Employee of the Year

Presented to a front-line employee in the tourism industry who demonstrates service excellence and has made outstanding contributions to the tourism industry. The nominee has made a lasting and positive impact that enhances visitors’ experiences and creates a high level of customer satisfaction.

Kyle Walkoski – Great White Bear Tours

Kyle Walkoski, President of Great White Bear Tours in Churchill, displays unwavering dedication and exceptional leadership that positively impacts the business and broader tourism industry.

During the expansion of the northern lights season, Kyle elevated the guest count from 50 to an impressive 600 by creating unique and unforgettable experiences for guests through strategic vision and innovative thinking. His ability to forge strong relationships with staff and partners alike speaks volumes about his character and the collaborative spirit he brings to the tourism industry.

Whether dealing with the company's day-to-day operations, fixing machinery or interacting with staff and guests, he wears every hat with passion and skill. His hands-on approach ensures every aspect of the operation runs like a well-oiled machine, promising guests an unforgettable experience at Great White Bear Tours.

Dana Forster – FortWhyte Alive

Dana's exceptional dedication to tourism at FortWhyte Alive spans nearly two decades with roles such as Bookings Coordinator, Visitor Services Manager and Group Services & Events Manager. Her pivotal contributions include advancing FortWhyte Alive’s tourism department and achieving a Signature Experience designation from the Canadian Tourism Commission.

Dana balances a wide range of responsibilities, including tourism and school programming, educational initiatives for at-risk youth, public-facing programs, social enterprise components and volunteer operations. Her poise, customer service and institutional knowledge enrich every visitor's experience and foster a love for the biosphere.

Dana's contributions through the years have significantly elevated FortWhyte Alive’s tourism offerings, transforming it into a premier destination that hosts over 100,000 annual visitors.

Joy Balmana – Assiniboine Park Conservancy

As Community & Special Events Manager, Joy Balmana is responsible for planning and executing the Assiniboine Park Conservancy’s signature large-scale events, like Zoo Lights, Boo at the Zoo, Summer Entertainment Series, Wildest Dreams and Brew at the Zoo.

Joy has a passion for tourism, the celebration of world cultures and the creation of unique and inclusive guest experiences. Continuously seeking new and exciting programming, she develops unique experiences that attract visitors and drive tourism revenues to Assiniboine Park.

Her enthusiasm for her work is infectious, resulting in countless successful events and ensuring everyone involved has a good experience as well.

Anna Fryza – Red River North Tourism Region

Anna Fryza is the bookkeeper for eight non-profit tourism and recreation groups in the Red River North Region.

Over the years Anna has become both a teacher and mentor. She’s helped explain financial statements, prepare monthly and annual statements, manage employee payroll (WCB, EI and taxes) and, on occasion, navigate HR issues.

Anna’s role enables growth for the Red River North Tourism Region by ensuring tourism and recreation groups have the day-to-day operational support they need, while at the same time, doing her work with kindness, grace, patience and compassion.

Barret Miller – FortWhyte Alive

Barret Miller, Group Services Manager at FortWhyte Alive, has demonstrated outstanding leadership and customer service since he began in 2012.

Barret has spearheaded the creation of innovative tourism products, led staff training, and adapted tour programming for virtual audiences. Delivering Natural Habitat Adventures tour experiences for over 2,200 guests, Barret is a leading interpretive guide and has risen from Camp Director to Group Services Manager. His deep knowledge of natural and cultural history along with his passion for connecting people to the natural world enriches visitor experiences at FortWhyte Alive.

Beyond tours, Barret adds a personalized touch for new or out of town guests by providing recommendations for recreational and dining experiences, embodying the Friendly Manitoban spirit. Barret has made many contributions to FortWhyte Alive's continued success as a premier tourist attraction in Winnipeg.

Ben Lawrence and Nicole Spinks – Seal River Heritage Lodge, Churchill Wild

Ben Lawrence and Nicole Spinks, managers for Churchill Wild’s Seal River Heritage Lodge, have elevated guest experiences since 2018 and earned widespread acclaim on TripAdvisor and through post-trip surveys.

Ben and Nicole seamlessly manage operations, from inventory to planning daily adventures. The impact of their leadership extends beyond efficient operations. Guests consistently praise Ben and Nicole for their role in creating a “trip of a lifetime” thanks to their warm hospitality, personalized touches and ability to navigate challenges.

Ben and Nicole have cultivated a tourism service record that embodies a commitment to excellence, genuine care for guests and an unwavering positive impact on the Seal River Heritage Lodge experience. Their outstanding contributions exemplify the highest standards of service and hospitality in Manitoba's tourism industry.