Fill out our visitor survey for a chance to win!

Tourism Awards

Brant St. Pier Aerial and freighter on marketing opportunities in Burlington

The Tourism Burlington Awards recognize a local individual, business, or group who have made an outstanding contribution to the promotion of Burlington as a tourism destination and this promotion has had a positive impact on visitation to the city over a sustained period of time (2yrs+). This individual, business or group helps encourage spending money in Burlington directly or indirectly and both residents and tourists can be engaged by the event/business.


Tourism Ambassador Award

The Tourism Ambassador honours outstanding achievements and contributions by individuals or organizations to the local tourism industry in Burlington, Ontario. The Tourism Burlington Ambassador Award recognizes a local individual, organization, or business that has:

  • Made an outstanding contribution to the promotion of Burlington as a tourism destination and this promotion has had a positive impact on visitation to the city by both visitors and local residents
  • This has been made over a sustained period of time (5 years+)
  • Made volunteer contributions to the Burlington community and supported local recovery programs
  • Demonstrated creativityleadership, professionalism, and integrity during this challenging time and has been actively engaged in advocacy on behalf of the tourism industry and/or local business
  • Shown dedication to a visitor first philosophy of customer service
Ambassador Award Laurie Branch

Tourism Builder Award

The Tourism Builder Award honours outstanding achievements and contributions by individuals or organizations to the local tourism industry in Burlington, Ontario. The Tourism Burlington Builder Award recognizes an individual, business or organization that has:

  • Shown exceptional vision in the development of tourism that will leave a strong legacy in Burlington.
  • Demonstrated outstanding leadership and been an advocate in encouraging tourism product/service development in Burlington.
Barbara Teatero Tourism Builder Award

Award Recipients

Burlington Taxi was in business for 50+ years before closing its doors at the end of 2021. Owners Scott & Sara were great community supporters; running marketing campaigns that encouraged support for local businesses. They were sponsors and participants of numerous events such as Treats in our Streets, Festival of Lights and the Santa Claus Parade. They created Socks for Hope, an annual community initiative providing socks to those in need in Hamilton & Halton. They assisted businesses, residents & visitors alike. They were supporters of the Canada 150 Celebrations and had their drivers and staff attend our Ambassador Training sessions and our Visitor Guides on hand in their taxis.

2020 Award Recipient – Pam Belgrade – Former Executive Director at Tourism Burlington – AMBASSADOR

Pam Belgrade has been a well-respected leader in the Tourism industry for 15 years before her retirement. She moved Tourism Burlington from a member-based organization to a community-based organization. She created new products like the Chocolate Trail and she led outstanding and innovative training of Tourism volunteers with the annual ambassador training program. In 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic, she was one of the leaders behind Team Burlington.   Pam did an excellent job managing the Destination Marketing Fund when it was in place and executes amazing community support, making a presence at partner and community events.

Sponsor – Burlington Hotel Association

Pam Belgrade, blue sweater holding glass trophy in front of pier

2019 Award Recipient – Kelly’s Bakeshop – AMBASSADOR

Kelly’s Bakeshop has been a popular downtown destination since opening in December 2012. Kelly’s has undertaken numerous creative marketing initiatives to increase brand awareness and showcase Burlington including being the first local business to do full bus wraps, painting a huge exterior wall mural creating Instagram-able moments, being featured in LCBO Food & Drink Magazine – September 2019, Trip Advisor – #1 restaurant out of 375 in Burlington and Certificate of Excellence and Buzzfeed has ranked Kelly’s Bake Shoppe as #3 in the Top 25 Sweet Cupcake Shops Around the World to Eat at Before you Die.  Owners Kelly & Erinn have authored a best-selling cookbook Made With Love and were featured on national TV – 14 times plus on radio including their own show on 900 CHML.  Kelly’s customer base extends well beyond residents with their visiting friends and family as shown in social responses from across Ontario, other provinces, the US and internationally. Kelly’s supports and sponsors numerous events including Taste of Burlington, Sound of Music and Santa Parade.

Sponsor – Burlington Hotel Association

Erinn & Kelly with Tourism Ambassador Award 2019

2018 Award Recipient – Barbara Teatero, Museums of Burlington – BUILDER

Barbara has contributed to the growth of tourism in numerous ways. She has demonstrated passion, patience and persistence in leading the Joseph Brant Museum rejuvenation project. Barbara worked tirelessly on the expansion project which features four quarterly travelling exhibitions annually that will attract thousands of visitors.  Barbara was a founding member and Chair/Co-Chair of Doors Open Burlington since 2009. The Museum now coordinates this event and it has grown in attendance and popularity each year and is now part of Culture Days which is held simultaneously. Barbara and her staff develop events to attract local and regional residents. The Strawberry Social, Applefest and Joseph Brant days (to name a few) continue to be popular, drawing visitors from across southern Ontario. Barb was a past member of the Board of Directors of Tourism Burlington, from 1999-2003 and 2009-2015 where she served as Director and Treasurer.

