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Sunset Travel Awards

Judging Process

Sunset solicited entries throughout the West for standouts in each category (destinations, organizations, businesses, and people who have advanced excellence and innovation); the editorial team at Sunset reviewed all the candidates and winnowed them down to four finalists in each category; documentation, including in some cases scouting notes from Sunset’s network of travel writers, were sent to the judges for the categories in which they voted; and, finally, the Advisory Board, during two days of deliberations at Sunset’s Menlo Park campus, determined a winner in each of the categories. The full Advisory Board met to discuss ground rules and general principles. Then the board broke up into two groups, each of which reviewed entries in one half of the paid application categories, and selected a winner in each. When either panel had a tie vote, the secretary for that group (in one case, the Sunset Editor at Large, and in the other, the Sunset Travel Editor), cast the deciding vote. No Advisory Board member was allowed to vote on a category for which she or he had a vested professional or personal interest.


  • nan-anderson

    Nan Anderson

    Nan Anderson is the executive director of the Utah Tourism Industry Association, the trade association for the tourism industry in Utah. She’s had many different jobs in the tourism industry and has learned from all of them, loved most of them, and feels fortunate to be able to help promote the best tourism destination in the world: Utah. Nan and her husband, James, live in Bicknell and share their home with four wiener dogs and four cats.
  • billy-bai

    Billy Bai

    Dr. Billy Bai is professor and senior assistant dean in the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. From 2011 to 2013, he was relocated to UNLV’s international campus in Singapore to manage academic and student affairs. His current research focuses on hospitality and tourism marketing. Billy’s work has appeared in top-tier hospitality and tourism journals and won several research awards. He currently serves on editorial boards of several reputable journals, and he reviews for journals and conferences. From seminars and workshops to panel discussions, keynote speeches for hospitality and tourism organizations and industry practitioners from China and many other Asian countries and regions, as well as the United States, Billy actively contributes to the hospitality and tourism profession. He has been listed in Who’s Who in America since 2010.
  • don-george

    Don George

    Don George wrote the book on travel writing, literally. His book, Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing, is the best-selling travel writing guide in the world. Don is editor at large and columnist for National Geographic Traveler and editor of BBC Travel’s Words and Wanderlust website. He’s been travel editor at the San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle, founder and editor of Salon.com’s Wanderlust site, and global travel editor for Lonely Planet. Don is the co-founder and chairman of the renowned Book Passage Travel Writers & Photographers Conference. He speaks and teaches regularly around the world. He has visited 90 countries and has published hundreds of articles in dozens of magazines, newspapers, and websites. He has edited nine award-winning literary travel anthologies. An anthology of his own best travel stories will be published in fall 2015. His website is don-george.com.
  • rich-grant

    Rich Grant

    Rich Grant has been director of communications for VISIT DENVER, The Convention & Visitors Bureau for the past 35 years. During that time, he has helped host events ranging from the Summit of the Eight and World Youth Day with Pope John Paul II to the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He’s also helped Denver’s Great American Beer Festival grow to the largest beer celebration on the planet with more than 3,000 beers available for tasting in 2014. As a travel writer, Rich has sold articles and photos to more than 50 national newspapers, magazines, and websites. He served on the executive board of the Society of American Travel Writers and also produces a travel website called www.WalkingAndDrinkingBeer.com.
  • paul-gregutt

    Paul Gregutt

    Paul Gregutt is the best-known, full-time, independent journalist covering the wines and wine country destinations of the Pacific Northwest. Over the past 25 years, he has written thousands of articles and reviews for newspapers, magazines, and trade journals, as well as an award-winning blog. He is a contributing editor for Wine Enthusiast magazine, and a founding member of the magazine’s Tasting Panel. Along with two critically acclaimed editions of Washington Wines & Wineries—The Essential Guide, he has recently contributed to the Pacific Northwest entries in the 7th edition of Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson’s The World Atlas of Wine, Jancis Robinson’s Oxford Companion to Wine (upcoming 4th edition), and Food & Wine‘s 2015 Wine Guide. He lives with his wife, Karen, and rescue dog, Cookie, in Waitsburg, Washington. In his spare time he writes songs, plays guitar, and sings in his band, Hat No Hat.
  • bill-hendricks

    Bill Hendricks

    Bill Hendricks is a professor and head of the Recreation, Parks, & Tourism Administration Department at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He received a doctorate from the University of Utah. His research interests focus on recreation resource management and nature-based tourism and are complemented by experience in the field that spans 30 years as an educator, park ranger, and employee in the ski industry. For two decades, Hendricks has worked cooperatively with the U.S. Forest Service and California State Parks on a variety of outdoor recreation research projects. He is currently a member of the California Roundtable on Recreation, Parks and Tourism and a trustee of the California Foundation for Parks and Recreation. Hendricks is a recipient of numerous awards including the USFS Excellence in Wilderness Management Research Award, the Cal Poly College of Agriculture Faculty Teaching Excellence Award, and the Cal Poly Distinguished Scholarship Award.
  • elaine-lee

