Last week, John Lai, president and chief executive officer of the SanCap Chamber, took the one-year position of chair for the Visit Florida board of directors, moving up from second vice chair. The board of directors is the governing body for Visit Florida’s private sector. It provides guidance, input, and insight for 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 chair of Visit Florida’s board of directors for fiscal year 2024-2025,” said Dana Young, Visit Florida president and chief executive officer. “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 SanCap 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.


“I joined Visit Florida because local tourism marketing is near and dear to my heart,” says Lai. “Tourism is the economic driver for our state and also the employer of 1 in 5 people in Lee County. I appreciate the importance of Visit Florida. It brings visitors to Florida from in and out of the state who could potentially go to competing destinations such as the Caribbean.”


Lai has served at the helm of the Sanibel and Captiva islands chamber since September 2017. Prior to that, he served as membership director.


“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 at a most crucial time as we continue to recover from Hurricane Ian.”


Lai has worked in the leisure, travel, and tourism industry for more than 35 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.


The chamber president currently sits on the board of directors for Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association and Lee County Sports, served as past chair 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, 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. Since Hurricane Ian’s devastation in 2022, he has been hailed for his strong, creative leadership in the survival and recovery of the business industry and community as a whole on Sanibel and Captiva.


“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 locally, nationally, and internationally on Florida’s incredible vacation offerings.”


Other members serving with Lai on the Visit Florida executive board include past chair Jennifer Rominiecki, chief executive officer of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota; vice chair Eric Marshall, senior vice president of Universal Orlando; secretary Michael Corrigan, president and chief executive officer of Visit Jacksonville; and treasurer Malinda Horton, executive director of Florida Association of Museums.



The SanCap Chamber is dedicated to promoting the prosperity of its members and preserving the quality of life of our community. The Chamber plays a key role in facilitating communication and cooperation between business, residents, and government to enhance the economic health of the islands. Its website,, receives over 1.3 million visits per year. For more information about the chamber, visit or contact John Lai, president and CEO, at 239-472-2348 or [email protected].