SOURCE: JARP Publishing

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December 10, 2014 17:05 ET

Premier Traveler Magazine (PT) Took the Spotlight Thursday Evening, Once Again Hosting the Who's Who of the Travel Industry to Celebrate Excellence in 2014

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - December 10, 2014) - The glitz and glamour of the evening started as VIPs of the travel industry arrived in record numbers to an entirely lit up Sofitel for the special occasion. Valets welcomed the 200-plus guests, who entered the elegantly decorated lobby and were escorted to the Best of 2014 Awards Gala.

The red carpet was rolled out for the esteemed guests - many of whom had traversed the globe in order to attend the glittering Gala. Photographers were on hand to capture the special moments as guests glided into the reception to meet friends old and new while enjoying top-shelf cocktails and gourmet passed hors d'oeuvres.

The opulent occasion continued as the grand ballroom doors opened. PT Features Editor Janet Forman officially welcomed everyone to celebrate the Best of 2014 Awards winners as voted for by PT's travel-savvy readers for excellence in the travel industry. The excitement built as PT's Master of Ceremonies Jeff Heilman began the evening with a travel tale of his own before announcing each winner and welcoming them to the stage.

Two of this year's invited speakers were named PT's Most Compelling Women in Travel earlier this year. Aubrey Tiedt, Vice President of Guest Services for Etihad Airways, and Aileen Furlong Caffrey, Managing Director of United Airlines' MileagePlus program, both spoke with commanding presence, leaving no doubt as to why they were chosen as Compelling Women in Travel.

Michael Blunt, V.P. of Corporate Communications at oneworld Alliance, also took the stage, charming the international crowd with his dry British wit. Kagnew F. Asfaw, Regional Director for The Americas, Ethiopian Airlines, was glowing as he was handed the award. Accompanied by a proud delegation, Cyril Turner, President of Delta Global Services and Delta Private Jets (DPJ), announced that he was accepting on behalf of entire staff of DPJ. Larry Schneider, V.P. and Chief Project Engineer for Boeing's 777 Program was distinctive and distinguished in his remarks, while Beatriz Gonzalez of Starwood Latin America surprised the crowd as she danced her way to the stage with her hands in the air, garnering a huge applause, taking the mic and performing like a star.

The impressive finale was choreographed by Asiana Airlines - which took an astonishing five awards this year, including Best Flight Attendants in the World - with a dramatically visualized procession of meticulously tailored, elegantly coiffed flight attendants sailing to the stage flanked by Steve Koo, General Manager, Marketing & Alliance, Regional Headquarters, The Americas, who accepted on behalf of Asiana.

Yet for all the glamour and quick-witted banter from travel world luminaries, it was an energetic eleven-year-old girl, Lilliana Gusky of Northridge, California, who stole the hearts of the crowd that night. Bounding gracefully to the stage with a winning smile, Lilliana could easily have charmed the assemblage with stories of her latest volleyball win or her passion to become a forensic scientist, yet this youngster stunned the room with a straightforward account of her ongoing battle with Polyarticular Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (Poly-JIA), which had her hobbling on painfully swollen knees at age seven. Lilliana and her mother, Veronica Delgado, work hard to maintain the regime that keeps Lilliana active: PT Executive Director Adam Rodriguez was so impressed with Lilliana Speech he offered to have the pastry chef put together a special bag of cookies. "Sorry, no sugar the night before a treatment," her mother warned, even at this celebratory dinner.

It's not an easy road for Lilliana and other young patients as the drugs now used to alleviate symptoms of this group of childhood diseases that also include Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and Scleroderma, are effective but not perfect, revealed Kelly Mieszkalski, Executive Director of CARRA, the Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatology Research Alliance. That's why Premier Traveler has earmarked proceeds from this year's silent auction to help this small, but crucial charity fund research for new, gentler treatments, and Thursday night the outlook seemed hopeful. Long after PT hosts left the stage, guests buzzed about Lilliana and her mother, offering words of encouragement, admiration and a generous surge of early donations to help these children live long, productive lives, which hopefully will include the thrills of travel.

"It was definitely a night to remember," said PT Chief Executive Adam Rodriguez. "The travel industry is an ever-changing one, and we are delighted to host this evening that inspires us all to aim for excellence. Our congratulations to all of the winners for impressing our readers with the finest offerings in the travel industry. Possibly the most inspiring speech of the night came from young Lilliana, who inspired all of us to aim higher and keep hope alive. We at PT are aiming and hoping for a wonderful outcome to our charity auction, which will benefit Lilliana and other children who just might dream of being able to travel around the world like so many of us do every day."

About Premier Traveler:
Premier Traveler was designed with its readers in mind: frequent travelers who are perpetually on-the-go (both domestically and abroad), who have high expectations and a taste for luxury. With a focus on excellence in writing and response to reader requests, Premier Traveler provides valuable and relevant insights in an intelligent, energetic style. The magazine is noted for responding to its readers, providing them with detailed informational surveys, insider reviews and in-depth answers to issues concerning frequent travelers.​

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