Last week, John Lai, president and chief executive officer of the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce, received confirmation from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) and Gov. Ron DeSantis of his appointment to the Visit Florida Board of Directors. The appointment is effective July 1 and runs through June 30, 2025.
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 DEO, is comprised of representatives from key sectors of the tourism industry and is balanced geographically throughout the state.
“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 first Sanibel-Captiva chamber president ever to serve on the board. “The chamber has always enjoyed a close, symbiotic relationship with Visit Florida, and this just takes that one step further.”
Lai took the president and CEO position at the Sanibel and Captiva chamber in September 2017. Prior to that, he served as membership director for eight months.
He has worked in the leisure, travel, and tourism industry for more than 15 years, many of them at island resorts. Lai served in management positions for The Inns of Sanibel and Sanibel Captiva Beach Resorts, overseeing all facets of operation.
He 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 board of directors,” 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.”
ABOUT SANIBEL & CAPTIVA ISLANDS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
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 http://sanibel-captiva.org receives over 1.3 million website visits per year.