NEW YORK (June 14, 2012)–Last week, I was privileged to give grateful thanks to a room filled with tourism industry players for an award in memory of the meritorious and productive life of the late Caribbean public relations professional and diplomat Marcella Martinez.

How humbling to be included in the list of professionals recognized for their work by receiving the 2012 Marcella Martinez Award, which honors one of Jamaica’s most accomplished daughters. The Jamaica Tourist Board, fittingly, gives out the awards during Caribbean Week in New York, where the late Martinez made her mark as a diplomat and brilliant promoter of the charms of her homeland. The celebrations are hosted by the Caribbean TourismOrganization.

The award, first presented in 2005, honors individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to strengthening the marketing programs of Caribbean destinations. The winners were singled out because of their work with the region’s communities. The awardees were also selected for displaying continuing and diligent support for the region’s cultural values and heritage.

While I am still surprised that I would be included in such august company, I have reflected on the Jamaican public relations pioneer’s passionate, visionary approach to promoting Caribbean tourism and the important issues that remain a beacon for those of us who follow in her significant footsteps.

Martinez was a trailblazer who enjoyed mainstream success but believed in the importance of the Caribbean Diaspora and fought to get us a seat at the tourism table. She also mentored young professionals and helped cultivate our skills, talent and abilities.

It was a singular honor for me to receive this award in her memory, and I resolve to continue working hard and smart to deliver results for the Caribbean region, whether through my Marketplace Excellence public relations practice, the Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism or this column here in the New York Amsterdam News.

Also in the honors column was my friend and colleague Janet Silvera, who captured the prestigious Marcia Vickery-Wallace Memorial Award for excellence in journalism. The 25-year-old award is given to a journalist who has followed in the footsteps of the late Marcia Vickery-Wallace, who was the former editor of Brides magazine and was committed to promoting tourism in the Caribbean region.

Silvera noted, “Focusing on tourism journalism is so important, because it shines a light that goes beyond the surface frills of sunshine, sea and sand and makes investigative forays into the drivers of the industry, putting into context the social and economic pillars that underpin, and depend on, the sector.”

Many thanks to the Jamaica Tourist Board for recognizing us both.