Florida Celebrates 36th Annual National Travel & Tourism Week

The U.S. travel community has celebrated National Travel & Tourism Week the first full week of May since 1984, staging local rallies, hosting events, conducting media outreach and securing proclamations and resolutions from local legislative bodies. Here is a sampling of this year’s events held in Florida:

Greater Miami and the Beaches
Tourism means jobs in Greater Miami and the Beaches … 140.7K to be exact! To kick off NTTW, the Greater Miami CVB hosted its State of the Travel & Tourism Industry Breakfast at the stunning new Royal Caribbean Cruise Line Terminal at PortMiami. President & CEO William D. Talbert III, CDME, provided 300+ attendees with a tourism industry update and announced new 2018 annual visitor numbers, revealing that Greater Miami welcomed a record-breaking 23.3 million total visitors!




Visit Central Florida
Highlighting NTTW, Visit Central Florida visited the gates of LEGOLAND Florida Resort in Winter Haven on May 7. Armed with coloring books, towels and smiles, the staff greeted visitors, thanking them for their support of tourism. Outreach to tourism professionals included offers to tour Frank Lloyd Wright architecture at Florida Southern College, tickets to a Lakeland Flying Tigers game on Hospitality Night and admission to Bok Tower Gardens and Explorations V Children’s Museum.




Visit St. Pete/Clearwater
To celebrate NTTW and the value of tourism, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater hosted a “We Love Visitors!” Travel Rally at St. Pete/Clearwater International Airport (PIE) on May 8. VSPC welcomed more than 1,200 arriving passengers with a baggage claim activation showcasing the destination’s award-winning beaches, arts & culture, and craft beer (aka the Gulp Coast) alongside area chambers of commerce and local businesses, including 3 Daughters and Clearwater Marine Aquarium.




Visit Orlando
Visit Orlando marked NTTW with a proclamation from Mayor Jerry Demings of Orange County and a luncheon where industry and community leaders celebrated the destination’s record 75 million visitors in 2018. On May 13, Visit Orlando President & CEO George Aguel joined CFHLA President & CEO Rich Maladecki at Orlando City Hall to receive a proclamation from Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. Tourism generates upward of $70 billion in annual economic impact and supports 41% of the region’s workforce.





Discover The Palm Beaches
Discover The Palm Beaches hosted more than 100 industry representatives from the travel and tourism community to celebrate Travel Rally Day at the Royal Poinciana Plaza. Palm Beach Outlets was awarded the 28th annual Providencia Award, and the David Burke Partner Awards recognized Eau Palm Beach in the accommodations category, as well as Manatee Lagoon in the non-accommodations category.





Volusia County
Volusia County leaders came together on May 8 to celebrate tourism and record-breaking economic impact. The free event, presented by the Lodging & Hospitality Association of Volusia County, featured a speaker panel that included the area’s three tourism bureaus—Lori Campbell Baker with Daytona Beach, Debbie Meihls with New Smyrna Beach and Georgia Turner with West Volusia. Last year, Volusia County benefited from a record-breaking $6.1 billion spent in local businesses by 10.2 million overnight visitors. Tourism generated an estimated 55,900 jobs overall with a $745+ million payroll.



Bradenton Area CVB
On May 3, the Bradenton Area CVB hosted its annual NTTW event, during which it celebrated the destination’s successes from 2018 and honored two industry leaders with its Champions in Tourism Awards. Board director for Sarasota-Manatee Originals Liza Kubik and Manatee Performing Arts Center CEO Janene Ameck received awards for their leadership and on-going support of tourism efforts and initiatives. The event took place onboard the Anna Maria Princess paddle wheel boat.





Visit Pensacola
Visit Pensacola celebrated why travel matters during NTTW. Some of the successes highlighting the week are the 2018 numbers including visitors to the area (2.3 million), visitor spending ($840 million) and taxes paid by visitors ($23 million). Events included the hospitality Olympics with a record-breaking 14 teams, an awards luncheon, a marketing workshop and a Tourism Gives Back day, where the industry came together to develop 1,500 Pensacola Experience bags for underserved youth in Escambia County.





