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Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach VCB Welcomes Director Wendie Vestfall

Charlotte County’s new tourism development director comes to her position with almost three decades of marketing experience as well as years of familiarity with and affection for all that her new home has to offer visitors and residents alike.

“My affection for the area stems from having visited family that has lived in the region for years. My parents have a house in Punta Gorda, so this is not an area new to me,” Wendie shares. “My uncle also has been in the Punta Gorda/Cape Coral area since the 70s.”

Prior to relocating to Charlotte County, Vestfall was president of Kent County Tourism in Dover, Delaware, a destination similar to Charlotte County in terms of population, quaint ambiance and bountiful access to water activities. Vestfall commented that her relocation was timely and revealed a major difference between the two locales, having started her new job on February 20.

“When we moved down here, we left in a pretty major snowstorm,” Wendie laughs. “So it was really nice as we moved closer to the Florida border to see the sunshine and the warm weather.”

Along with sunny skies and balmy temperatures, Vestfall says she inherited a marketing campaign called Beach Ready, which she is continuing now that last year’s red tide crisis is over. And the new director was out in the community scouting video locations for a new marketing campaign when FADMO dialed in for a quick telephone interview. The campaign is titled Outsiders Welcome, “since we know the outside is our best side,” she says.

The biggest thing on the destination’s horizon is Allegiant Airlines’ Sunseeker Resorts Charlotte Harbor, which plans to open in fall 2020.

“The airline bought 22 acres here on Charlotte Harbor,” Wendie reveals. “[The resort will have] 700 hotel rooms and over 72,000 feet of meeting space. So, it’s going to change landscapes here. We are going to be embarking on a master tourism plan over the next year as everybody adjusts to having such a large attraction come to our area, having our partners work with them and vice versa, and getting the word out.”

Vestfall says she is looking forward to attending FADMO’s Destination Marketing Summit to be held May 22-24 in Jensen Beach.

“Chip [Futch, the VCB’s marketing director] signed me up for that the first day I was in the office,” she laughs. “I’m looking forward to meeting people, making new friends and sharing best practices and stories of what’s worked and what hasn’t worked.”

Vestfall previously served as marketing and communications director for Discover Prince William & Manassas, Virginia, and has over 28 years of marketing and public relations experience. She holds a BA in business and organizational communications, PR/marketing from the University of Akron (Ohio). Originally from Cleveland, she spent more than 18 years in the Washington, D.C., area before moving to Delaware.

 

Peter Cranis Returns Home to Lead Tourism Promotion for Florida’s Space Coast

The new executive director of Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism grew up on the Space Coast and also is no stranger to FADMO. Peter Cranis graduated from Eau Gallie High School in Melbourne and received an associate degree from Brevard Community College before earning both a bachelor’s and a master’s in communication from the University of Central Florida. Before his most recent position as head of marketing and sales for ICON Orlando (formerly the Orlando Eye), Cranis was vice president of global consumer and convention marketing for Visit Orlando, from 1999 to 2016.

Cranis sat down for an interview with FADMO on March 11, just one week after he had stepped into his new role. While he is very familiar with the destination and the many reasons it is a sought-after destination, he says he plans to spend his first 90 days learning all he can.

“One of my first goals is to meet and talk with industry leaders and political leaders and begin to build relationships with them,” Peter explains. “My goal is to build on the success that my predecessors have had and to build on the success of the destination as a whole.”

Turning to a discussion of how he plans to promote the destination, the enthusiasm in the new director’s voice is unmistakable as he reflects on the many amenities and attractions that make up Florida’s Space Coast.

“Not only do we have beautiful beaches and nature and great attractions to visit, from the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to the Brevard Zoo, but the space industry is really heating up now,” Peter says. “With SpaceX and United Launch Alliance and other entities working on various long-term projects, they’re looking at the potential of manned space flight as early as this year. Where else can you go and experience a great vacation destination and then watch space flight?”

Cranis went on to note that the area is seeing strong growth in hotel inventory, some of it in response to cruise passengers staying in the area before and after sailing from Port Canaveral, one of the top cruise ports in the nation. He says that assisting in keeping rooms filled will be a long-term focus of the DMO.

