U.S. Travel Association announced the recipients of the 2021 Destiny and Mercury Awards and the State Tourism Director of the Year at the annual ESTO conference (Educational Seminar for Tourism Organizations), held August 15-17 in Los Angeles.

Awards for 33 categories were presented for excellence in destination marketing and inspiring visitation, a critical component to the continued recovery of the travel industry.

Destiny and Mercury Awards

The Destiny Awards recognize excellence in destination marketing on the local and regional level, while the Mercury Awards recognize achievements on the state level. A judging panel of marketing experts from organizations including HarperCollins Publishers, Hylink North America, Hilton, Tourism Cares and Socialisssima selected honorees in these award programs.

Visit Panama City Beach was the winner of the Destiny People’s Choice award, and the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism took home the Mercury People’s Choice award. Voting for this category was open to U.S. Travel’s destination marketing organization members, as well as all ESTO delegates. U.S. Travel created the People’s Choice award to increase delegate engagement at ESTO and allow for sharing of best practices and inspiration.

A full list of the Destiny and Mercury Award recipients is available online.

2021 ESTO Destiny Awards

Credit: Kyle Espeleta Photography

State Tourism Director of the Year

The National Council of State Tourism Directors selected Brad Dean of Discover Puerto Rico as 2021’s State Tourism Director of the Year. This annual award recognizes a state tourism director who has successfully raised the profile of his or her state or U.S. territory as a travel and tourism destination. Each year’s honoree is selected by a panel of their peers; prior to ESTO, state tourism directors from all U.S. states and territories vote for the individual exhibiting the most impressive achievements in state-level destination marketing.

Please click here to learn more about Brad Dean’s selection as State Tourism Director of the Year.


U.S. Travel Association is the national, non-profit organization representing the $1.3 trillion travel industry, an essential contributor to our nation's economy and success. U.S. Travel produces programs and insights and advocates for policies to increase travel to and within the United States. Visit ustravel.org for more information.



Greg Staley

Senior Vice President, Communications