Last week, the Visit Florida board of directors elected John Lai, president and chief executive officer of the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce, to its executive board as second vice chair.




The board of directors is Visit Florida’s private sector governing body that provides guidance, input, and insight into the evolution of its marketing programs. The board, which is appointed by Enterprise Florida, Inc., in conjunction with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, comprises representatives from key sectors of the tourism industry and is balanced geographically throughout the state.




“We are thrilled to have John Lai serve as second vice chair of Visit Florida’s board of directors for fiscal year 2022-2023,” said Dana Young, Visit Florida president and CEO. “The Sanibel and Captiva area is invaluable to Florida’s tourism industry, and John’s knowledge and expertise have been an asset to Visit Florida throughout his tenure. We greatly appreciate his service to our organization and are looking forward to working with him in his new role.”




The first Sanibel-Captiva chamber president ever to serve on Visit Florida’s board, Lai was appointed in July 2021 for a term that runs through June 30, 2025. He has served at helm of the Sanibel and Captiva chamber since September 2017. Prior to that, he served as membership director for eight months.




“I am honored at such an auspicious appointment at the state tourism level, and look forward to representing Sanibel and Captiva interests in promoting the local travel industry,” said Lai. “The chamber has always enjoyed a close, symbiotic relationship with Visit Florida, and this just takes that one step further.”




Lai has worked in the leisure, travel, and tourism industry for more than 15 years, many of them at island resorts. He served in management positions for The Inns of Sanibel and Sanibel Captiva Beach Resorts, overseeing all facets of operation.




Lai currently sits on the board of directors for Lee County Sports, serves as chair elect of the Florida Association of Chamber Professionals, and is past president of the Lee County Hotel Association and the Fort Myers Conference and Convention Council.




Under Lai’s supervision of the chamber of commerce, Visit Florida named the visitor center one of 13 official Florida Certified Tourism Information Centers. He is also responsible for chartering the Southwest Florida Alliance of Chambers in 2018 in response to the water quality crisis. He has been an active advocate for island economic health both in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C.




“I welcome feedback from the island community to take to the executive board,” said Lai. “My door is always open to hear your concerns relevant to Visit Florida and its mission to focus the spotlight internationally on Florida’s incredible vacation offerings.”






The Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to promoting the prosperity of its members and preserving the quality of life of our community. With over 560 active Chamber members from both islands including businesses from Lee and Collier counties, the Chamber plays a key role in facilitating communication and cooperation between business, residents and government to enhance the economic health of the islands. The Francis P. Bailey, Jr. Chamber Visitor Center is located at the entrance to Sanibel Island and welcomes over 160,000 visitors each year. VISIT FLORIDA named the Visitor Center one of thirteen official Florida Certified Tourism Information Centers. The Visitor Center is open 365 days a year and provides visitors with comprehensive information about things to do, places to visit, where to stay, shop and dine. The Chamber website receives over 1.3 million website visits per year.




For more information about the chamber, visit <>  or contact Landen Drake, communications and marketing manager, at 239-472-8255 or [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]> .