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15th Annual Van Ness Butler Jr. Hospitality Award Winner: Lino Maldonado

While the Van Ness Butler Jr. Hospitality Award may be an individual honor, Lino Maldonado, the 2018 recipient, says the honor is a team effort. “This award is an incredible honor personally, but it really belongs to all of the people who have invested in my career through their leadership, coaching, and mentoring, but most of all    my staff who inspire me each and every day,” he said.

The Van Ness Butler Jr. Hospitality Award, which was presented to Maldonado during Visit South Walton’s Annual Meeting Oct. 27, honors and recognizes excellence in hospitality, service, travel/tourism, advertising, promotion, and contributions to the local community.

Now serving as the vice president of operations, growth, and innovation for Wyndham Vacation Rentals North America, Maldonado has been involved in the hospitality industry since 1996, when he vividly remembers starting during the July 4th holiday.

“I guess I thought that if that was as crazy as it gets, I could make a run at this business,” he says. “Boy, did I learn some great lessons along the way. In fact, I    often joke about writing a book someday.”

These days, Maldonado stays energized through his connections and relationships with various business colleagues and guests from around the world. When it comes to the hospitality business, Maldonado knows that it’s not a one-man show. It’s about coming together as a team to help deliver a memorable experience.

So how does tourism help shape South Walton? In many ways, as Maldonado will tell you. But with that said, he also stresses the importance of balance.

“Almost every person you meet benefits from a healthy tourism economy,” he says. “Even our residents not directly employed in tourism benefit by reduced taxes which are offset by our visitors. It’s imperative, however, that we continue to strike the right balance between residents and guests so that our communities can continue to thrive.”

Given that he’s been in the hospitality and tourism arena since 1996, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Maldonado has certainly seen plenty of changes and growth with each turn of the calendar.


Looking at growth, Maldonado is quick to point to vacation rentals, which he says have not even begun to “scratch the surface of their popularity.” He also points to changes in technology, which have allowed certain processes to become more efficient but have also disconnected part of the human element that helps build relationships and create memories.

Much like the balance between technology and human interaction, there’s also an important balance between work and play. So when he wants to escape for a bit, you can typically find Maldonado and his family out on their boat or cheering in the stands at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee. And while it may be a little surprising, Maldonado says he doesn’t spend as much time at the beach as one would think.

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