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January 2021 VCB Newsletter

Jan. 1 sunrise, Bat House Park, Matlacha

From the bureau

Turning the page to a brighter future

Happy New Year! As we begin 2021 with a renewed sense of optimism, we look forward to welcoming visitors to our destination as we head into the winter season. It’s hard to resist our warm temperatures and natural outdoor settings where it’s easy to socially distance.

According to the VCB’s most recent survey that tracks consumer sentiment, over half of those surveyed feel it is safe to travel or vacation again. Other findings include:

  • In December, more consumers traveled
  • Beaches continue to be considered the safest travel-related activity
  • Preference for traveling by air and actual air travel increased significantly in this 7th wave of the survey
  • Seven in 10 consumers plan on getting the vaccine to prevent COVID-19. 

Recognizing the importance of the first quarter to each of you, we have shifted more marketing dollars to our winter efforts – an approximate 12% YoY increase. Tactics include placements with Condé Nast, Meredith, Tripadvisor and Pandora, plus cold-weather targeting in key Midwest markets. Advanced TV, podcasts and influencer partnerships are also part of the mix. Our “full-funnel” approach is reaching people ready to travel now or making plans for the future.

Thankfully, our nation has begun the first of the vaccine rollout and we look forward to consumers regaining confidence so they can resume traveling. In the meantime, it continues to be important to follow safety protocols.

Throughout 2020, our industry once again proved its resilience, strength and commitment to staying united in the face of crisis. The VCB staff and I are proud and humbled to work with this extraordinary local business sector that sparks happiness for many while creating and supporting jobs and contributing to a strong Lee County economy. We truly appreciate your support of tourism marketing as we continue to join forces for the economic well-being of our community and its residents.

Let’s work together to turn the page to a brighter future.

Tamara Pigott

VCB executive director

Tamara Pigott Headshot
COVID-19 & red tide resources

Vaccine reservations set up through call center

Beginning at noon today, high-risk frontline health care workers and those 65 and older can make reservations to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by calling 1-833-618-2001. The call center will remain closed until that time. For more information, please visit

The call center will be open from noon to 8 p.m. today and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. the rest of the week until 5,000 appointments are filled.


United Way 211 Hotline
Lee County Government
Lee County VCB


Florida COVID-19 Response


U.S. Travel Association's COVID relief summary
CDC travel alerts

Now open! Home2 Suites by Hilton Fort Myers-Colonial Blvd. 

Home2 Suites by Hilton Fort Myers-Colonial Blvd. officially opened last month. It's an innovative hotel for savvy, cost-conscious travelers staying a few months or a few nights. 

Here's a quick look at the property:

  • Rooms: 118, studio and one-bedroom suites, all suites include kitchens
  • The beds: Serta Suite Dreams Bed
Home2 Suites by Hilton Fort Myers-Colonial Blvd.
  • Address: 4333 Ford St., Fort Myers
  • Phone: 239-225-9250
  • Contact: Karina Morhardt-Wagner, dual director of sales
  • Pet-friendly: Yes, 50 lb. maximum
  • Amenities: Home2 MKT, Spin2 Cycle fitness center, guest laundry, pool, continental breakfast

Luminary Hotel & Co. earns AAA's 4-diamond status

Luminary Hotel & Co. Shines with AAA Four Diamond Designation

Luminary Hotel & Co. has officially received the coveted Four Diamond Designation from AAA. Awarded to less than 6% of the more than 27,000 properties inspected and approved by AAA on an annual basis, this achievement ranks the recently opened Luminary Hotel & Co. among a select group of esteemed establishments. 

Wildlife on Wheels urban mobile classroom hits the road

The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge's Wildlife on Wheels urban mobile classroom will visit schools, libraries, community centers and under-represented communities in the five-county area to teach about water quality, the ecosystem, wildlife and more.

Wildlife on Wheels
More on Wildlife on Wheels

Brewery awards

Fort Myers Brewing Company's Spyk'd earns gold and bronze medals at U.S. Open Beverage Championships

Big Storm Brewing takes gold medal at U.S. Open Beverage Championships


Bailey family reopens The Island Store on Captiva

400 Rabbits, a Mexican-inspired restaurant and tequila bar, opens on Sanibel 

Showcase your meetings success

The Meetings Mean Business Coalition has worked with U.S. Travel to spotlight how adherence to state and local gathering limits and following health and safety best practices enables successful meetings can occur now and into the future.

With this in mind, the VCB would like for lodging partners to please share an example of a successful in-person or hybrid meeting you recently hosted in a responsible manner. Please share your event details here.

LeeTran's downtown trolley has resumed service this season

LeeTran's Downtown Trolley has resumed service this season
VCB news

Best wishes to Judith Durant on her retirement

Visitor Services

The VCB’s Director of Visitor Services Judith Durant’s last day in the office was Dec. 30 and we want to wish her the very best. She retires from the VCB after almost 25 years of service to Lee County.

