2018 Annual Conference: Attractions Industry Professionals Create The Great Escape!
Leaders from Florida’s thriving attractions industry and our finest industry suppliers gathered at the beautiful Naples Grande Beach Resort, June 10-13, making the Florida Attractions 69th Annual Conference the most attended to-date!
This year’s conference theme, Florida Attractions: The Great Escape, focused on the ways in which the leaders of the Florida tourism industry create the Great Escape for their attraction guests everyday and the importance of creating that escape in the effort to create lasting memories and experiences that keep visitors coming back. 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 Nick Romeo entered on a makeshift Mardi Gras parade float decorated and pulled by conference interns. The Launch was also an opportunity to present this year's Florida Attractions Scholarship Foundation Scholarship to this year's two recipients and aspiring hospitality superstars. The festivities continued in the Opening Night in the Networking Center, giving all attendees an opportunity for attraction and associate members to network before heading to the Vista Ballroom for the Sunday Dinner.
Monday morning began with our first General Session speakers Chris Thompson, President & CEO of Brand USA, and Patricia Rojas-Ungar, Vice President of Public Affairs for the US Travel Association. Chris and Patricia gave back-to-back presentations outlining Florida's place in the world as a destination. Everyone then broke out into smaller engaging breakout discussions, where they entered into discussion with topic experts.
At the Annual Meeting Luncheon, Chairman Nick Romeo survived the Temple of Doom fighting off a dinosaur, outrunning a rolling boulder, and finally wrestling the historic FAA gavel from the clutches of a live snake. The Luncheon was concluded with Jennifer Green of Liberty Partners of Tallahassee moderating the Conference's first ever Town Hall featuring three candidates running for Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture.
On Monday afternoon, attendees heard from general session speaker Gary Daniels, Vice President of Digital Experience for Disney Parks & Resorts. Daniels gave attendees a look into his role in numerous innovative initiatives at Disney and how attraction operators can bring innovation to their parks to enhance the guest experience. 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 Members of 2018 were given to Neca and Retta Logan of AAA Flag & Banner and Audrey and Kevin Jowett of Revolution Off Road. The Chairman’s Award, honoring exceptional service and dedication to the FAA, was awarded this year to Barbara Kenney of Kenney Communications.
Immediately following our Celebration Breakfast, expert storyteller Bob Allen provided attendees with insight on how to story their destination's brand. 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 Scott Burrows, a nationally-recognized challenge speaker who shared his inspirational story of standing up when life paralyzes you. It was then time for our Conference Finale, where Nick Romeo passed the gavel to incoming Chairman of the Board Rick Cain of the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum. Rick shared his vision of the future for the FAA and the hard work he will continue to put in to keeping the FAA strong for its members and Florida's tourism industry alike.
With the Conference adjourned, attendees celebrated at our On-Stage Event at the Naples Zoo. Attendees were able to enjoy an evening of food, networking, and live music, while also being treated to animal encounters and a tour of the Naples Zoo by the friendly Zoo staff.
Thank you to everyone for a wonderful Conference!