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February 2021 VCB Newsletter
From the bureau

Events pivot to keep everyone safe

It’s February and we are so fortunate that we can enjoy warm weather and sunny skies while most of the country is cold and gray.

We can still enjoy some of our most popular outdoor events this season safely. Despite the many challenges during this pandemic, our partners have worked tirelessly to create events with abundant safety measures. 

The VCB applauds these forward-thinking efforts that allow all of us to enjoy special deals and some of the most anticipated events of the year. (Scroll down to our "Save the date" section for more event info.)

It's also important that visitors explore some of our best-kept secrets. And who doesn't love a deal?

Sun saver passport

The VCB's Sun Saver Passport allows users to find more than 50 deals (and growing!) on attractions, restaurants and experiences throughout the destination. Plus, it's free!

Since going live in November, there have been more than 2,500 passport downloads and 135 offers have been redeemed.

Partners can learn more about participating in the passport here.

Threshold 360: The VCB has partnered with Threshold 360 to capture a free, virtual tour of your location to be used on our consumer website. It can be used in meeting presentations and by event planners.

It's easy to upload to your Google My Business Profile. So far, 152 partners in Lee County have videos

Threshold 360

Please contact Jennifer Walla at to find out more about Threshold 360 benefits and scheduling.

Walk on the wild side: This year, I want to spend more time enjoying the natural beauty of our area. For me this means a combination of exploring all our neighborhoods and communities and getting in as many hikes as possible. I’ll admit it is a stretch to call it a hike when you live in the Florida flatlands. However, the time I’ve spent exploring Telegraph Creek Preserve in Alva and Caloosahatchee Creeks Preserve East in North Fort Myers (top photo) has been cathartic. I've also taken some amazing walks on Boca Grande and through the Dean Park neighborhood. It is amazing how much more you see when you explore on foot. 

While I love the beach, there is something special about our access to so much nature. Get outside and see if it doesn't make you more appreciative of our slice of paradise. We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful place.

Have a great February!

Tamara Pigott
VCB executive director

Tamara Pigott Headshot
Save the date

ArtFest Fort Myers, Feb. 6-7

ArtFest Fort Myers

Southwest Florida’s premier art festival will take to the streets of the River District, Feb. 6-7, as well as offer an online gallery. Executive Director Sharon McAllister and her team have put in place “Be Smart While Loving Art” safety protocols, including tickets for timed entry to control the crowd size and facilitate social distancing. Masks and credit and debit card transactions will also be the norm. 

2021 Virtual Sanibel Shell Show, March 5-6

2021 Virtual Sanibel Shell Show

With the motto “The Shell Show Must Go On” the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club prepares to host the Virtual 2021 Sanibel Shell Show, March 5-6. Event Chair Clair Beckmann and her team are making this virtual show interactive. Viewers will have the chance to vote for the Best Shell Photo, win hourly door prizes and learn how to create DIY shell projects.

Southwest Florida Reading Festival, March 1-13

Southwest Florida Reading Festival

The Southwest Florida Reading Festival will be a free, virtual event March 1-13 and include live events with authors who write for adults, teens and children. Produced by the Lee County Library System, the festival will offer online S.T.E.A.M. contests featuring Lego building, a reading challenge and festival bingo. Grab & Go Festival Craft Kits will include a free book for kids and teens.

TDC Meeting Feb. 11

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.

TDC Meeting Facebook event page
COVID-19 & red tide resources


Vaccine at Publix
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

VCB-produced video helps Fort Myers win Frontier Airlines Warm Weather Destination contest

Fort Myers wins Frontier Airlines warm weather getaway contest

Frontier Airlines voters named Fort Myers the top warm weather destination of 2021. Fort Myers took top honors in an online vote conducted over a two-week period in January. 

Tyri Squyres, Frontier's vice president of marketing, said the VCB-produced video captured "stunning beaches, outstanding dining options and fun vacation vibe, it's no wonder Fort Myers took the top spot."

Press release

Beach & Shoreline funding request cycle is open

The application request cycle for the VCB’s Beach & Shoreline program is open. The deadline to request fiscal year 2021-22 funding is Feb. 27.

In fiscal year 2020-21, the Beach & Shoreline program funded $9.1 million dollars in projects, including beach nourishment, maintenance erosion control, emergency beach cleanup.

Funding is provided through the Tourist Development Council with final approval from the Lee Board of County Commissioners.

Recently completed projects include:

  • Restroom facilities at Tarpon Bay Beach on Sanibel and Cayo Costa State Park

The new kayak landing at the Matanzas Preserve complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act access guidelines.

