It was a packed house when Visit St. Pete/Clearwater (VSPC) kicked off National Travel and Tourism Week at the Gulfport Casino last Thursday, May 1. Over 300 tourism industry professionals, media and other guests enjoyed music from the Black Honkeys, local fare and craft beer at the annual event, which was held in Gulfport for the first time.
“I’m just so proud I could burst,” Lori Rosso, newly elected president of the Gulfport Merchants Association, and vice president of the Gulfport Area Chamber of Commerce said.
Gulfport is a destination! This is our opportunity to showcase our community as a whole to people who have never been here before,” Rosso said inside the magnificently decked-out Casino.
That Gulfport was singled out was no accident. VSPC Deputy Director David Downing explained that new statistics show younger and more diverse tourists visit the area, and VSPC is looking to capitalize on that trend with their new “Live Amplified” ad campaign, debuted that night at the Casino. Gulfport, he explained, was a natural choice for the kick-off.
“Part of the campaign is to highlight lesser-known areas, to put some of the unique areas together, and Gulfport is a piece of that. It’s an untold story,” he said. “Every time I’ve brought media here, they flip out. We thought it was a good mix.”
Gulfport Mayor Sam Henderson echoed Rosso’s enthusiasm, noting that the tide is turning on Gulfport’s visibility.
“Tourism in Pinellas County is about much more than the Gulf beaches,” said the mayor. “And Gulfport’s made great strides in bringing people in.”
Rosso added that organizers had contacted her several years ago about holding the event in Gulfport, but that the timing was not quite right.
“It has been a record-breaking year, tourist-wise, all over. It’s good that it happened now,” she said. “We have so much to be proud of in this town.”