GKHA Stars of the Industry

PAULY Awards

The Greater Knoxville Hospitality Association (GKHA) recognizes our “Stars of the Industry” — the individuals who continue to smile after working long hours and those who make our guests feel welcomed.

Come see our STARS shine at the Pauly Awards

May 2, 2024 . The Foundry on the Fair Site






The Nomination Category Details and Eligibility Requirements

  • The business/property/individual submitting the nominee and the nominee must be a member of GKHA.
  • A nominee must have served in the industry for a minimum of two years.
  • Only one nominee per category may be entered per business/property/individual.
  • Entries are due to GKHA office no later than April 11, 2024.
  • All submitted materials become the property of GKHA and will not be returned.

*Lodging Small Property (125 rooms or less), Lodging Large Property (126+ rooms);

*Restaurant Independent (2 locations or less with same name), Restaurant Chain/Franchise (3 or more locations with the same name);

*Tourism Small Budget (budget under $500,000), Tourism Large Budget (budget over $500,000)

*Destination Marketing Organization Small Budget (budget under $500,000), Destination Marketing Organization Large Budget (budget over $500,000)


*All categories are not necessarily awarded each year.



Lodging General Manager & Manager (small property; large property)

Restaurant General Manager & Manager(independent; chain/franchise)

Tourism General Manager & Manager (small budget; large budget)

Destination Marketing Organization Director & Manager (small budget; large budget) 

The General Manager, Manager and Director awards provides each segment with an opportunity to recognize a general manager/manager/director who has demonstrated outstanding contributions in leadership, service and community civic affairs. The nominees are judged on performance that exceeds normal job responsibilities and contributes outstanding service to the business/property, customers/guests and community. Any employee in a managerial position can be nominated for a manager award, including sales, marketing, catering assistant manager, etc.  Only general managers and executive directors can be nominated for the general manager or director of the year awards.


Employees of the Year

Lodging (small property; large property), Restaurant (independent; chain/franchise), Tourism (small budget; large budget), Destination Marketing Organization (small budget; large budget)

The Employee awards provides each segment with an opportunity to recognize exemplary professionalism and service by an employee. The nominations are judged on performance that goes above and beyond normal job responsibilities and outstanding and unusual service to the property/restaurant/business, guests, customers and community.  Any employee outside of managerial roles are eligible for these awards including frontline staff, janitorial, servers, etc.


Service/Supplier of the Year

The Service/Supplier award is presented to a company/individual in recognition of the professional contribution they have made to the businesses and organizations in the hospitality/tourism industry. These members provide special support services in a variety of ways and are a valuable partner with the hospitality/tourism industry.

Best in Glass Award

The Best in Glass award recognizes a winery, brewery or distillery that has shown excellence in their products, guests experience and responsibility measures.  Not only are they known for their excellent spirits, wine or beer; but, they also make a concerted effort to attract visitors to the area and drink responsibly.  Nominees must have a visitor center or tasting room that is open to the public.

Tourism Property of the Year (small budget; large budget)

The Tourism Property award provides an opportunity to recognize a property that has shown excellence in customer service and unique experiences.  The tourism property regularly attracts visitors and positively contributes to the community.  Eligible companies include attractions, event venues, sports complexes, theme parks, zoos, theaters, museums, and convention centers.

Destination Marketing Organization of the Year (small budget; large budget)

The  Destination Marketing Organization award provides an opportunity to recognize a DMO who has shown excellence in tourist development, helping attract new visitors and promoting the city as a tourist destination.  Nominees should demonstrate not only excellent marketing and public relations strategies; but, also have close ties with their hospitality industry that supports their destination.  Eligible companies include Convention & Visitors Bureaus, Chambers of Commerce, Economic & Community Development offices and other public or private entities that promote tourism

Hospitality Achievement Award

The Hospitality Achievement Award is given to recognize an employee (not owner) who has 30 + years of service with the same company.