Sponsor – Burlington Hotel Association

Barbara Teatero Tourism Builder Award

2016 Award Recipient – Kelly Arnott, VR Pro – AMBASSADOR

Kelly Arnott has worked tirelessly to promote Burlington and have it recognized as a “running community”. Her running events draw large numbers of out-of-town visitors who stay and play while in Burlington. Since 1994, Kelly has hosted over a dozen events a year, bringing thousands of visitors into the city.  In just one year (2015-16) the 8 races hosted in Burlington by VR Pro had over 9,700 registered runners and of those 83% were from out of town. These stats are reflective of previous attendance, which shows the impact of these events on tourism in Burlington and the economic impact it brings to the city.   VR Pro’s pride and joy, the Chilly Half Marathon, is the first long-distance race of the spring running season, and a staple race for Ontarian runners. The event brings in over $1 million dollars to Burlington every year, partnering with over a dozen local businesses. Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2016, the Chilly Half pulled record numbers, drawing 3,500 participants, including destination runners from northern Ontario, Quebec, and even some northern states.  On top of this, Kelly’s events have also had profound charitable implications, bettering the lives of the disadvantaged of our community. Since VR Pro’s formation, Kelly and co-founder Mark have raised over $3,000,000 in donations. These funds enrich our community and forever change the lives of the recipients.

Sponsor – Burlington Hotel Association

Kelly Arnott from VRPro receiving Tourism Ambassador Award from Board Chair Gord Langford

2015 Award Recipients – Burlington Gymnastics Club – AMBASSADOR

The Burlington Gymnastic Club has hosted Regional Qualifier competitions, Provincial Championships and National Championships within Burlington over the past 40 years. The annual Spring Cup is an invitational competition that has been running for 28 years and has grown from 100 competitors to over 1500 (not counting Burlington athletes). It is now considered the largest Invitational Competition within Canada by Gymnastics Canada and from 2008 – 2014 brought in a total of 1557 hotel room nights, in addition to other economic impact from the event.  Through their engagement in the tourism industry and their promotion of our city as they travel to other communities to compete, we have seen increased visitation.

Sponsor – Burlington Hotel Association

Girls Gymnastics Club staff receive Ambassador Award

2014 Award Recipients – Burlington Teen Tour Band – AMBASSADOR

This award was presented to The Burlington Teen Tour Band for their contributions over the years carrying Burlington’s name far and wide in their travels. Since their inception in 1947, the Teen Tour Band has been proudly representing Burlington at home and abroad.  Through their engagement in the tourism industry and their promotion of our city as a tourism destination, we have seen a positive impact on visitation.

Sponsor – Burlington Hotel Association

Teen Tour Band staff receiving Ambassador Award

2012 Award Recipients – Burlington Eagles City Rep Hockey Club – AMBASSADOR

The Tourism Ambassador Award was presented to The Burlington Eagles City Rep Hockey Club for their contributions over the years to help foster a prosperous tourism industry in Burlington.  The Golden Horseshoe Tournament and former Ron Wilkins Memorial Tournament in addition to other events and championships at all levels of play organized by the Burlington Eagles have made a significant economic impact to our accommodations, retailers, restaurants and other businesses in Burlington annually.

Sponsor – Burlington Hotel Association

Burlington Eagles receive Tourism Ambassador Award

2011 Award Recipients – Keith Strong & Gary DeGroote – AMBASSADOR

The Tourism Ambassador Award was awarded to Gary DeGroote for his significant leadership gift to the Burlington Performing Arts Centre fundraising campaign which spearheaded other community members to raise $11m and to Keith Strong who lead this successful fundraising campaign.  There were many who helped with this project, however, these two individuals clearly made a significant impact on the development of the Burlington Performing Arts Centre, a new tourist attraction.  Gary is the President of Burlington business GWD Management and has supported many area projects.  Keith is a long-time Burlington businessman and an active volunteer on many community projects such as YouthFest, the Burlington Performing Arts Centre and the United Way.

