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October 22, 2018

Visit Florida blog

Ken Lawson: Partnership Importance and Visit to Miami

As you know, I have been traveling the state, engaging with our partners, DMOs, board members, legislators and other stakeholders to listen, learn, and offer VISIT FLORIDA’s support at every stop. I want to earn your trust and learn from you first hand. This has been a hard year for all of us. VISIT FLORIDA is your organization, one that each of our Industry Partners have built over the years. Its value cannot be underestimated.

During this past year, I came in as an outsider and fought by your side. Thanks to Governor Scott and each of you, we were able to achieve full funding. Without your constant efforts, we would have failed. Nevertheless, the battle was hard and messy. It is now time to heal and come together. As part of this process, I am humbly reaching out to you to hear your story, learn about your challenges, and determine how VISIT FLORIDA can help with your future success.

Let me share what I learned this week as I visited the Miami area. I began my trip on Friday by meeting with Simone Champagnie, VISIT FLORIDA Board Member and Executive Director of Development at the FIU Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management. Simone gave us a tour of the school’s outstanding classroom facilities, and we discussed its importance as one of only two schools in the state with a program dedicated to hospitality and tourism. We also learned some of the cutting edge issues the students are tackling and their significance to our industry. We then met with Susan Harper, the Canadian Consul General, who has become a dear friend and strong supporter of VISIT FLORIDA. I updated her on my recent visit to Canada, and the newfound success we’re having marketing to Canada’s increasingly diverse population.

Next, we met with Christopher Gould and his team at Jungle Island, one of the true gems of Miami. Chris shared with us some of the exciting things on the horizon for them, and I thanked him for their continued partnership and support. Finally, we met with Axel Roy Zeissig, the Vice Consul General of Germany. We discussed Germany’s importance to Florida as part of our international efforts, and I gained valuable insight from him into areas of potential growth.

Saturday morning, I gave a presentation on our new marketing plan at the International Multicultural & Heritage Tourism Summit. It was great to meet with their group, and Andy Ingraham does a terrific job putting on the event each year. From there, I traveled to Sawgrass Recreation Park in Weston and met with Christina Schwartzman and her husband, “Gator Tim.” I thanked them for their strong support and continued partnership, and we discussed new ways we can continue to communicate and engage with our small and medium sized partners. Tim took me on a private airboat tour of the Everglades, and I saw firsthand how unique the experience they offer is, and how important it is to showcasing the beauty of our state. That evening, I attended the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators & Developers’ (NABHOOD) Apex Awards ceremony, where I was proud to accept an award for VISIT FLORIDA’s outstanding marketing efforts.

On Sunday, I met with Gene Prescott, owner of the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables and a VISIT FLORIDA Board Member, and Bill Talbert, president of the Greater Miami CVB and Immediate Past Board Chair of VISIT FLORIDA. I thanked Bill and Gene for their service, and listened to their suggestions on how VISIT FLORIDA can continue to maximize our efforts together moving forward.

On Monday, I rounded out my trip by meeting with Representative David Richardson of Miami Beach and Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens. They both expressed their continued support of VISIT FLORIDA’s mission, and I updated them on our new marketing plan and exciting opportunities on the horizon.

As I plan other trips like this in the weeks and months to come, I look forward to engaging with as many of you as I possibly can to better understand the vital role each of you play in the continued success of our industry.

Ken Lawson
President & CEO

This blog post first appeared at

Tags: Miami-Dade, Government/Politics & Law

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