Picture of legendary Thelma Parks smiling at camera; collage of photos of past employees in black and white

Thelma Parks Tourism Spirit Award

Santa Monica Travel & Tourism (SMTT) was lucky enough to have an exceptional 23-year employee, Thelma Parks who touches hundreds of lives with her positive spirit before her passing in January of 2011. In her memory, Santa Monica Travel & Tourism in partnership with the Santa Monica Chamber created the Thelma Parks Tourism Spirit Award to honor employees who go above and beyond in the tourism industry. This award provides hotels, restaurants, attractions and services an opportunity to recognize exemplary performance and exceptional service by an employee in either a management or non-management position or they can be nominated by a visitor.

Congratulations Darius Smiley

Darius Smiley was one of the first front desk agents brought back to the Le Meridien Delfina Santa Monica following the Covid-19 pandemic closures. His positive attitude is infectious not just among his fellow employees, but by guests, as seen in numerous compliments he has gotten both during and after their stays.

“Darius’ positivity is infectious. It is a pleasure to work alongside such a pure hospitality soul!” – Kevin Anawati, Director of Sales & Marketing of Le Meridien Delfina Santa Monica.

Darius Smiley, winner of the 2022 Thelma Parks Spirit Awards in Santa Monica.

Past Winners Include:

  • Manju Raman, Huntley Santa Monica Beach Hotel
  • Barbara Moss, Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows
  • Fernando Ceron, Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel
  • Kat Wells, Santa Monica Free Ride
  • Melanie Lawson, Hilton Santa Monica Hotel & Suites (formerly Doubletree Suites by Hilton Hotel Santa Monica)
  • Derek Davis, Downtown Santa Monica Ambassador
  • Jessica Mahone, Front Desk Manager at JW Marriott Santa Monica Le Merigot
  • Mickey Barnes, Server at The Lobster
  • Elizabeth Wilsonhoyles, Director of Guest Services at Huntley Santa Monica Beach Hotel
Employee behind the bar at The Bungalow in Santa Monica.

Has Someone Made Your Day?

Santa Monica is a vibrant and desirable location to live and work. Much of its success is credited to the people behind the 1 billion dollars generated annually from tourism and hospitality revenues and taxes.

Santa Monica Travel & Tourism (SMTT) was lucky to have an amazing 23-year employee, Thelma Parks, who died in January 2011. In her honor, we launched the “Thelma Parks Tourist Spirit Award” to recognize outstanding service in the industry.

The award plays an integral role in encouraging and rewarding excellence, innovation and commitment in the tourism and hospitality industry. Businesses, residences and visitors can nominate others, which will be reviewed and selected by a committee of industry peers, experts and leaders.

Winners will be selected and honored annually, in partnership with the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce. The Thelma Parks Tourism Spirit Award is awarded each May during the annual Santa Monica Travel & Tourism Summit.

Aerial of Santa Monica Pier and Pacific Park.

How to participate:


  • The business must be in good standing with the  City of Santa Monica and SMTT.
  • Have all required permits and licenses required by the law.
  • All submitted entries become property of the SMTT, and by submitting an entry, you irrevocably grant SMTT the right permission to edit, reproduce, publish, broadcast, and display the essay and any related materials submitted by you. By submitting an entry, you further represent the entry does not violate any copyright or right of publicity or privacy, and agree to defend and indemnify SMTT for any such claims brought against it.
  • Nominees must be a graduate of the I Am Santa Monica workshop.
  • All chosen finalists/winners will be provided seating to attend the Santa Monica Travel & Tourism Summit each May and must agree to name and image in promotions.
  • One (1) winner will be presented the Thelma Parks Tourism Spirit Award and the recipient will be announced at the Travel & Tourism Summit each May.
  • Nominations must be submitted using this form.

Thank you for helping us celebrate the employees who create unforgettable experiences for our visitors in Santa Monica! If you have any questions regarding the Thelma Parks Tourism Spirit Award, please contact clientservices@santamonica.com or call 310-319-6263.