In honor of National Travel & Tourism Week this week, the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority chose four “Faces of Tourism,” recognizing a few of the Charlotteans who make this a thriving tourism destination. And I love that they pulled from the food and beverage category.

Every time someone visits me in town the first question that flashes through my mind is: Where am I going to take them to eat?!

Dining can intensely change someone’s experience of a place. Food is that vital part of survival that, when handled properly, can make you feel taken care of. When handled beautifully, it can make you feel exquisitely loved.

Fittingly, the CRVA sees dining as one of the top activities for Charlotte visitors, 26.8 million of which came into the region in 2015.

The faces of tourism they picked to feature this week are Jamie Brown and Jeff Tonidandel, who own Crepe Cellar, Growlers Pourhouse and Haberdish in NoDa.

Not shocking, since it’s pretty easy to relish Haberdish’s soft lighting, Southern comfort food (pause to dream of the sweet potato dumplings and rotating vegetable sides) and meticulously crafted cocktails (ice cubes with edible flowers, anyone?).

The two other faces the CRVA picked to feature this week are Justin and Sarah Brigham, who own Sycamore Brewing in South End. Also unsurprising, because nothing screams laid-back afternoon like a sprawling beer garden brimming with locally crafted beer and potential for live music.

Those faces are important. As the U.S. Travel Association puts it, “Our industry is one that relies on human interaction — whether it’s the front desk concierge at a hotel, the tour guide in a city’s historic district, or the CEO of a local destination marketing organization.”

This week and the people featured by the CRVA are a good reminder that the people in the places you go shape your experiences. They are the people you sit across from over a meal or over a drink. They are the people who take your order, or craft it to your liking behind the scenes. And they are the people who created the entire concept of the space you sit in.

Remember that the next time you visit a place in Charlotte, whether it’s the restaurant you’ve dined at a hundred times, or the bar that just opened, waiting for you to give it a try. These people are making Charlotte a destination.

Photo: Rémy Thurston

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