Peter and his wife, Melissa, always intended to “come home” to Florida’s Space Coast, and they are happy to be back.

“It’s a great place to live, work and play!” Cranis exclaims.

 

Visit Sarasota County Meetings and Group Sales Team Expands

Visit Sarasota County has promoted Ellen Thomas to senior meeting sales manager and has appointed Amanda Walker leisure group sales manager and Allison Jones group sales coordinator. Thomas will lead a team devoted to marketing the destination to meeting professionals and leisure group planners. Walker will work to secure accommodations and community activities for the social, military, educational, religious and fraternal groups market as well as for weddings and travel agents. Previously with The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota sales department, Walker has extensive knowledge of the area, and is passionate about sharing it with these groups. Jones assists Thomas and Walker in acquiring leads and showcasing qualities that make Sarasota the best destination for group conferences, meetings and events. A native of Sarasota, alumna of Riverview High School and recent graduate from the University of Florida, Jones is excited to continue to build relationships within the community to enhance her role with VSC. VisitSarasota.com

 

Dana Young Seeks Industry’s Input as She Takes the Helm at VISIT FLORIDA

On her first day as president and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA, former State Senator Dana Young met with FADMO’s Mat Forrest and Robert Skrob at her office. Young is no stranger to FADMO; in fact, she was named the association’s 2018 Tourism Champion for her efforts to kill legislation that would have prevented DMOs from promoting their destinations, attracting visitors and generating customers for tourism-related jobs. After starting her new job on January 9, Young began traveling throughout the state to meet with as many DMO directors as possible.

Young, a sixth-generation Floridian, is a product of the Florida public school system and received her undergraduate degree in political science from Florida State University. In pursuit of her interests in law and public policy, she graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1993 and returned to Florida to begin her legal career at Fowler, White, Boggs PA. Young served in the Florida House from 2010 to 2016, rising to House Republican leader. Most recently, she served as a senator for District 18 in Hillsborough County.
“As we enter 2019, Florida tourism has much to celebrate,” Young says. “We have achieved seven consecutive years of record visitation and visitor spending, and in 2017, Florida welcomed a record 118.8 million visitors to the state. In 2018, Florida set another tourism record, welcoming 95.8 million visitors from January through September, the highest number of visitors in any nine months in our state’s history. Tourism stimulates our economy and creates jobs unlike any other industry in our state. According to the latest economic impact study, in 2016, visitors had a $112 billion economic impact and supported 1.4 million Florida jobs.
“Thanks to our more than 12,000 partners, including destination marketing organizations from across the state, Florida is well poised to build on this momentum and continue to strengthen Florida’s economy. I look forward to working with our state’s DMOs to better engage travelers and attract even more visitors to our state.”
 

Tammy Heon Chairman

Tammy Heon Elected Chairman of the Board

The Florida Association of Destination Marketing Organizations (FADMO) is proud to announce Tammy Heon as Chairman of the Board.

Ms. Heon is the Manager of Tourism Development for Florida’s Adventure Coast, Brooksville-Weeki Wachee. She has served many positions on the board of directors since October 2015 including CEO Director, Secretary, Treasurer, and Vice Chair.

“This is a well-deserved recognition of the many valuable contributions Tammy has made to our organization,” said Steve Hayes, past chairman of the FADMO board of directors and executive director of Visit Pensacola. “She has a unique perspective of the tourism industry that provides a tremendous advantage. This knowledge, combined with her keen leadership skills, will help position the association for continued positive growth into the future.”

The FADMO serves as the single unifying voice for all of Florida’s destination marketing organizations, providing insight and direction as we face new challenges marked by an increasingly competitive tourism marketplace. Organized in 1996, FADMO strives to increase the overall effectiveness of Florida DMOs’ destination marketing efforts. Its stated mission is to provide cooperative action to enhance and encourage the growth of Florida’s destination marketing organizations through promoting tourism industry education, enhancing professionalism, facilitating the exchange of information between Florida DMOs, developing an awareness of legislative issues and unifying the state’s DMO industry through public relations.

 
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