The functions of Visit Florida, the state’s official destination marketing organization, are multi-pronged, but one has to do specifically with Disaster Response, members of the SanCap Chamber learned at the Oct. 25 monthly business luncheon, held at Pink Shell Beach Resort on Fort Myers Beach.

“We work to help areas like yours that are impacted by crisis – most recently, obviously, Hurricane Ian, Hurricane Idalia,” said Visit Florida President and CEO Dana Young, who spoke at the meeting. Visit Florida commissioned a study that found the negative impact of national media coverage of the hurricanes valued at $164 million with 1.5 million media impressions, she said.

“So, we are working with [the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau] to do a national TV campaign with a recovery message,” said Young, who was scheduled to tour the islands that afternoon. “We are constantly working as we travel to get the message out that the area is open. I’ll be able to talk more authoritatively when I meet with groups about exactly what things are looking like. You know, I can get people to come here, that is not the problem. But I want them to understand what they’ll be seeing. It’s all about spin. ‘Imagine the shells you’re going to find on the beach after no one’s been looking for a year. Think about a beach where you may not see another person… and the newly renovated hotel rooms.’”

Earlier that morning, Young met with key local tourism players in a chamber-hosted round table that included Visit Florida staff; Sen. Jonathan Martin, who represents the Southwest Florida district in the state senate; and Niki Welge, with the Division of Economic Development FloridaCommerce.

“People who have Florida in their souls are going to continue to come here,” Young said as she listened to each attendee’s recovery challenges and needs. “We’ve got to give people reasons to come back again and again.”

At the chamber meeting, Young shared statistics demonstrating Florida “is beating the pants off the competition.” Most importantly, overseas visitations are up, she said, and Visit Florida is moving steadily in the direction of in-state promoting. She explained current initiatives to promote beyond beaches, such as culinary video series and regional marketing in partnership with Expedia to fill in seasonal gaps in visitation. She indicated Southwest Florida would be benefiting from the latter program on a year-round basis to help with hurricane recovery.

“The progress of our recovery resides in the hands of our destination marketers – the VCB and Visit Florida,” said SanCap Chamber President and CEO John Lai, who also serves as vice chair for the Visit Florida executive board. “We need them like oxygen, and we thank Dana for taking the time to come down to truly witness our recovery and what we need to shorten the timeline to get businesses here back up and running.”

He also thanked Comcast and Clive Daniel Home for sponsoring the October luncheon.


The chamber has scheduled its next business lunch meeting for Wednesday, Nov. 15, at The Community House on Sanibel Island, featuring speakers Toni Westland, supervisory refuge ranger at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, and Ann-Marie Wildman, executive director of the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society (DDWS). DDWS and SCORE are sponsoring the luncheon.



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. 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].