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March 2021 VCB Newsletter
From the bureau

 Signs of optimism

It has been one year since the pandemic began its sweep through our lives. The tourism industry has never experienced anything like this and, while we have been challenged in so many ways, there are signs of optimism:

  • Airport traffic at Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) keeps improving. During January, 686,563 passengers traveled through RSW, a decrease of 39.4% compared to January 2020. However, it was a 5.9% increase compared to December 2020.

  • Top 25 ranking goes to the Fort Myers/Naples metro area, according to The Cvent Source: Group Business Insights, February 2021 webinar, for the highest volume of Cvent group RFPs for January 2021. This is the fifth consecutive month for this rating.    

  • A partnership with Collier County is in the works to promote new direct Alaska Airlines flights from Los Angeles and Seattle, JetBlue direct flights from Raleigh-Durham and Southwest flights from Louisville.  

  • Vacation rentals have been in strong demand during the pandemic. In fact, they outperformed Lee County hotels in December 2020, according to KeyData research. Based on growing our understanding of this key market segment, the VCB will now be sharing KeyData insights monthly. 

  • Songs from the Sand, our spinoff of Songs from the Sofa, was a hit last month on Fort Myers Beach with fan favorite Sheena Brook. The Facebook event generated more than 700 views in support of promoting Island Hopper Songwriter Fest Sept. 17-26. Next up, Songs from the Sofa on March 18.

  • Spring training is here, albeit in a different setup, as we welcome the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins to JetBlue Park at Fenway South and Hammond Stadium at CenturyLink Sports Complex, respectively. Health and safety protocols and reduced capacity will be the norm for the Grapefruit League. Most importantly, fans across the country will see live broadcasts of these games with our natural beauty and warm weather as the backdrop.

We look forward to working with you to continue building on these successes.

Tamara Pigott
VCB executive director

Tamara Pigott Headshot


Sun Saver Passport: Partners, please remember to add your deals on attractions, restaurants and experiences throughout our community. The passport is available via mobile phones. There have been more than 3,200 passport downloads and 170 offers have been redeemed.

Threshold 360: There’s still time to get your appointment with Threshold 360 to capture a free, virtual tour of your location. So far, 156 locations have videos. Please contact Jennifer Walla at to find out more about Threshold 360 benefits and scheduling.


Application cycle for TDC Funding Program opens in April

In supporting tourism product development, the TDC provides financial assistance to strengthen awareness of local arts, attractions and cultural venues that enhance the visitor experience and destination appeal. Not-for-profit event organizers, arts organizations and cultural attractions are encouraged to develop unique marketing programs and partnerships to achieve this goal.

The application cycles for fiscal year 2021-2022 Events & Attraction Marketing funding will open in April. Prospective applicants are welcome to review each program’s guidelines and application timelines at

Now open! Holiday Inn Express & Suites Fort Myers Airport

Holiday Inn Express & Suites Fort Myers Airport

Holiday Inn Express & Suites Fort Myers Airport officially opened Feb. 16. The property's close proximity to Southwest Florida International Airport will make it a first choice for travelers. Guests can expect to see enhanced cleaning procedures with hospital-grade disinfectants.

The hotel’s design offers a fresh, energetic atmosphere and includes amenities to fit the needs of all travelers. Communal areas feature an open, pod-style desk area and flexible seating including community tables with built-in wired and wireless charging stations. 

101, 24 are suites and seven are accessible; mini-fridge, microwave, coffee maker, flat-screen TV and work desk
Address: 14567 Global Parkway, Fort Myers
Phone: 239-327-0198
Lucie Wirgin, director of sales, 239-297-7790 
Pet-friendly: Service animals allowed
Amenities: Pool, fitness center, board room, laundry facility, full breakfast with grab 'n go options, 24-hour business center

Industry partner news

Michele Berger

Sanibel Captiva Beach Resorts promotes Michele Berger to director of resort operations

Molly Deckart

Meet the Alliance for the Arts' new director Molly Deckart

Sam Ankerson

Shell museum names Sam Ankerson new executive director

Business updates

EDO director reports sunny outlook for county, islands this year

2021 Industry Appreciation Award nominees include Fort Myers Brewing, Seed and Bean Market and Florida Rep

Trader Joe's opens new store in Fort Myers

Welcome back, Tourism Ambassadors

Our Tourism Ambassadors are back in the visitor information booths at Southwest Florida International Airport, happy to greet and assist our visitors as they arrive in our beautiful destination.

Save the date

Southwest Florida Reading Festival March 1-13

Southwest Florida Reading Festival

The Lee County Library System's Southwest Florida Reading Festival will be a free, virtual event and include live events with authors who write for adults, teens and children. 

