Cleaster Cotton, Ken Stamps, Brenda Durden, Stephanie Brown

Every year, Explore Asheville recognizes tourism partners who have made standout contributions to the work we do to promote Asheville and Buncombe County as a destination. It’s always a tough decision, because attracting visitors to our area is truly a team sport.

Congratulations to the following individuals honored at the December Holiday Party as our 2019 Explore Asheville CVB Superstars. (Shown in photo, from left: Cleaster Cotton, Ken Stamps, Brenda Durden, with Explore Asheville President & CEO Stephanie Brown. Not shown: Lisa White.)

Cleaster Cotton: Artist & Educator

If you don’t already know Cleaster, you may recognize her from photos on Explore and in the Visitor Guide. Cleaster has been willing and enthusiastic model for us on several occasions.

Cleaster has shown her work in various galleries, studios and schools, and even recently been commissioned to create an important piece “Coming to Market” on the Block. She has embraced the changing environments while acknowledging and honoring the rich heritage of Asheville. She takes the time to make personal connections and share her passion for her art and the community and has done so when hosting media for the Explore Asheville PR team.

Cleaster has also been consistently engaged with the CVB, attending events, getting to know staff and networking with other partners. She has expanded our network by introducing others who were not familiar with the BCTDA and sharing the benefits of working with Explore Asheville. And she always makes an extra effort to personally bring our attention to important exhibits and events in the community.

Ken Stamps: Co-Founder, Navitat Canopy Tours

A conversation Ken had with CVB President & CEO Stephanie Brown led to the first convening of ticketed attractions, now known as the Attraction Partners Collaborative, for which Ken along with Jeff Greiner of Asheville Adventure Center, are peer facilitators. These meetings have attracted around 40 different Attraction businesses to each convening.

Ken has also played a critical role as a member of the Tourism Product Development Fund Committee. As part of that committee, he has put in countless hours and dedication to assessing and making important funding recommendations to the BCTDA board, which has led to many amazing projects in our community. He will also play a key part in the Tourism Management & Investment Plan process.

Brenda Durden: Chief Operating Officer, Asheville Hotel Group

Brenda has been a steadfast leader in the lodging industry’s staff recruitment and retention efforts as a member of the Workforce Development Steering Committee.

She led the hotel/motel Sweet Dreams Full Plate initiative for 2019, where a record-setting $60,000 was raised to support the work of MANNA FoodBank. MANNA will convert these funds into over 210,000 meals for individuals and families facing hunger in Western North Carolina.

Lisa White: Vice-President, White Labs

Lisa White (not pictured) is an example of a local leader who empowers and encourages her team to think collaboratively when it comes to sharing news and working with the Explore Asheville PR department. The White Labs team consistently shares news, uploads events to the calendar, and helps us understand, not just what’s new, but the evolving experience at their yeast lab, restaurant and brewery.

Lisa’s team makes media pitching easy with great info and insights on how they fit into local trends (like the Asheville’s growing fermentation scene). They help out when media reps are in town and since opening in 2016, White Labs has worked with Explore Asheville on a familiarization tour for 10 national beer writers and hosted many writers on assignment, including freelancers for Food & Wine and Forbes Travel.

White Labs is also doing good in the community. Lisa White founded Beer for Boobs, a nonprofit connecting the brewing community and compassionate businesses in the support of cancer research, awareness and recovery organizations like Susan G. Komen and The American Cancer Society.

Our thanks and congratulations to these Superstar tourism partners!