  • Boardwalks at Matanzas Pass Preserve
  • Dune walkovers on Sanibel, Fort Myers Beach and Gasparilla Island State Park

For more information visit

Hotel updates

Hotel Indigo in downtown Fort Myers to become Tapestry by Hilton with renovation

Wyndham Gardens hotel to be constructed in Cape Coral

Business updates

CRU Wine Club prepares to launch in Bonita Springs

Vibe Yoga: Yoga for EveryBODY coming to Fort Myers

The Fisherman's Daughter: SWFL poet returns to her roots, sells homemade seafood dishes at market

Hopsized Brewing plans to open later this year in Bonita Springs

Restaurant updates 

Cubans Be Like Restaurant & Cafe opens in south Fort Myers

Second location for The Standard

Other updates

Lee Commissioners approve design contract for new LeeTran station on U.S. 41

Welcome to our waterways: Bling bag helps visiting boaters navigate Southwest Florida

Sanibel Causeway island beaches getting a makeover

Customer service: Soft skills will help us succeed

Together we are rebuilding our businesses, our community and the tourism industry.  

As we navigate into 2021, it’s safe to say that five-star customer experiences will include soft skills. Think kindness, empathy, resilience and ethical behavior.

According to “The Importance of Soft Skills in a Post-Pandemic World” in Forbes, these skills will be in high demand.

Four strategies that can assist with soft skills include:

  • Admit to the journey
  • Avoid knee-jerk reactions
  • Take responsibility and apologize
  • Commit

The article went on to say, “Organizations need to be more systematic in the development of soft skills across the workplace (including among leaders) to help build communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking.” 

The VCB looks forward to working with our industry partners to help them achieve this shift in perspective.

Dr. Nicole King-Smith
hospitality training manager
Guests First Customer Service Training Program

Dr. Nicole King-Smith
Virtually on the road

PCMA Convening Leaders, Jan. 11-15: Betsy Bush, VCB, with meeting planners on a virtual networking event.

GPS Impactful Events Midwest, Dec.9: Jerry Terp, VCB, conducted one-on-one virtual appointments with 19 meeting planners.

January virtual meeting planner shows attended
Jan. 11-15: Betsy Bush, PCMA Convening Leaders
Jan. 21: Jerry Terp, Smart Meetings National Smart Start Show

Upcoming virtual shows
Feb.10-11: Jennifer Walla, Travalliance Virtual Wedding Expo
Feb. 23: Erin Lester, Northstar INTERACT Back To Booking
Feb. 24-25: Jerry Terp, Luxury Meetings ITME World Expo
Feb. 25: Betsy Bush, Smart Meetings National Smart Start Show

Visiting journalists

Southern Living, Jan. 9-13: The magazine's in-destination photo shoot to feature some islands in spring issue (and maybe some local dogs).

Cheryl Rodewig, visiting journalist

Cheryl Rodewig, Jan. 1-3: Writes for Road Trips for Families

Barbara Barrielle, visiting journalist

Barbara Barrielle, Jan. 15-27: Writes for TravelAwaits, Napa Valley Register and The East Hampton (N.Y.) Star

Shout Outs

Coverage resulting from 'A Shell of a Problem' virtual book club exceeds 1.6 million views

A Shell of a Problem

Travel goods for today: Travel comes home

  • Fort Myers
  • Sanibel
  • The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum

As a result of our recent virtual book club outreach and work with journalist Kathy Witt, she featured the destination and "A Shell of a Problem: A Sanibel Island Mystery" by Jennifer L. Schiff on Tribune News Service which syndicated her story to several publications, including:

  • The Sacramento Bee (UVM: 1,269,434)
  • Indiana Gazette (UVM: 21,640)
  • Finger Lakes Times (UVM: 37,333)
  • Decatur Daily (UVM: 193,091)
  • Bellingham Herald (UVM: 119,106)
  • News Bug (UVM: 16,320)

Jan. 8: Travel + Leisure (UVM 3,168,640, also syndicated to MSN - UVM 43,192,260)
Best places to travel in February

  • Fort Myers
  • Sanibel

Dec. 30: Thrillist (UVM 4,358,065) 
The laid-back “anti-Florida” is the ideal winter escape

  • American Legion Post 123
  • Blind Pass Beach
  • Boca Grande
  • Bowman’s Beach
  • Cabbage Key
  • Cabbage Key Inn
  • Captiva
  • Captiva Cruises
  • Causeway Islands Park
  • Cayo Costa State Park
  • Fort Myers
  • Gramma Dot’s Restaurant
  • J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge
  • La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham
  • Sanibel Deli
  • Sanibel Island
  • Sanibel Island Beach Resort
  • South Seas Island Resort                                           
  • The Mad Hatter
  • The Mucky Duck

Dec. 28: BuzzFeed (UVM 16,497,686) 
18 surprisingly cool small towns in the USA

  • Sanibel Island

Dec. 24: Conde Nast Traveler (UVM 5,351,474)
The 17 best beaches in Florida

  • Bowman's Beach
  • Sanibel Island

Dec. 22: FOX Business (UVM 4,996,038) 
Samantha Brown on filming a travel series during a pandemic and how she plans to revive the sector

  • Captiva
  • Fort Myers
  • Sanibel

Dec. 22: On the Fly South 
Matlacha on the fly

  • Matlacha
  • Pine Island
  • Snooktown Charters
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
Red Tide respiratory forecast tool
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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