84th Annual Sanibel Shell Festival March 4-6

The Sanibel Shellcrafters will host the 84th Annual Sanibel Shell Festival at the Sanibel Community House. This ticketed indoor event will include shell arts and crafts. 

2021 Virtual Sanibel Shell Show March 5-6

2021 Virtual Sanibel Shell Show

The Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club's Virtual 2021 Sanibel Shell Show will be on YouTube and will feature videos of Sanibel beaches, live mollusks, shell art, door prizes, museum tours and more. 

Pigott guest speaker at SanCap Chamber virtual meeting March 10

Tamara Pigott, VCB executive director, will be the guest speaker at the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce virtual meeting at noon Wednesday, March 10. For details, contact Chamber President & CEO John Lai at 239-472-2348 or

TDC Meeting March 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

2021 TDC Meeting dates

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

Florida Attractions Association 2021 Annual Conference, Aug. 29-Sept. 1, Luminary Hotel & Co., Fort Myers

Virtually on the road

Feb. 10-11: At Travalliance Virtual Wedding Expo, Jennifer Walla chatted with travel agents in the virtual booth. The event was attended by 1,073 travel agents. 

Virtual meeting planner shows attended
Feb. 4: Brand USA Focus on Canada, Stefanie Zinke
Feb. 8-11: Florida Huddle, Stefanie Zinke
Feb. 10-11:
Travalliance Virtual Wedding Expo, Jennifer Walla
Feb. 23:
Northstar INTERACT Back to Booking, Erin Lester
Feb. 24-25: Incentive Travel Meetings & Events World Expo, Jerry Terp
Feb. 25: Smart Meetings, Betsy Bush

Upcoming virtual shows
March 2-4:
Connect CYBER, Jerry Terp
March 4: United Kingdom Virtual Roadshow, Stefanie Zinke
March 9-12: ITB Berlin (Internationale Tourismus-Börse), Stefanie Zinke
March 10-11:
 Travalliance Virtual Family Travel Expo, Jennifer Walla
March 24-25:
Incentive Travel Meetings & Events World Expo, Betsy Bush

Jill Vance

Meetings Today podcast

Jill Vance, VCB sales director, talks about how to incorporate wellness into meetings

Listen to podcast

Visiting journalist

Lauren Gay, Feb. 15-18: Writes for The Outbound Collective and hosts Outdoorsy Diva podcast.

Photo taken at Ella Mae's Diner, Luminary Hotel & Co. 


Shout Outs

Feb. 17: Road trips for families (181,000 visitors annually)
By Cheryl Roedwig
Fort Myers to Marco Island: Best Southwest Florida road trip itinerary

  • Bailey's General Store
  • Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum
  • Billy’s Bike Rentals
  • Caloosa Sound Amphitheater
  • Calusa Nature Center & Planetarium
  • Captiva Island
  • Dean Street Coffee
  • Edison and Ford Winter Estates
  • Ella Mae’s Diner
  • Everglades Wonder Gardens
  • Fort Myers
  • Fort Myers River District
  • Green Cup Café
  • IMAG History & Science Center
  • Luminary Hotel & Co.
  • The Silver King Ocean Brasserie
  • Sanibel Island

Feb. 10: Wherever Family (UVM 20,000)
By Katie Skrzek
What’s new in Fort Myers and Sanibel, Florida

  • Fort Myers
  • J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge
  • Luminary Hotel & Co.
  • Ostego Bay Foundation
  • Sanibel Island
  • Shell Factory and Nature Park
  • Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village

Feb. 3: Thrillist (UVM: 4,358,065) & News Break (UVM: 9,030,930) (syndicated)
By Jay Gentile
Fun Outdoor Getaways You Can Easily Hit from 30 Cities

  • Cayo Costa State Park
  • Sanibel Island
  • South Seas Island Resort

Feb. 2: FamilyVacationist (UVM: 15,080)
By Alison Tibaldi
10 Dreamy beach resorts in Florida that are perfect for families

  • Captiva Island
  • Fort Myers
  • Sanibel
  • South Seas Island Resort

Jan. 25: Sport Fishing (UVM 215,000)
By Chris Woodward
Kayak fishing in Florida from Hobie's new inflatables

  • Blue Dog Bar & Grill
  • Matlacha
  • Matlacha Tiny Village
  • Olde Fish House
  • Pine Island
  • Sanibel
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
Cape Coral
East Lee County
Fort Myers Beach


Greater Fort Myers
Greater Pine Island

North Fort Myers
Sanibel & Captiva Islands

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
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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