Travel & Tourism
A lodging industry group hits a turning point.
Now called the Florida Lodging Association, the group of more than 1,100 members plans to announce major initiatives in coming months that will benefit not only its industry but also the state, says Ed Griffin Jr., who became the group's president and CEO last fall. Although he's not ready to talk about details yet, Griffin says the association, headquartered in Tallahassee, is seeking state and federal funding as well as partnership alliances to carry out its plans.
So far those plans call for a new website, a comprehensive branding campaign and industry-specific seminars in partnership with Orlando-based tourism marketing firm Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell, which is helping with the rebranding effort.
The association has adopted the motto "Serving the Entire Lodging Industry." There's no word on whether membership will expand from hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfast inns to include other forms of temporary lodging, such as timeshares.
"The name change is but the first step in a major refocus on the issues facing the lodging community," Griffin says. "The strategy is to better anticipate the events of the future that may shape the business environment for the lodging, tourism and convention industries in Florida."
Griffin has added a key player to the professional staff that oversees the organization: Keith Stephenson, former executive vice president of the Ohio Hotel and Lodging Association, which Griffin says has the best track record nationwide for bringing in and retaining members. A Jacksonville native, Stephenson has been named executive vice president of brand management and business development.
"These changes mark an incredible turning point in our association's history," says Katie Klauber Moulton, who became chairwoman of the 93-year-old group's board of directors last fall and is president and general manager of the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort in Longboat Key. "I am confident our members will share our excitement about these changes and embrace the 'business first' attitude that will be reflected by our programs, political advocacy and increasing presence in the tourism industry and within Florida."
Domestic trips have helped the nation's travel industry rebound to pre-9/11 levels, but international visitation to the U.S. is still down, says Roger Dow, president and CEO of the Travel Industry Association of America. During a presentation in Orlando, Dow recently urged travel industry leaders to help "reclaim and rebrand America" by contacting government officials when policy threatens tourism. He cited three current concerns: America's "fortress" mentality of toughening visa requirements in the wake of 9/11, Europeans' declining image of how the U.S. treats foreign visitors, and an airline infrastructure that's now operating at capacity and would "come to a grinding halt" with a major increase in air travel.
U.S. consumers are feeling more comfortable this year about taking pleasure trips than they were even as recently as the last quarter of 2004, according to the Travel Industry Association of America's Traveler Sentiment Index. Of five factors studied, the most dramatic increase came in the way respondents view their ability to travel based on personal finances, which registered 15% higher than two years ago.