TxDOT’s Travel Information Division has selected tourism industry veteran Mark Thompson as the winner of the 2020 Gene Phillips Hospitality Award. This award was to be presented by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) at ceremonies held during the annual Texas Travel Counselors Conference in Grapevine this April, but the conference has been postponed until next year. The award recognizes Thompson’s distinguished career and industry leadership, as well as his support of TxDOT’s Travel Information Centers and the state’s $80.3 billion travel industry.
“Mark Thompson has been a great friend and staunch supporter of the Travel Information Centers for decades,” said Joan Henderson, Director of the Travel Information Division at TxDOT. “We’re so pleased to present him with this award in recognition of everything he’s done for us and all the people of Texas.”
Thompson is well-respected, with more than 35 years in the Texas tourism industry. He has served as the Executive Director of Visit Plano for 21 years, and previously headed the Convention & Visitors Bureaus for South Padre Island and Tyler. The industry has recognized him with numerous awards, including the Texas Travel Alliance’s Tall in Texas Award and Mark of Distinction and the Texas Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus’ Marion Szurek Legacy Award. He has held leadership positions with a number of industry organizations, and is professionally certified through Destinations International and Meeting Planners International. He is an expert in just about every aspect of the Texas tourism industry and is always happy to share his knowledge with a friendly, approachable attitude.
Thompson is a close friend and dedicated supporter of TxDOT’s Travel Information Centers. He has been a longtime sponsor of the Texas Travel Counselors Conference, and always attends the Texas Travel Expo in person to build and maintain relationships with attendees. Under his leadership, Visit Plano hosted TxDOT’s Achieving Service Excellence training program for new travel counselors. During the coronavirus pandemic, Visit Plano has been an invaluable resource, offering suggestions for home-based activities, promoting local restaurant takeout service and virtual tours of local attractions, and leveraging its social media and public relations channels to keep people safe and boost morale.
The Gene Phillips Hospitality Award is named in honor of the late Gene Phillips, who managed Aquarena Springs in San Marcos and was an influential, driving force in the emerging tourism industry during the 1970s. Each year the award is presented by TxDOT Travel Information Division staff and recognizes one person for his or her outstanding lifetime accomplishments within the Texas travel and tourism industry.
The Visit Plano team is very proud of our director, Mark Thompson, who has proven to be a true leader of the Texas travel & tourism industry, especially during these challenging times.