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.;


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.

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