FFF’s First Blog: Announcing ’09 Regional Tourism Summit

Are you working in or involved in starting or growing an attraction, event, place to stay, place to eat or activity to do in South Central Florida: DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, and Okeechobee counties, and the communities of Pahokee, Belle Glade, South Bay and Immokalee? Then Florida’s Freshwater Frontier invites you to attend a professional development tourism summit on Wednesday, September 16th from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Lake Placid (FL) Camp and Conference Center.

Registration is now through Friday, September 11. The summit will focus on ways rural communities and businesses can partner together to strengthen the tourism industry in this region. Session topics will cover a wide array of issues which impact tourism including diversification, customer service, print and electronic marketing, social media (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, blogs), new business opportunities, and leveraging dollars through grants and partnerships.

“We’ve planned a full day packed with presentations, interactive discussions and best practice sharing,” says Michelle Phillips, tourism coordinator for Florida’s Freshwater Frontier. “Our region’s tourism practitioners already know the importance of attracting visitors. This summit is providing a platform for learning best practices, hot tips to target today’s travelers and how to put tools and resources to best use, like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.”

Registration fee of $25 per person includes beverages, a buffet lunch, dessert, training and materials. Contact Florida’s Freshwater Frontier to register by 4:00 p.m. on Friday, September 11. Call 863-385-7828, or 1-800-467-4540, or send email to mphillips@flaheartland.com. The day includes time for networking, business card and brochure distribution, and door prizes.

Guest trainers include Sebring’s own Casey Wohl, published author of the Girls Getaway Guide series.  These city-specific travel guides for women provide information on where to eat, stay, shop and spa in various cities. She has been featured on several nationally-syndicated morning shows as a travel advisor, as well as in Woman’s Day and Parenting magazines. She has also served as a spokesperson for the Orlando & Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau and VISITFLORIDA.COM, was named a “Woman to Watch” by Orange Appeal Magazine and was listed as one of “101 Women Bloggers to Watch in 2009” by WE Magazine. She recently served as an online spokesperson for Dove Beauty, and is the owner of Gray Dog Communications in Sebring.

Erin Freel Best is the owner of her own marketing and communications firm that specializes in web design, video production and a host of other consulting services. Since its inception in 2000, The Market Place has more than 100 clients, primarily in Florida, but also maintains national accounts in Georgia, Texas and Minnesota. Erin Freel Best started her career as the marketing and promotions director for the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, after graduating from the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Florida.

Judi Durant, C.D.M.E., is the director of Visitor Services for the Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau (VCB), also known to vacationers worldwide as The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel. Judi’s team is comprised of a Tourism Ambassador volunteer and staff corps that provide information to visitors and the traveling public. She oversees coordination of Team Tourism, the VCB’s year-round informational program to impart the latest information on market opportunities and travel trends to local tourism marketers. She is also responsible for the Guests First Customer Service Training Program and the Elaine McLaughlin Outstanding Hospitality Service Awards, known as the E Awards. Under her direction, Visitor Services also provides emergency assistance with airport and airline partners for travelers experiencing crises.

Judi brings years of experience in tourism training and outreach to the summit. She is a fourth generation Lee County native, a graduate of Edison State College and has also served as executive secretary and part time legislative aide to former State Representative J. Keith Arnold with the Florida House of Representatives. In 2002, Judi earned the accreditation of Certified Destination Management Executive (CDME) through the International Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus (IACVB), Purdue University, and the University of Calgary. The CDME program is recognized by the tourism industry as its highest educational achievement, with course work covering vision, leadership and business strategy implementation in preparation for increasing change and competition.

Sandra Friend is the former communications director for the Florida Trails Association. During her employ, Sandra conceptualized both the Florida Trail Gateway Communities program and the first-ever Florida Hiking Festival, held in White Springs in March 2008, and supported major hiking initiatives statewide via a variety of creative media. She holds a degree in Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh, and puts her well-honed research, organizational, and information presentation skills to good use in the areas of web design and new media thru her business in Micanopy, Florida: Genuine Florida.

Representatives from the counties of Glades, Hardee, Hendry and Okeechobee will lead a discussion on new business opportunities in the tourism industry. Summit attendees are encouraged to share their tourism-related business start-up successes and vision for regional growth. John Scherlacher, the director of tourism for Highlands County Visitor and Convention Bureau is leading a presentation called Don’t just cry… it’s time to Diversify! A “no whine” approach to doing more with less in an ever-changing travel market.

If you a leader, owner, manager, director or staff person of an accommodation, retail operation, restaurant, attraction, golf course, public events, chamber of commerce, main street program, local government, airport, TDC/VCB, EDC, or other person involved in the tourism industry in South Central Florida, you do not want to miss this summit. For more information contact Florida’s Freshwater Frontier by calling 863-385-7828, or 1-800-467-4540, or sending a request by email to info@flaheartland.com.

Florida’s Freshwater Frontier, Inc. is the official tourism marketing corporation for the South Central Florida Region named FHREDI: Florida’s Heartland Rural Economic Development Initiative, Inc. Florida’s Freshwater Frontier supports regional tourism through advertising, promotions, public relations, new product development and visitor services programs. As a public/private enterprise, Florida’s Freshwater Frontier partners with six Counties: DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Okeechobee; and the Communities of Belle Glade, Immokalee, Pahokee and South Bay.

To learn more about Florida’s Freshwater Frontier visit, http://www.floridafreshwaterfrontier.com

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