Sponsor – Burlington Hotel Association

Tourism award recipients Keith Strong & Gary DeGroote with trophy

2011 Award Recipients – Mike Wallace & Walter Mulkewich – BUILDER

The Tourism Builder Award for 2011 was awarded to Mike Wallace and Walter Mulkewich who transformed a vision into reality when they took the lead in advocating for a new Performing Arts Centre in Burlington.  They were recognized for their vision in the building of this tourism product; the legacy that has resulted, and their outstanding leadership in this project. Mike is the Federal Member of Parliament for Burlington and was a former member of the Burlington municipal council.  Walter is a former Mayor of Burlington and has been a strong advocate on a number of community projects including Creative Burlington and the recent SHAPE committee.

Sponsor – Burlington Hotel Association

Tourism Award recipients Mike Wallace and Walter Mulkewich

2010 Award Recipient – Jack van der Laan – AMBASSADOR

Jack van der Laan has made invaluable contributions to Burlington and its reputation inside and outside of Canada. As a Dutch immigrant in the early 1970s, he established a successful men’s clothing business here in Burlington. Jack founded and leads the Canada-Netherlands Friendship Association. The CNFA encourages the continued friendship between the two countries which dates back to World War II. The organization celebrates the many contributions Dutch Canadians have made to Canada’s economy, while also attracting many visitors from Holland through choir visits, cultural exchanges and visits by individuals.  As a result of his hard work with the CNFA, Jack was instrumental in creating the twinning of the City of Burlington with the City of Apeldoorn in 2005. He has been a member of Burlington’s Mundialization Committee and chaired the Apeldoorn Subcommittee for several years.

Sponsor – Burlington Hotel Association

Tourism Ambassador Award recipient Jack vanderlaan

2009 Award Recipient – Ako Matsubayashi – AMBASSADOR

Ako has been an active member of the City of Burlington’s Mundialization Committee for over years.  He has been the Chair of the Itabashi Sub-Committee, and the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Mundialization Committee.  He has been an inspirational leader, helping to foster strong international relationships between Burlington and its twin cities.  In particular, Ako has championed the relationship with Itabashi, Japan.  In the fall of 2009, the 20th anniversary was celebrated through a visit by a delegation of over 40 Itabashi officials, citizens and a Taiko drummer band.  Due to the strong relationship built between the two cities, almost every year groups of 20 or more come to visit.  There is no doubt that this relationship has been of great benefit to Burlington through the many annual visitors as well as the information and cultural exchanges and the many lasting friendships that have been formed.

Sponsor – Burlington Hotel Association

Ako Matsubayashi ambassador award recipent

2008 Award Recipients – Mark Runciman & Terry Yates – BUILDER

Mark Runciman has been a long-standing employee at the RBG starting as Superintendent of Buildings and Equipment in 1984.  He was appointed to the position of Executive Director in 2006 and became CEO in 2008. Terry Yates is a past chair of the board and a board member since 2005.  Terry and Mark helped lead the RBG through a mandate review and a three-year transition plan.  During that time the RBG opened the Camilla & Peter Dalglish Atrium, providing barrier-free access to the Hendrie Gardens and also unveiled a major new garden, the Helen M. Kippax Native Plant Garden.  To better welcome visitors, the parking lot at RBG Centre was expanded and a new entrance from Plains Road was completed.  In 2008, 250,000 people visited the Gardens and membership has increased by 45% since 2005.  Under the leadership of Terry Yates and Mark Runciman, new funding arrangements have stabilized the organization, enabling the RBG to continue to play its vitally important role as a living museum and major visitor attraction.

Sponsor – Burlington Hotel Association

Ambassador Award Terry Yates & Mark Runciman

2007 Award Recipient – Louise Cooke – BUILDER

Louise has made extensive contributions to cultural tourism including being a member of the Burlington Art Centre Board of Directors, Foundation Board, Corporate Partnership Committee and Expansion Campaign. Louise has volunteered for over 20 years at the Burlington Art Centre (BAC) and has been instrumental in establishing the centre as one of Ontario’s leading public art galleries with a nationally significant collection of contemporary ceramic art. With over 100,000 people visiting it each year, the BAC has positively affected an estimated 1.75 million people over the first 30 years of operation and is one of Burlington’s key tourist attractions. Louise has also been recognized as the 2007 Voices and Visions Woman of the Year.

Sponsor – IKEA.

