Sabrina Flores


March 9, 2020


Award recognition and 2019 grant recipients announced at Discover Albany’s Annual Celebration of Hospitality Excellence on Feb. 27

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 9, 2020) – Discover Albany, Albany County’s convention and visitors bureau, hosted its Annual Celebration of Hospitality Excellence at the Desmond Hotel Albany in Colonie on Thursday, Feb. 27, also serving as the bureau’s annual meeting.

Dutch Apple Cruises & Tours is recognized as this year’s recipient of the Professor Anthony J. Strianese Hospitality Excellence Award. Additionally, Discover Albany announced the recipients of the 2019 Michele L. Vennard Hospitality Grant, with a combined total of $57,400 distributed among 20 different organizations.

“Discover Albany is thrilled to be able to honor Dutch Apple Cruises & Tours with the “Toby” Award. There have been many hospitality-related businesses that have come and gone in the Capital Region, but Dutch Apple Cruises has continued to be a pillar in our community for nearly 35 years,” said Jill Delaney, President and CEO of Discover Albany. “The team at Dutch Apple Cruises have gone above and beyond to grow with the demand for their tour and to teach each of its passengers about the Hudson River, Albany and our region’s History.”

The Professor Anthony J. Strianese Hospitality Excellence Award, also referred to as “The Toby,” is named after the late Professor Strianese, an instructor and chair of SUNY Schenectady’s School of Hotel, Culinary Arts, and Tourism and co-author of several hospitality textbooks. The award gives special recognition to travel business as an integral part of this region's economy. While there are many regional awards, The Toby is devoted solely to highlighting those who represent the peak of planning, execution, and professionalism within the travel industry. This award will continue to honor travel and hospitality entities for their leaders who display the core ideals of the industry and the role they play in our regional economy.

For over 30 years, Dutch Apple Cruises & Tours have offered sightseeing cruises on the Hudson River and serve as a business or leisure private event venue in Albany. Owners Melissa and Anthony Renna have over a decade of experience as event planners. They often go beyond their roles to help guests explore and experience Albany after their time on the Dutch Apple with suggestions on hotels, dining options, attractions, team-building opportunities, and more.

Speakers included Carm Basile, CEO of Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA), Mark Dorr, president of New York State Hospitality & Tourism Association (NYSH&TA) and Tony Iadicicco, executive director of Albany Center Gallery.

The Michele L. Vennard Hospitality grants are given in partnership with the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region to organizations creating programs combining art & tourism. Named after the former longtime president and CEO of Discover Albany, recipients are chosen by the Discover Albany board of directors. The grant fund, managed by the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region, supports programs that aid in building and sustaining Albany County tourism destinations, attractions, events and tourism-related activities. The grants encourage collaboration between nonprofit organizations, community groups and hospitality businesses to further extend the economic impact of tourism and business.

“We are delighted to present $57,400 in grants to 20 organizations throughout Albany County to help fund programs and initiatives to grow visitation and extend the economic impact of tourism and business in our region,” said Leola Edelin, chair of the Discover Albany board of directors. “The Michele L. Vennard Hospitality Grant Program has awarded more than $360,000 in the last five years, which has gone toward creating programs and tourist-attracting events in our community.”

Grant recipients include the following:

- Albany Barn, Inc. for Program & Marketing Support for 2020
Albany Center Galleries, Inc.for Creative Placemaking in Albany, NY: Murals, Pop-up Exhibits and other Public Art
Albany County Historical Association, Inc. for the Albany County Historical Association - Ten Broeck Mansion: Re-Presenting an Urban Treasure
Albany Institute of History and Art for Marketing and promotion for the exhibition "Recycled & Refashioned: The Art of Ruby Silvious"
Albany Symphony Orchestra, Inc. for 2019-20 Albany Concerts
Capital Repertory Company, Inc. for Livingston Square Parking Area – Design
Erie Canalway Heritage Fund, Inc. for the Canalway Challenge
- Friends of Pruyn House for Summer Concerts in the Barn 2020
Historic Albany Foundation, Inc. for Van Ostrande-Radliff House Stabilization
Historic Cherry Hill for improving the View, Expanding Time Here: Rebuilding Historic Cherry Hill's Porch
Irish American Heritage Museum for The Irish Great Hunger
Lake George Opera Festival Association, Inc. for Opera-to-Go and education touring presentation of Jack and the Beanstalk
Musicians of Ma'alwyck, Inc. for The Albany Concerts: Schaltjahr Ball and Two Schuyler Mansion Concerts
Old Songs, Inc. for Old Songs Folk Festival of Traditional Music and Dance
Palace Performing Arts Center, Inc. for Palace Theatre Suffrage Ride and Family Film
Park Playhouse, Inc. for the 32nd Season Year-Round Programming
Pine Hollow Arboretum for Welcome Kiosk for The Pine Hollow Arboretum
Sage Colleges - Opalka Gallery for 2020 Programming and Activities
Steamer No. 10 Theatre, Inc. for Safety Railing Exterior Entrance
University at Albany Foundation on behalf of the New York State Writers Institute for the Albany Film Festival



About Discover Albany. The Albany County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc. was established in 1976 to promote the civic and commercial progress of the community through increased development of conventions and tourism. Today, the organization is known as Discover Albany. Discover Albany currently represents more than 300 member businesses and assists each year in hundreds of regional meetings. Discover Albany also operates the Discover Albany Visitors Center, Henry Hudson Planetarium, and the Albany International Airport Information Center.  The Albany County Convention and Visitors Bureau Foundation was established in 1993 to provide educational opportunities and work with other organizations to secure grants and funding to advance regional travel and tourism projects.  For more information, call 518-434-1217 or 800-258-3582 or visit