Hospitality Mentor Award

The Hospitality Mentor Award is a special acknowledgement given to honor an individual highlighting the importance and value of long-time relationships in the hospitality industry.  The award recognizes an individual who has consistently provided personal and professional guidance, motivation, emotional support, role modeling and created trusted relationships as an experienced advisor.


Bill Regas SMILE (formerly Friendliest Face) of the Year

The Bill Regas SMILE award celebrates Bill Regas’s legacy, his influence and dedication to family and community, but most of all for his smile. This award recognizes an individual in the hospitality/tourism industry that has provided superior customer service throughout the year or has demonstrated a commitment to customer service through a specific event – someone who’s smile is genuine.

Volunteer of the Year

The Volunteer of the Year award is presented to an individual that demonstrates a significant commitment to an area attraction/museum or service organization throughout the year or has accomplished a specific project for an area attraction/museum or service organization.

Rising Star of the Year

The Rising Star Award honors an exemplary hospitality employee with 2 years or less of service who has demonstrated superior professional dedication, leadership and a fresh perspective to their job.  The recipient should also exemplify the characteristics that lead to success in their personal life and a dedication to the industry by active participation in association, community and industry programs.

Women in Hospitality & Tourism

The Women in Hospitality & Tourism award is presented to a female hospitality professional who serves as a leader and role model within the hospitality community. Candidates should describe noteworthy accomplishments, leadership roles, volunteer positions and personal initiative.

Industry Educator of the Year

Industry Educator of the Year recognizes an educator teaching a hospitality, tourism or culinary arts curriculum who demonstrates commitment to their students and a passion for their subject.  Any educator in the hospitality & tourism field is eligible for this award:  high school, community college, university, technical institute, certification or training program.

Chef of the Year

The Chef of the Year award recognizes an Executive or Sous Chef who has provided leadership, creativity, and culinary excellence for their restaurant. Nominees should display exceptional skills inside and outside the kitchen. A history of community service, leadership and mentorship within the restaurant and fantastic guest service are required.


Community Service of the Year

The Community Service award is presented to a Lodging Property, Restaurant or Tourism Property that provides service and demonstrates responsiveness to the local community. Examples include campaigns to benefit local or national service organizations, non-profits and charities or service to any part of the community through special and joint undertakings with community groups for the benefit of the area.  Nominees can submit for a particular project or campaign or an ongoing partnership.

Greener Tennessee Award  

The Greener Tennessee award are presented to businesses that have developed environmental management practices into their everyday operations while maintaining quality service.  Nominees should describe improvements to operations as well as the process for continuing their sustainability efforts.  Nominees can submit for a particular project or campaign or ongoing efforts.

Event of the Year

Event of the Year award recognizes any hospitality or tourism business that held a successful public event with the intent to increase visitation, revenue and public awareness of the tourism industry.  Nominees can submit new or annual events and should demonstrate creativity, economic impact and media coverage of the event.



History of the PAULY Awards

The PAULY, like a Grammy, an Emmy or a Tony award, represents dedication, devotion and hard work to an industry – ours is the hospitality industry.

Like the other awards, the PAULY is named for a special person who provided us with vision, determination and leadership. Paul Sherbakoff was such a gentleman.

He managed several hotels in Knoxville; He managed the Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum and he was on the development task force of the Knoxville Convention Center. He co-wrote the original occupancy tax legislation and helped establish Knoxville’s first Convention & Visitors Bureau. He was a 2 time President of the Tennessee Hospitality & Tourism Association.

And, of course, he was a University of Tennessee graduate.

He worked our long hours and he knew the rewards and satisfaction of a job well done.

Because of Paul’s encouragement and persistence, the University of Tennessee began providing a couple of classes in Food and Lodging in the early 70’s. It has grown to include a doctoral degree and is an internationally recognized program.

The Greater Knoxville Hospitality Association is proud to present the PAULY Awards to individuals and companies who epitomize the true spirit of hospitality. They are the driving force behind our industry’s success.