On Aug. 26, The Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau (VCB) awarded two employees from Sanibel and Captiva islands and honored 113 other island nominees at its 21st Annual Elaine McLaughlin Outstanding Hospitality Service Awards (“E Awards”), reports the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce. The awards honor tourism professionals and their extraordinary customer service and dedication — hospitality industry employees who go above and beyond to take care of visitors.


Residents, visitors and colleagues wrote 627 nominations for 467 individual nominees this year. Awards were presented in seven categories: Other Services/Businesses, Restaurants, Transportation, Good Samaritan, Attractions, Accommodations, and Best Tourism Boss.


In the Other Services/Businesses category, Christopher Comer with Tree West won the award for assisting cyclist in a biking accident by transporting him to a medical center.


The Honor of Distinction award goes to a nominee who overall exemplifies the best in customer service and hospitality professionals who love their jobs, love the destination but, more importantly, love people. Marina Bloetz, a six-time nominee with South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island, won this year’s award for personally caring for a family dealing with a child involved in a near-drowning accident. She assisted the family at the hospital until they were able to take the child home.


Staff from the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce attended the awards breakfast at the Caloosa Sound Convention Center & Amphitheater in downtown Fort Myers to support island nominees, including two of its own visitor center staff: Nancy McDole and Anne Liese received nominations in the Other Business/Service category.


Other island businesses with nominees include: Bailey’s General Store, 26 nominees; Beachview Cottages, two nominees; Billy’s Rentals & Bike Shop, four nominees; Captain Bubby’s Island Tours, four nominees; Casa Ybel Resort, eight nominees; Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grill, one nominee; Inns of Sanibel, three nominees; The Island Cow, one nominee; Island Inn, one nominee; J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society, five nominees; Matzaluna Restaurant, one nominee; Royal Shell Vacations, three nominees; Sandalfoot Beachfront Condominium, one nominee; Sanibel Moorings Condominium Resort, 12 nominees; Sanibel’s Song of the Sea, three nominees; Shell Island Beach Club, one nominee; Sundial Beach Resort & Spa, 18 nominees; Tarpon Bay Explorers, 11 nominees; and ‘Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa, four nominees.


“Congratulations to island winners and nominees alike for this great honor demonstrating the level of commitment, care, and service that prevails throughout the Sanibel and Captiva business communities,” said John Lai, chamber president and chief executive officer. “I can’t begin to express the sense of pride my staff and I felt sitting among such a great representation of employees who come to work on the islands each day with a sense of duty toward the hospitality and tourism industry that is so important to our economy and well-being.”



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 more than 460 active Chamber members from both islands and 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 tens of thousands of visitors each year. VISIT FLORIDA named the visitor center one of 13 official Florida Certified Tourism Information Centers in the state. It is open 365 days a year and provides comprehensive information about things to do, places to visit, and where to stay, shop, and dine. The chamber website sanibel-captiva.org receives more than 1.3 million website visits per year.


For more information about the chamber, visit sanibel-captiva.org or contact Landen Drake, communications and marketing manager, at 239-472-8255 or [email protected].