Durant managed the volunteer program of 140 Tourism Ambassadors (photo above), who work at the visitor information booths at Southwest Florida International Airport and other locations.

Over the years, the program grew and blossomed under her supervision as hundreds of dedicated volunteers answered 275,000 questions each year and provided exceptional customer service to our visitors.

Durant has also been instrumental in developing and managing the heartwarming annual E Awards (Elaine McLaughlin Outstanding Hospitality Service Awards), as well as the annual Travel Rally & Community Picnic, which celebrates all of our tourism partners.

Her warmth and kindness can be felt in everything she touched and managed. She’s a very special person who we have valued very much.

The VCB staff and volunteers will miss her dearly but we are grateful for the legacy she leaves behind.

Judith Durant

Congrats to Behr for new post, credentials

Simone Behr, the VCB's new director of visitor services, has once again passed her Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration (CVA) credentialing. The program has to be reviewed every five years. 

Simone Behr passes CVA credentialing
Virtually on the road

Florida Plus and Travel Weekly webinar, Nov. 2: Jennifer Walla, VCB, participated in this event where over 700 travel agents attended the live webinar. The recording is available to agents on Travel Weekly.

GPS Impactful Events Midwest, Nov. 18: Jerry Terp, VCB, conducted one-on-one appointments with 11 meeting planners.

Virtual Meeting Planner FAM, Dec. 2: Erin Congregane, VCB, participated in this event targeting the Southeast meetings market (drive market), 47 registrants/32 meeting planners attended.

VISIT FLORIDA Virtual Media Mission, Dec. 3: Jackie Parker, VCB, met with 10 journalists from publications, including Martha Stewart Living, US News & World Report, TODAY Show and Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

December virtual meeting planner shows attended:
Dec. 2: Betsy Bush, GPS Impactful Events (Northeast)
Dec. 9: Jerry Terp, GPS Impactful Events (Midwest B)
Dec. 10: Betsy Bush, GPS Impactful Events (Mid-Atlantic)

Upcoming Virtual Meeting Planner Shows:
Jan. 11-15: Betsy Bush, PCMA Convening Leaders

Shout Outs
Media spotlight

Dec. 8: Cheapism (UVM: 234,086)
The best hidden gem in every state

  • Cayo Costa State Park
  • Sanibel Island

Nov. 29: Forbes (UVM: 7,000,000)
Holiday gift guide: Travel products made by women

  • Naples Soap Company

Dec. 14: The Points Guy (UVM: 2,677,293/MSN: 43,192,260/ PressFrom 112,290/ News Break 9,030,930) 
Prepare for travel’s comeback: The 12 hottest destinations of 2021

  • J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge
  • Sanibel Island

Dec. 18: Thrillist (UVM 4,358,065/ MSN 43,192,260) 
Set your 2021 bar extra high with these January travel ideas

  • Sanibel Island

Dec. 21: Travel Agent Central (UVM 118,080) 
What’s new for Florida destinations, attractions, and activities in 2021?

  • Caloosa Sound Amphitheater
  • Fort Myers
  • Luminary Hotel & Co.
  • Oxbow Bar & Grill
  • Oxbow Retail & Rentals
  • Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village
Red tide resources


Lee County Water Quality Resources
Lee County VCB beach updates
Red tide fact sheet


Florida Wildlife Commission daily red tide sample map
Save the date

2021 TDC Meeting dates

9 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 14
9 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 11
9 a.m. Thursday, March 11
9 a.m. Thursday, April 8
9 a.m. Thursday, May 13
2 p.m. Thursday, June 10
July - No meeting
2 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 12
September - No meeting
9 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 14
9 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10
9 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 9


Tourist Development Council (TDC) meetings are held at the Lee County Admin East Building, 2201 Second St., Room 118, Fort Myers.

Agenda: Available one week before meeting 

Wear a mask: To prevent the spread of COVID-19, we respectfully ask that all attendees follow CDC guidelines including wearing masks and following social distancing guidelines.
Watch live: There will also be a live stream of the TDC meeting on Lee TV.

Holiday cheer

Pink Shell members pitch in on Military Makeover TV

Drive-by Santa celebrates VCB's Tourism Ambassadors

Pink Shell Resort members volunteer with Military Makeover TV
Drive-by Santa celebrates VCB's tourism ambassadors
Pink Shell Resort members volunteer with Military Makeover TV

VCB Tourism Ambassadors stopped by Southwest Florida International Airport last month to receive holiday cheer from visitor services staff. Judith Durant and Tommy Cassel greet some of our volunteers curbside. It was great to see everyone in this socially distant way. 

Chambers of Commerce

Boca Grande
Bonita Springs
Cape Coral

Greater Fort Myers
Greater Fort Myers Beach
Greater Pine Island

Lehigh Acres
North Fort Myers
Sanibel & Captiva islands




The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel Logo with Website

2201 Second Street, Suite 600
Fort Myers, Florida 33901
Toll Free 800.237.6444  |  Local 239.338.3500

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