DESTIN — More than 50 hospitality employees were honored for their positive impact on the tourism industry during the first-ever Hospitality Heroes event Thursday at Henderson Beach Resort and Spa.

Nick Lowe, regional director for the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, said the main reason for the event was to honor to those who do not often get credit.

“A lot of times the heads of organizations get recognized, but the front-line people who make the cogs and the wheel work don’t get recognized,” Lowe said. “This event is to honor the servers, the bartenders, the back-of-house staff that never get that recognition.”

The award categories included best back-of-house associate, best front-of-house associate, best general manager and best sales and marketing.

Businesses that contribute to the tourism industry were also honored with the supplier of the year, best event and a spirit of hospitality awards.

Lowe said each honoree was awarded a plaque and $500.

“With this highly driven tourism market, it can be grueling,” Lowe said. “This is a way to give back to them.

"Tourism is the biggest industry in the state of Florida, and when people travel here, the biggest thing is how they are treated when they come here. ... A lot of that has got to do with the people," Lowe added

State Rep. Mel Ponder, who gave the invocation before the dinner, came out to show his support for the employees of the area’s tourism industry.

“The hospitality industry, outside of our military, is our second most important industry we have,” Ponder said. “They’re on the front lines. They’re the front porch to our area.”

The event was hosted by the Northwest Florida chapter of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, the Emerald Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau and Visit South Walton.