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The winners of the annual Henry Awards were revealed on Tuesday, Feb. 27, during the 50th annual Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism held in Jonesboro Feb. 25-27. Presented by Shea Lewis, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, and Dalaney Thomas, director of Arkansas Tourism, these awards recognize outstanding accomplishment and excellence in Arkansas’ tourism industry.

The award winners were: 

Tourism Region of the Year: Ozark Gateway Tourist Council

The Tourism Region of the Year is presented to one of Arkansas’ 12 Regional Tourist Associations for excellence over the course of the previous year. The winner is selected by all registered conference attendees through an online vote. 

Tourism Person of the Year: John Gill 

Selected by former honorees, the Tourism Person of the Year Award is presented to an individual who is actively involved in tourism and has made a substantial contribution within the past year to the betterment of the tourism industry. 

Winners of the following awards were selected by an out-of-state judging panel comprised of tourism industry professionals.

The Natural State Tourism Development Award: Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau

The Natural State Tourism Development Award is presented to a community, organization, special event or attraction for an innovative project that “stands out from the crowd” because of its unique appeal or creative approach that increases community pride and placemaking. LRCVB received the award for establishing a priority of “Breaking Down Barriers,” focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion and launching the “Experience Little Rock in Color” campaign. 

Tourism Organization of the Year: Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau 

The Tourism Organization of the Year is presented to a convention and visitors bureau, advertising and promotion commission, chamber of commerce or other entity for excellence over the course of the previous year. LRCVB won the award for highlighting collaboration and innovation by creating new engaging experiences in the River Market District to attract tourism.  

Tourism Attraction of the Year: Arkansas State Parks

The Tourism Attraction of the Year recognizes the contribution of local attractions in drawing visitors, delivering excellence in customer service and enhancing the profile of the area. Arkansas State Parks won the award for commemorating its centennial anniversary with a year-long celebration with special programs to encourage visitation.  

Rising Star Award: Heather Kouns, Director of Tourism Development at North Little Rock Tourism 

The Rising Star Award is presented to a young tourism professional in recognition of specific accomplishments, demonstrated leadership, and commitment to the industry. Kouns won the award for making effective changes to existing programs such as Restaurant Week, which resulted in increased visitor and restaurant participation.  

Arkansas Tourism
Arkansas Tourism, a division of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, strives to expand the economic impact of travel and tourism in the state and enhance the quality of life for all Arkansans. The division manages 14 Arkansas Welcome Centers and employs more than 60 staff members across The Natural State. For more information, visit

Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism 
The Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism protects and promotes our state’s natural, cultural and historic assets, contributing to a thriving economy and high quality of life. It is made up of three divisions: Arkansas State Parks, Arkansas Heritage and Arkansas Tourism. 

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