Florida Attractions Association 2021 Chairman’s Annual Report
On June 11, 2019 I had the distinct honor of accepting the Florida Attractions Association gavel from my friend Rick Cain to begin serving you as Chairman for a new year, and for the second time. We had great expectations as the tourism industry in Florida was strong and growing, and our attraction members expanding their offerings to our visitors from around the world. Leadership requires casting a vision, and I spoke then about how our industry leaders will continue to set the standard for excellence in how we engage our teams and our guests and push ourselves to adapt to a dynamic world. None of us could have imagined how our world would change in the months ahead.
As we moved through the summer of 2019, many of our members experienced record attendance, outstanding financial results and pushed forward our ambitions to meet and exceed the expectations of our guests.
Our Board of Directors was engaged, meeting at the Florida’s Governors Conference in September, during the IAAPA Attractions Expo in November and in conjunction with Florida Tourism Day in Tallahassee in January 2020. To my fellow Board Members, I thank you. Your service has been exemplary. When the world was at its worst, you demonstrated your best – pressing forward to help lead our industry through the most difficult test imaginable. You receive nothing in terms of financial renumeration or material reward for your service, but you have earned the esteem of your colleagues. For your dedication to our Association, I give you my deepest thanks.
Our events and benefit programs continued to flourish as we entered the fall of 2019. The 2020 Official Guide Map to Florida Attractions – one of the most requested guide maps at Florida Welcome Centers, was published as well as the South Florida Attractions Map. Our Florida Attractions Scholarship Foundation hosted another successful golf tournament. Seven Networking Nights were hosted around the state. Over 150 of our members and guests enjoyed a Networking Breakfast at the IAAPA Attractions Expo. Dozens of our members gathered in Tallahassee to lobby our Legislators for VISIT FLORIDA funding and the protection of our Tourism Development Tax revenue for their intended purpose. Our Attraction Regional Forums in February 2020 produced record participation in our 4-day, 4-city forum tour. Planning for our 2020 Annual Conference in June at The Vinoy in downtown Saint Petersburg was moving full speed ahead, with our Host Committee assembled and speakers booked.
All signs moving forward were positive and our industry anticipated that 2020 would be another record tourism year.
Except, for one slight detail. These persistent reports about a virus outbreak in a town we’ve never heard of in a country around the world.
Each of us have etched in our memories that exact point in time when the reality of what a pandemic would mean – to ourselves, our families and friends, our communities, businesses, our country and the world.
In a matter of days, we were moved from full throttle forward to an “E-stop”, uncertain world with a virulent disease. “15 Days to Flatten the Curve”, became weeks and then months.
While each of us has a unique story of how the pandemic affected us – from the sickness and death of loved ones, to furloughs and layoffs, to masks and vaccines – there is a part of our journey we travelled together. It’s the story of how our attractions industry, and more specifically members of the Florida Attractions Association banded together to share, to learn and yes, even to grieve as we endured the pain of losses and the triumph of our successes.
Our FAA – our association and our members have demonstrated the strength of working through this pandemic together. Our team transitioned overnight from a benefits and events-oriented organization to a support, information and networking facilitator and communicator to help us move through the challenges.
Your Florida Attractions Association hosted numerous educational webinars; it presented the Attraction Regional Forum using a uniquely interactive web-based platform; it lobbied county commissions, state legislators and Members of Congress; it distributed information on state and federal relief and stimulus programs; it was the first Association to publish best practices for reopening attractions in a pandemic; it was the link in communicating the intent of the Governor’s Executive Orders; it helped over two dozen of our attraction members reopen much faster as a result of the its intervention; it testified before a Senate subcommittee in Washington DC; it created numerous opportunities to facilitate intel sharing on operating in a pandemic.
Our efforts resulted in positive outcomes for our members. We’ve become stronger through association and have been the model for attractions worldwide demonstrating that through wise and prudent protocols, it is possible to welcome guests back into our attractions while ensuring the safety of our employees and our guests. Florida Attractions continue to set the standard for the world.
Leadership expert John Maxwell wrote, “Going through adversity, though not pleasant at the moment, opens the door to new levels of influence. By staying poised and keeping a positive attitude under pressure, leaders can pass through adversity having grown in stature more than they ever could have in comfortable times.”
As we move through final days of the pandemic and into our “brave new world”, we should celebrate that we’re not the same as we were before. We’re better. Adversity builds character. And looking around the room this morning, judging from the characters I see…we must have experienced a lot of adversity!
You are a remarkable group of friends and colleagues. Thank you for the opportunity to serve with you. For your encouraging words and supportive actions, I give you my deep appreciation. At some point in our career path, either we chose attractions or attractions chose us. Whatever your story is, know that there’s no more noble a career path than one that is predicated on bringing joy, inspiration, hope, and connection to a world in need.
Let’s keep that spirit alive as we move into our next great adventure.
Chairman of the Board
August 30, 2021