Tourism for Tomorrow Destination Award - World Travel & Tourism Council - April 2008

Think 'tourism destination' and the image that comes to mind is not likely to be a place known for its polluted rivers, abandoned businesses, high unemployment and disenfranchised local communities. Yet, that is exactly what the Blackstone River Valley was when local community members launched the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council (BVTC) in 1985. Their goal was to revitalize the nine communities along the Blackstone River Valley in Rhode Island that formed the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution and then ultimately became a victim of it when the Blackstone became the first polluted river in the Western Hemisphere and its industrial economy collapsed. Working with a wide range of multi-stakeholders, BVTC has shown that tourism can play a key role in helping to revitalize a downtrodden economy and bring back a river once declared "dead" to the benefit of local people, business, and nature. Through a destination stewardship approach to tourism development, including the preservation of the area's natural, cultural and historical heritage, BVTC has succeeded in uniting a community and awakening it to its new economic potential. With innovative projects like the Sustainable Tourism Development and Planning Laboratory, the Council continues to grow and enhance its many offerings, while sharing the lessons it has learned with other tourism destinations. Travel Mole Interview with Bob Billington | Tourism for Tomorrow Website | View Video on Flickr

UNWTO.Sbest Certifcation of Excellence - United Nations World Tourism Organization - September 2006

The UNWTO•THEMIS Foundation and the Education and Knowledge Management Department of UNWTO are pleased to announce that six tourism governance organizations from five UNWTO Member States have obtained the UNWTO.Sbest Certification of Excellence in Tourism Governance. This certification, which recognizes best practices in tourism governance (T-Governance), is aimed at fostering the improvement of service quality in tourism and reinforcing the well-being of civil society. More


Ulysses Award from the United Nations World Tourism Organization - May 2006

United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has nominated The Blackstone Valley Tourism Council as the recipient of the 2006 UNWTO Ulysses Award for Innovation in Tourism Destination. The award, presented for the first time, recognizes the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council "for contributing to positive change with regards to community values in Rhode Island over the past 20 years." UNWTO will formally present the award to Dr. Robert Billington, President of the Tourism Council at a ceremony in Madrid Spain on Thursday, June 1, 2006. UNWTO Secretary-General, Mr. Francesco Frangialli, and the First President of the Autonomous Community of Madrid and writer, Joaquin Leguina Herran will co-chair the Ceremony. Created in 1975, UNWTO is the specialist agency of the United Nations specifically concerned with Tourism and has headquarters in Madrid, Spain. Billington says, "The Blackstone Valley Tourism Council is honored to receive such a prestigious award, and this recognition not only recognizes the work of the Tourism Council but also the work of partners and contributors in the Blackstone Valley, Rhode Island."


North American Travel Personality of the Year - World Travel Awards - Sept. 2008

Dr. Robert Billington, President of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council was chosen as North American Travel Personality of the year. He competed against two other finalists who are: Jay Rasulo, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts; and Cheryl Hudak, President of the 20,000 member American Society of Travel Agencies (ASTA).  World Travel Awards

Tom Roberts Prize for Creative Achievement - RI Council for the Humanities - October 2008

This is the latest in a series of honors for Billington, who earlier this year received the Pawtucket Foundation’s 2008 Heritage Award and the World Travel Awards’ North American Travel Personality of the Year Award. And before that, Billington received the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s Ulysses Prize. Billington promotes tourism by combining it with historic preservation, environmentalism and commercial development. Tribute video on YouTube

Smithfield Resident Presented with the Mary Brennan Tourism Award by Rhode Island Hospitality Association - December 8, 2008

Cranston, RI – December 8, 2008 – The Rhode Island Hospitality Association (RIHA) recently honored Dr. Robert Billington, Smithfield resident and President of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, with the Mary Brennan Tourism Award at its “Stars of the Industry” Annual Meeting and Awards Ceremony. The Stars of the Industry Awards recognize the outstanding achievements of members in the hospitality, foodservice and tourism industries. Award recipients were chosen not only for their dedication and contributions to their careers, but for their involvement in their local communities.

“It is with great pleasure that I congratulate and thank Bob for his contributions to our industry, and the Blackstone Valley in particular,” said Dale J. Venturini, President and CEO of RIHA. “His achievement goes far in making the hospitality and tourism industry one of the most successful, strengthening the industry’s position as the cornerstone of the state’s economy and the community.” More

Heritage Award - Pawtucket Foundation - April 2008

Developer Lance J. Robbins is a real estate lawyer based in Los Angeles. Tourism director Robert D. Billington is Blackstone Valley born and bred. The two men live thousands of miles apart, but both have had a major impact on the city and its redevelopment.  In recognition of that impact, the Pawtucket Foundation honored them at its fifth annual awards celebration, which took place in the Pawtucket Armory last night.  Billington, 57, received the foundation’s Heritage Award for his leadership of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council. Robbins, 60, was named the foundation’s Person of the Year. 

Other Awards

  • National Park Foundation Environmental Conservation Award 2000
  • Rhode Island Coastal Cleanup Institutional Award 1999
  • Blackstone Valley Explorer is Yankee Magazine Editor's Pick 1999
  • Audubon Society of Rhode Island Organization of the Year 1998
  • Save the Bay Environmental Achievement Award 1997
  • American Society of Landscape Architects Honor Award 1997
  • Awarded grant by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1996
  • New England Foundation for the Arts Cultural Programs Honor 1996
  • Society of American Travel Writers Phoenix Award 1995