SB2: What We Learned About International Tourism and Business

SRQ Magazine hosted the November SB2: International Travel & Business monthly seminar on Thursday, November 20th at The Francis Hotel. This month’s turnout nodded to the heightened importance of the topic on our community. The morning kicked off with an impressive breakfast spread (including the often duplicated, never replicated bacon) and a presentation by Jeff Mayers, General Manager of The Resort at Longboat Key Club. Mayers set the tone for the panel discussion by turning the focus on the critical mission of maintaining a healthy tourism and economic climate for businesses within our region.

Panelists of the November 20 SB2 Symposium. From Left to Right: Max Stewart, Joan McGill, SRQ Executive Publisher Wes Roberts, Jeff Mayers, Virginia Haley, Elliott Falcione.

Panelists of the November 20 SB2 Symposium. From Left to Right: Max Stewart, Joan McGill, SRQ Executive Publisher Wes Roberts, Jeff Mayers, Virginia Haley, Elliott Falcione. Photo Credit: Shane Donglasan.

Participants in the panel discussion provided their insights on the best way to keep the Sarasota and Bradenton area on the map when it comes to international tourists and recruiting international businesses to the area. Joan McGill of the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County noted that one of the biggest driving factors for companies to relocate or open operations in Sarasota is that, “the CEOs have a connection to Sarasota and want to live here.” With a friendly tax climate to businesses as the second motivator, the real value of the area is that people who have visited Sarasota have a strong desire to relocate here. Max Stewart of Enterprise Florida in Tampa joined the panel emphasized the geographic location of Sarasota and Bradenton as a motivator to international business. With close proximity to Central America, maintaining relationships with businesses looking to expand globally is critical to the future business climate to the region.

While attracting new businesses to the area, maintaining a healthy tourism industry is equally important. Knowing the habits of international travelers plays a role in how Visit Sarasota County allocates their efforts to attract tourists. Virginia Haley of Visit Sarasota County made a compelling case for targeting international travelers, “international visitors to Sarasota spend twice as much and stay two times longer than domestic tourists.” She also noted that the drive market to the area during the summer months is made up of domestic tourists with one goal in mind: beach time. International tourists that visit the area during other seasons have a heavier focus on the cultural institutions and the arts.

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SRQ Magazine Executive Publisher Wes Roberts moderates the panel discussion. Photo Credit: Shane Donglasan.

Attracting tourists and having them among us are two different things. Jeff Mayers of The Resort at Longboat Key Club reminded those in attendance that tourism doesn’t stop with brining people to hotels, but accommodating them throughout their stay. “Our infrastructure needs to be able to sustain the influx of people to the area.” Ensuring that our roads are adequate and that there are enough accommodations is just as important as branding the area as a prime destination for travelers. Once we get tourists here (and especially during peak season), the transition to an increase of traffic and people can be frustrating. However, Elliott Falcione of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau reminded us that the dollars spent by tourists while visiting improves the quality of life for residents of the area.

All in all, we learned a great deal. And on top of that, we are grateful for our panelists that work hard to put our region on the map in the tourism and international business sector. In doing so, they fight for jobs in our region and ensure that when expansion does happen, it is done property to maintain the elements that make our community unique and inviting.

Thank you to our sponsors who made this great event happen: CS&L CPAs, IMG Academy, and event sponsor The Resort at Longboat Key Club. Photos from the event are posted online and can be viewed here. A transcript from SB2 will be posted soon on SRQMagazine.com under Dig Data.

The December SB2 is closer than you think! We will be meeting for lunch at the IMG Academy Golf Club to discuss “The Business of Philanthropy” on December 8, 2014 at 11:30 am. Don’t miss your chance to hear from the best and brightest our region has to offer when it comes to philanthropic insights. Purchase your tickets today at www.srqsb2.com. See you soon!

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