2008 Ambassador Awards - Louise Cooke

2006 Award Recipient – Mr. Gord Langford – AMBASSADOR

Gord Langford has been a tireless supporter of Tourism in Burlington as a member of the Tourism Board of Directors for 11 years, Chairman of the Board for 4 years and Chamber of Commerce Board member for 10 years where he acted as the Tourism representative to the Board. Gord was also a member of the Transition Team to review the Tourism Service Delivery Model with the City of Burlington. As a member of the Burlington Art Centre Committee, Gord investigated bringing a Robert Bateman Gallery to Burlington. Gord was founded and was the Chair of the Burlington Hotel Association and in this role advocated for the implementation of a Destination Marketing Fee in Burlington. This fee generates an additional $400,000 in marketing revenue for Burlington annually. Gord was the General Manager of Holiday Inn Burlington Hotel and Conference Centre where he was instrumental in bringing numerous new multi-day National and International conferences/events to the city plus has been a supportive sponsor of many tourism and community events throughout the years.

Sponsor – IKEA.

Gord Langford Tourism Ambassador Award recipient

2005 Award Recipients – Dr. Robert Peeling and Mr. John Thorpe – AMBASSADOR

These two individuals have tirelessly led and organized Canada’s Largest Ribfest presented by the Rotary Club of Burlington Lakeshore. John Thorpe has been a member of this Rotary Club since 1987 and Dr. Peeling since 1994. Both men have served as President and both have received the Paul Harris Award from the Club for outstanding contributions to Rotary. These two members were the inspiration behind the creation of the Ribfest fundraiser and had served as Co-Chairmen of the event since its inception in 1995. In the first 10 years, over a million dollars has been raised and distributed by the Rotary Club of Burlington-Lakeshore for charitable purposes both in the Burlington community and internationally. Bob and John both have successful businesses, which require their presence and attention, and yet John volunteers with the Salvation Army and Bob with the Boy Scouts in addition to their family, business and Rotary commitments.

Sponsor – IKEA.

2004 Award Recipient – Ms. Judi Scetta – AMBASSADOR

Judi was the President of Burlington’s Sound of Music Festival and a member of the Executive for 7 years, and has worked to raise the profile of the Festival. Attracting 190,000 attendees in 2004, this signature event increases the tourism profile of Burlington and invites many visitors to come and experience all that Burlington has to offer. The festival is the culmination of the participation of the community, volunteers, artists, partners and sponsors in creating and presenting a free music festival that has evolved into the largest event attraction in the City of Burlington. Through Judi’s leadership many of these relationships have been strengthened positioning the festival to make significant steps forward and experience further growth. Judi extended her term as President, beyond the standard term of two years, to tackle the many new challenges and initiatives the 25th Anniversary year, in 2004, presented. In addition to her demanding duties as President, Judi also chaired the 25th Anniversary Committee, which supported and implemented all the new initiatives for this special year. Burlington’s Sound of Music Festival is recognized as a Signature Event by Festival Events Ontario indicating its ability to attract visitors regionally, provincially and/or nationally. The event has been named one of the Top 50 festivals in Ontario. Judi was recognized and received the Festival and Events Ontario – Volunteer Award in 2005.

Official Picture of Judi Scetta. Ambassador Award recipient 2005

2003 Award Recipient – Mr. Bernie Scrivener – AMBASSADOR

“Downtown Bernie” as the Downtown Business Improvement Association (BDBA) likes to call him, has been a prominent and successful entrepreneur in the community for many years. He has sat on the Boards of Management for the BDBA and the BEDC and has been President of a local chapter of Rotary. Bernie has also been an active member of the Burlington Art Centre Foundation and stimulated growth in their endowment fund. He was an early lead contributor to the Burlington Art Centre Capital Campaign project. He was one of the early members named to the Performing Arts Burlington Board and he has continuously lobbied for such a facility to be built in the Downtown Core where it will form a nucleus of activity in Burlington. Bernie’s vision has once again demonstrated that when visitors come to Burlington, they spend dollars and that stimulates the local economy, creating jobs, and new businesses and enhancing the quality of life for residents.

Images of the 2004 Ambassador Awards with recipients Bern Scrivener

2002 Award Recipient – Mr. Laurie Branch – AMBASSADOR

Laurie was the former Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Burlington. In 1968, through Laurie’s leadership, the City took on responsibility for the Burlington Teen Tour Band to ensure their continuance and since that time the Musical Ambassadors to the World have flourished. Laurie also had a key role in designing or starting: Burlington’s Winter Carnival in 1968, Burlington International Games, first held in Vermont in 1969,  Spencer Smith Park, The Sound of Music Festival, The City of Burlington twinning with Itabashi, Japan and sister city relationship with Myrtle Beach South Carolina and Ireland House Museum. Laurie also assisted Tourism Burlington in setting up their visitor information centre located in Spencer Smith Park in 1970 and acted as our Interim Executive Director in the early 90s. Laurie has enjoyed his involvement in Tourism so well that he still takes time from his retirement to help in the Tourism offices as a volunteer travel counsellor.

Ambassador Award Laurie Branch