Visit Gainesville/Alachua County
Visit Gainesville/Alachua County launched the NTTW celebration by proclaiming May 5-11 Tourism Week in Alachua County. Stakeholders attended a Toast to Tourists following the announcement. Hundreds of visitors and locals shared What’s Good about the area on social media and were thanked with daily giveaways. Driving home why travel matters, an editorial promoting a tourist state of mind and highlighting the economic impact of tourism appeared in the Gainesville Sun.





Visit Sarasota County
VSC celebrated its annual NTTW Awards Luncheon where it announced the Sarasota County Tourism & Hospitality Voice of Sarasota recipient, Jeanne Dubi, and the five Faces of Travel recipients. These industry-nominated awards are given each year to those in the community who exhibit excellence in five categories: Management, Frontline, Heart of the House, Volunteer and Rising Star. VSC also shared a video with attendees about why travel matters, featuring local business owners. #TravelMatters





Experience Kissimmee
To celebrate NTTW, the Experience Kissimmee team created a video for Kissimmee’s travel and tourism industry community. The video showcases four individuals sharing their unique stories and why the tourism industry is so important to them. Additionally, the video highlights the economic impact that the tourism industry brings to Osceola County, generating 45,000 tourism-supported jobs.





Lee County
Lee County’s Travel Rally celebrates the end of season and NTTW. On May 1, at Lakes Regional Park, 1,500 attendees took part in this free event, vying for trophies in tourism team races against fellow hotel properties, attractions and restaurants. The Travel Fair and Kidz Korner included 65 exhibitors and local businesses. In Lee County, nearly 5 million visitors spent more than $3 billion annually last year. More than 58,000 jobs—21% of Lee County’s employment or one in five jobs—are due to tourism.




Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach VCB
The Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach VCB has been full steam ahead for NTTW. With the goal of improving communications between the tourism entity and its destination partners, the VCB created a partners-only Facebook page where Charlotte County business owners can stay connected and up-to-date on the latest industry news and media opportunities. To accompany the Facebook page, a brochure highlighting the benefits of working with the VCB including editorial coverage, co-op advertising and group RFPs was created. Over Tourism Week, the VCB distributed branded candy bags to partners alerting them of the new platform.



Naples, Marco Island, Everglades CVB
Naples, Marco Island, Everglades CVB celebrated with its annual State of Tourism presentation, and the CVB Communications team streamed destination experiences via Facebook Live. Followers went along for an Everglades airboat ride, the public debut of two adorable clouded leopard kittens born at Naples Zoo, healthy sips and bites at the new Wellness Wednesday Happy Hour at Edgewater Beach Hotel and a live look at the sunset from Naples Beach.





Visit Jacksonville
Visit Jacksonville marked the week with a unique social media awareness campaign featuring the positive effects of travel and tourism in Jacksonville. Of note: 56,320 Jacksonville residents are leisure and hospitality employees; Jacksonville welcomes more than 22 million out-of-town guests annually, almost 11 million of which are overnight guests; and direct spending by overnight guests is approximately $1.5 billion annually. Visit Jacksonville is proud to promote the city and the fantastic work of the local tourism businesses and attractions.





Visit Tampa Bay
VISIT FLORIDA President & CEO Dana Young was a featured speaker at Visit Tampa Bay’s annual NTTW luncheon on May 7. Young, who lives in Tampa, joined Visit Tampa Bay President & CEO Santiago C. Corrada to present the Laxer Awards, which honor frontline employees in the local tourism industry. At the same luncheon, John McKibbon, chairman of Tampa-based McKibbon Hospitality, was named 2019 Gonzmart Family Tourism Ambassador of the Year.




Florida’s Historic Coast
During NTTW, St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches VCB hosted a Celebration of Travel: Then and Now, which took the local tourism industry on a journey back in time to celebrate the community’s accomplishments and ventured forward with presentations by Destination Analysts, NetWeave and Camelo Communication about what is ahead as the area grows as a thriving tourist destination. Ed Swift III of Historic Tours of America was the keynote speaker, and local high school and college hospitality educators were awarded the Tourism Impact Awards.






Amelia Island CVB
The Amelia Island CVB used NTTW to educate residents and other stakeholders on the importance of tourism in Nassau County. The AICVB produced a 5-minute video on the value of tourism, submitted a letter to the editor of the local newspaper and conducted industry briefing meetings. It also created and published an infographic to better illustrate the many ways tourism positively impacts life in Nassau County.



