Superheroes Revealed! Annual Conference 2017

Leaders from Florida’s thriving attractions industry and our finest industry suppliers gathered at the beautiful Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa from May 21 to 24 to experience the Florida Attractions 68th Annual Conference.

This year’s conference theme, Superheroes: Reveal the Extraordinary in You, focused on the ways in which the leaders of the Florida tourism industry act as superheroes on a daily basis for the ways they create once-in-a-lifetime experiences for their guests. Attendees enjoyed three days of engaging guest speakers, interactive breakouts and roundtables, an active Networking Center and Silent Auction, and much more.

On Sunday, the conference was preceded with a number of special annual gatherings that allowed members to celebrate the past year as well as to prepare for the days ahead, including the Statesmen Luncheon for past leaders, the Associate Member Mingle for new associate members, and the Chairman's Reception for first-time attendees to the conference. We are always glad to meet our newest members and to welcome them to the Florida Attractions family, and our new ambassador program helped to bring new attendees into the FAA family.

At our dynamic Conference Launch, our Chairman Scott Rose entered as Mr. Incredible and flew to the stage to host the week's festivities. The Launch was also an opportunity to present this year's Florida Attractions Foundation Scholarship to four incredible young hospitality superstars with bright futures ahead. The festivities continued in the Opening Night in the Networking Center, giving all attendees an opportunity to network as dinner was served among the lush greenery of the Arbor Ballroom.

Monday morning began with our first General Session speaker Brett Culp, a documentary filmmaker and inspirational speaker. Brett shared how everyone can be a superhero, regardless of their means; industry professionals don't always know the immediate impact of the difference they're making, but they should remain confident that they are definitely making a difference. Everyone then broke out into smaller engaging breakout discussions, where they entered into discussion with topic experts.

At the Annual Meeting Luncheon, the historic FAA gavel passed down every year to the new Chairman was won from the hands of Darth Vader, who represented the evils of the Florida tourism industry. We then heard from featured speaker Jennifer Green from Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, who provided us with an outlook of the repercussions of the 2017 Legislative session.

On Monday afternoon, attendees heard from general session speaker Matt Heller, owner of Performance Optimist Consulting. Through a number of exercises, Matt helped our attendees hone in on their strengths as well as areas for improvement in the operation of their attractions. The afternoon followed with a selection of interactive industry roundtable discussions, giving our members an open forum to talk about a wide range of relevant topics.

Tuesday’s festivities began with our much-anticipated Celebration Breakfast, where our Association’s incredible members are honored. Awards for Outstanding Associate and Attraction Member of 2017 were given to Nicole Dubinsky of Dippin' Dots and Jennifer Berthiaume of Lion Country Safari. The Chairman’s Award, honoring exceptional service and dedication to the FAA, was awarded this year in memoriam to Thom Stork.

Immediately following our Celebration Breakfast, generational expert Meagan Johnson provided attendees with humorous insight into how generations can work together and learn from each other in the workplace. A final round of breakout sessions brought us to a final visit to the Networking Center, where we counted down to the end of another successful Silent Auction.

Our final featured speaker was Daniel Levine, a travel trends expert who helped distinguish between fads and much more permanent trends. It was then time for our Conference Finale, where Scott Rose passed the gavel to incoming Chairman of the Board Nick Romeo of Merlin Entertainments. As one of the most vocal proponents of FAA membership, Nick is the perfect member to bring our Association to ever growing heights.

With the Conference adjourned, attendees celebrated at our Onstage Event at Aunt Kate's Restaurant. Attendees were able to appreciate the important history of this local favorite while enjoying live music and a low-country boil full of delicious fresh seafood options. Frank and Betty Usina hosted conference attendees for this special event at their restaurant.

Thank you to everyone for a wonderful Conference – this was our best meeting yet! We can’t wait to see all of our members at the Naples Grande for our 2018 Annual Conference from June 10-13.