Nevada Tourism Industry Partners Recognized at Annual Rural Roundup Conference 

STATELINE, NV – The Nevada Division of Tourism (Travel Nevada) honored rural Nevada’s top tourism supporters for their dedication to the state’s tourism industry at the Excellence in Tourism Awards dinner on April 11 during the 31st Rural Roundup conference held at the Tahoe Blue Event Center at Stateline. 

Seven Excellence in Tourism awards were announced, one from each of the state’s tourism territories to recognize members who have made an impact for their territory, community, and the tourism industry in Nevada. Honorees included: 

Cowboy Country 

  • Tom Lester, Tourism & Marketing Manager, Elko Convention and Visitors Authority. With 20 years demonstrating commitment and passion for promoting tourism in Cowboy Country, Tom’s efforts have attracted visitors globally, boosting tourism and contributing to the economic development of the territory. 

Pony Express Territory (PET) 

  • Kyle Horvath, Director of Tourism, White Pine County. Spearheading the Ring of Fire Eclipse Festival in October 2023, Kyle’s collaborative efforts in Ely and White Pine County have been instrumental for the PET. Kyle has seized opportunities to promote White Pine County and PET through his involvement with the Main Street program, SNIPLAMA projects, Travel Nevada’s Destination Development Demonstration (3D) Project, and also through school recreation programs. 

Reno Tahoe Territory (RTT) 

  • Chris Kipp, Operations & Finance Manager, Visit Carson City. As RTTs treasurer, Chris worked to upgrade the territory’s digital platform, helping to make the territory member’s experience more seamless. In addition, she took the lead on implementing RTTs new payment system, making it easy for members to pay for RTT luncheons, events, and their membership dues.  

Las Vegas Territory (LVT) 

  • Meg McDaniel, Senior Manager, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) – Extended Destinations. As a member of the LVT, Meg has been a long-term advisor and active partner in promoting tourism to extended destinations, enhancing LVTs marketing and promotion strategies to increase visitation. Throughout Meg’s career, she has provided guidance and expertise in the development of the LVTs FAM trips, sales missions, media events, local promotions, and overall awareness of Southern Nevada’s rural communities of Laughlin, Mesquite, Moapa Valley, Boulder City, and Jean/Primm/Goodsprings.  

Nevada Silver Trails (NST) 

  • Marcia Hurd, Lincoln County Authority of Tourism (LCAT). Marcia has been involved with LCAT for 10 years and has played an active role in the transition from a simple tourism support group to a more focused destination development organization. Marcia’s dedication to her own community and Lincoln County has brought growth and opportunities to NST and its members through grants, advocacy work, and recently Travel Nevada’s Destination Development Demonstration (3D) Project. 

Nevada’s Indian Territory (NIT) 

  • Billie Jean Guerrero, Museum Director, Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe Museum and Visitor Center. Billie Jean helped curate the museum’s 25th anniversary celebration with a historical Social Pow-Wow event in 2023 in collaboration with NIT. Billie Jean’s vision and leadership has guided the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe Museum and Visitor Center to be recognized as a world-class indigenous cultural museum and visitor center destination that provides an authentic experience to all visitors.  

“It was an honor to present the Excellence in Tourism awards to our esteemed Nevada tourism partners,” said Rafael Villanueva, Travel Nevada CEO. “The impact these individuals have made on the industry goes beyond their role and reflects their passion and commitment to their communities. Travel Nevada’s mission to enhance the economic vitality and improve the quality of life for all Nevadans is brought to life through our partners, and I congratulate each of them for going above and beyond for our industry.”  

In addition to Travel Nevada’s Excellence in Tourism recipients, the June Stannard Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Churchill County High School (Fallon, NV) student Madison Lewis. After she completes her business degree, Madison plans to create a network of boutique Air BnB accommodations, offering travelers a unique and welcoming home-away-from-home experience. 

The June Stannard Memorial Scholarship, established in 2008, serves as a tribute to the late June Stannard. June, a dedicated operations manager at the Winnemucca Convention Center, was an unwavering advocate for Nevada’s tourism industry. This $2,500 scholarship is awarded to a Nevada high school senior who intends to pursue a degree in hospitality, travel, or tourism. 

The last award of the evening was the Larry J. Friedman Industry Partner of the Year, which was awarded to Earl Jobson. Earl has been an engaged partner for decades, mentoring and assisting other tourism partners and members of the Las Vegas Territory with their tourism strategies and initiatives.  

Hosted by Travel Nevada, the state agency charged with promoting tourism in the Silver State, Rural Roundup is an annual conference for Nevada’s tourism industry. The event includes speakers, panel discussions, and networking opportunities with a goal of helping Nevada’s rural communities develop and market themselves as destinations, resulting in increased visitation, strengthening Nevada’s position in the tourism market.   

Rural Roundup is set to return in 2025 in Laughlin. 

EDITORS: for high-resolution images of the award winners, visit here.  


The Nevada Division of Tourism is a division of the Nevada Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs. More commonly known as Travel Nevada, the Nevada Division of Tourism is responsible for promoting and marketing Nevada as a travel destination to domestic and international travelers. Operating within a performance-based budget structure, Travel Nevada is funded solely by a percentage of lodging tax paid by overnight guests throughout the state. For more, visit