also, Deangleo Brashwell of Renaissance Arlington Capital View; Bethel Wolde of Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City; Jorge Alberto Esquiel Garzona of Holiday Inn Rosslyn; Andrea Coley of Renaissance Arlington Capital View; Merzouk Belazouz of Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City; Fatima Faraj of Residence Inn Arlington Capital View; Lydia Nure of Crystal Gateway Marriott; Nicolas Inclan of Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City; Meharite Sahlezghi of Residence Inn Arlington Capital View; Maximiliano “Alex” Molina of Westin Arlington Gateway; Martha Rose Valle of Residence Inn Arlington Capital View; Rasy Tay of Crystal City Marriott; Vilma Abarca of Residence Inn Arlington Capital View; Tyrell Smith of Crystal Gateway Marriott; Eduardo Esparz Ruiz of Westin Arlington Gateway; Misha Lu of Crystal Gateway Marriott; Shadis Hafiz of EcoCaterers; Thomas Essien of Homewood Suites by Hilton Arlington Rosslyn Key Bridge; Manna Micael of Residence Inn by Marriott Arlington Capital View; Irma Ventura of Residence Inn by Marriott Arlington Courthouse; and Vannina Kay of Westin Crystal City.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.