    Elaine Lee

    Elaine Lee is the author/editor of Go Girl: The Black Woman’s Book of Travel and Adventure and a freelance travel writer who has contributed to numerous national and local magazines, newspapers, and webzines. Her travel stories address subjects such as African American travel trends, adventure, women’s travel issues, spirituality, solo travel, health, budget travel, and travel planning. Elaine has also contributed stories to five anthologies and two books, made appearances on the Travel Channel and Savvy Traveler, and helped develop the Bay Area’s first travel radio show. Her website, Ugogurl.com, provides a medium to share her travel writing as well as that of other travelers and travel writers. Elaine is also an attorney practicing in the Bay Area, specializing in estate planning, probate, and real estate development. She has completed two solo trips around the world and has visited 56 countries.
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    Noreen Martin

    Noreen Martin is the CEO of Martin Resorts, a family-owned organization and top 20 employer on California’s Central Coast. Noreen has built a highly respected collection of boutique hotels that specializes in enhancing the experience of its guests while giving back to the community. In a county heavily dependent on tourism, Noreen was named president of Visit San Luis Obispo County, and rolled up her sleeves to help restructure the organization. It was also a passion of hers to establish what is now one of the most successful events in the county, Savor the Central Coast, in partnership with Sunset. Noreen was appointed commissioner and CFO for Visit California, the official tourism board of California. Noreen lives in Shell Beach with her husband, Christopher Hulburd, M.D. They are active in community organizations that emphasize women, children, and education.
  • laura-mcmurchie

    Laura McMurchie

    Laura McMurchie has been promoting travel to Scottsdale and the state of Arizona for 20 years. She has spent the past 17 years leading the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau’s communications team in providing journalists, travel writers, and editors with the information they need to produce extensive domestic and international press coverage on Scottsdale. Laura started her career in tourism at the Arizona Office of Tourism, where she led press trips and coordinated media coverage for the state as media relations manager. She is a member of the Travel and Tourism Section of the Public Relations Society of America and the U.S. Travel Association. She is an East Coast transplant who has lived in Arizona for 25 years. When she’s not working, she enjoys exploring the state, hiking, running, good food and wine, and traveling to new destinations.
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    John Poimiroo

    John Poimiroo was a ski patroller when he got on a ski lift with the area owner, made a few suggestions, and by the top of the lift was named the ski area’s first director of marketing and PR. John spent the next 40 years in travel and tourism marketing communications at ski areas, a major theme park, two PR agencies, a tourist railroad, and Yosemite National Park. He served as California’s state tourism director in the 1990s. He then established a communications agency representing California destinations, was CEO of the National Parks Promotion Council, and now works as a travel writer, blogger, broadcaster, and photographer. John was named State Tourism Director of the Year by U.S. Travel, received the University of Colorado’s first Chancellor’s Tourism Award, and was inducted into the California Tourism Hall of Fame.
  • thomas-see

    Thomas See

    Thomas See, vice president for sales at Universal Studios Hollywood, is an innovative sales and marketing strategist whose passion for the travel industry has inspired a team of 40-plus employees for more than seven years at the top tourist destination in Los Angeles. In addition to his work at The Entertainment Capital of L.A., Tom serves on the board of several influential organizations, including the U.S. Travel Experience Network and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. He also serves as a member of the marketing committee for Visit California and of the sales committee for the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board. Prior to joining Universal Studios Hollywood, Tom built his wealth of tourism knowledge at The Walt Disney Company, Trafalgar Tours, and Contiki Holidays. Today, his work also includes meaningful involvement in the Discover A Star Foundation, Universal Studios Hollywood’s philanthropic division, which is dedicated to making a positive impact in underserved communities.
  • judiaann-woo

    Judiaann Woo

    Judiaann Woo is as passionate about finding the next great meal as she is about finding unique, off-the-beaten path adventures, which makes her well-suited to tell the stories of Oregon. Judiaann was born in South Korea, but has always considered Oregon home. Even while she was living in New York City, building a career in brand marketing and communications, she knew she’d return to the Pacific Northwest. Today, Judiaann oversees the PR and media relations program at Travel Oregon, an award-winning tourism-destination marketing organization. When she’s not inspiring others to visit the great state she calls home, she’s out seeking her own memorable moments with her bicoastal photographer husband, two preschool kids, a kitten, and a puppy.