Albany County’s hospitality excellence honored at Discover Albany’s Annual Celebration

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 1, 2024) — Discover Albany, Albany County’s convention and visitors bureau, hosted its Annual Celebration of Hospitality Excellence on Wednesday, April 24 at The Hangar 743. The celebration, also serving as Discover Albany’s annual meeting, included the reveal of the 2024 Michele L. Vennard Hospitality grant recipients, the Professor Anthony J. Strianese Hospitality Excellence Award, and the recently established Honorable Matthew T. Peter Destination Innovator Award.

Monica LaBree, Vice President of Hospitality at The Century House, was recognized as this year’s recipient of the Professor Anthony J. Strianese Hospitality Excellence Award. The award, also called “The Toby,” 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.

“I’m truly grateful for the honor of receiving this award, for the chance to contribute to Albany’s travel and tourism industry, and to craft unforgettable experiences for our guests,” said LaBree.“This award reaffirms the dedication and passion poured into every guest interaction. It underscores the significance of hospitality in forging connections and leaving indelible memories. I am profoundly thankful for the opportunity to make a positive impact and hope to continue to be an example of dedication in future years”

This year, Discover Albany also introduced the Honorable Matthew T. Peter Destination Innovator Award, created to honor a person and/or organization who has made a lasting impact on Albany County as a destination. CDTA was named as the first recipient of this annual award. The nominees will have launched a new or revitalized program, event, or attraction, or made a significant impact on the destination’s ability to serve the public through innovation or collaboration.

“On behalf of CDTA, we are honored to be the recipient of the inaugural Matthew Peter Innovation Award,” said Carm Basile, CDTA CEO. Matt was a visionary leader who wanted the very best for our community. CDTA embodies that same mission by providing a diverse menu of mobility options to keep our region connected and thriving. Thank you to Discover Albany for this honor.”

“We are thrilled to be able to honor these partners for their contributions to our destination, as well as to financially support our local nonprofit community through our grant program,” said Jill Delaney, President and CEO of Discover Albany. “In addition, this event is a great opportunity for us to share our mutual successes, hear from incredibly talented panelists, and network together in a really unique space. We thank everyone who took part and congratulations to all our winners!”

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 and tourism. The grant supports programs that aid in building and sustaining Albany County tourism destinations, attractions, events and tourism-related activities.

The 2024 Hospitality Grant awarded a combined total of $70,061 distributed among 20 different organizations. Grant recipients included:

  • Albany Barn, Inc.
  • Albany Center Galleries, Inc.
  • Albany County Historical Association, Inc. | Ten Broek Mansion
  • Albany Institute of History & Art
  • Albany Voices of Pride, Inc.
  • Bring on the Spectrum, Inc.
  • Friends and Foundation of Albany Public Library
  • Friends of Pruyn House
  • Friends of the Pine Bush Community
  • The Egg Performing Arts Center
  • Historic Albany Foundation
  • Musicians of Ma’alwyck, Inc.
  • Old Songs, Inc.
  • Opalka Gallery
  • Organization of Adirondack Rowers and Scullers, Inc. dba Albany Rowing Center
  • Shaker Heritage Society
  • Steamer №10 Theatre, Inc.
  • The Pine Hollow Arboretum

Named after the former longtime president and CEO of Discover Albany, the The Michele L. Vennard Hospitality Grant recipients are chosen by the Discover Albany board of directors. The grants encourage collaboration between nonprofit organizations, community groups and hospitality businesses to further extend the economic impact of tourism and business.

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. 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 more information about the Annual Celebration of Hospitality Excellence please visit


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