Visit South Walton
As part of NTTW, Visit South Walton offered several free educational classes for partners, presented an update on the state of tourism in Walton County and sponsored the Walton County Chamber of Commerce’s Power of Business Lunch where the keynote address “Crafting Walton County’s 3-Year Strategic Plan Through Community Input” helped to paint a picture of the roadmap Walton County tourism leaders will follow into the future. Video of the education classes are being made available for those who were not able to attend in person.






Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB
In observance of NTTW, the Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB hosted its 30th annual SUNsational Service Courtesy Awards luncheon on May 8. The event, attended by approximately 500 industry partners, recognized Broward County’s finest frontline hospitality professionals who deliver SUNsational Service to the millions of visitors in the destination. There were 82 award nominees and 11 award winners.






Visit Panama City Beach
For this year’s Tourism Appreciation Week in Florida, Visit Panama City Beach hosted a Real. Fun. Celebration on May 7. This free event was open to locals, visitors and everyone who works so hard to promote the destination. The celebration included food trucks, live music, fireworks and more! Every 91 visitors supports a full-time job in Bay County. The area had a total of $1.9 billion in visitor spending for the last recorded fiscal year and a $2.87 billion total economic impact.



Experience Kissimmee’s COO Interviewed in New Magazine

The Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida has teamed up with Research Features to produce a new magazine for the hospitality and tourism industry, and the first edition of Rosen Research Review has an informative interview with Experience Kissimmee COO Misty Johantgen, CDME. Johantgen shares her perspectives on how DMOs are adapting to the increasingly internet-led industry and how new research is informing marketing strategies. Search online for Rosen Research Review and see page 34 for the interview.


Gov. DeSantis Announces Florida’s All-Time Record First Quarter 

Governor Ron DeSantis announced on May 15 that Florida broke an all-time record for visitation during the first quarter of 2019 with 35.7 million people visiting the Sunshine State from January to March. This is a 5.8% increase from the first quarter of 2018.

“An all-time record quarter of visitation is exciting news for the entire state,” says Governor DeSantis. “As we work to diversify Florida’s economy, it is critical that we keep visitation to Florida, and the revenue it generates, healthy and robust. VISIT FLORIDA plays an important role in this goal, and we will continue to support their work on behalf of Florida and our hardworking taxpayers.”


Space Coast’s Bonnie King Retires After 32 Years

It was a great run. As deputy director of tourism and film commissioner for Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism, Bonnie King ends a three-decades-long career in the tourism business.

King will retire on June 30, 2019. In her roles over the years, she has served and assisted with marketing and public relations; tour and travel; and wore the hat of film commissioner, promoting the area as a destination for film and TV productions. She will leave the Office of Tourism after successfully seeing that the Space Coast has been selected as the location for the new TV show The Right Stuff.King was the first to be hired on staff to support the director of tourism as marketing specialist when the Office of Tourism opened in October 1987. During her tenure, as directors came and moved on, she served as interim director until a new one was found.

“It was never my intention to stay and be the director,” Bonnie says, “because I knew I would not be able to have my hand in as many pies as I do in my role as deputy director. It has served me well.”

King has participated in DF, committees of VISIT FLORIDA, National Tour Association and American Bus Association; serves as president of Film Florida, a not-for-profit association providing a leadership role in Florida’s Film, TV and digital media industry; is the liaison with her four local chambers of commerce; and serves as associate member on the boards for the local Cocoa Beach Hotel Motel Association and the Space Coast Chapter of the Restaurant and Lodging Association.

“I have always worked hard with the many members of our tourism and business community to stimulate tourism growth in order to produce economic benefits,” Bonnie says. “Hard to believe I will wake up on the morning of July 1 and then turn over and go back to sleep.”


New Roles for Zimmerman, Duncan at Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing

Two longtime Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing managers have accepted new positions within the organization. Marc Zimmerman, formerly the senior sales events manager, has a new focus as senior economic development manager. Zimmerman’s new duties include recruiting and developing PCTSM’s major capital development projects as well as infrastructure related to the tourism and sports industry. He will also have divisional fiscal oversight. Neal Duncan, who was the senior business development manager, is taking over Zimmerman’s old role. Duncan is now responsible for overseeing sports event recruiting, management and promotion of more than 260 events annually.;

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