Triumph Gulf Coast Board unanimously approves $10.5M grant for Panhandle Tourism

Posted on May 30, 2024 by Staff reports

Pictured in back row: J. Michael Brown, VP of Tourism for Panama City Beach CVB; Santa Rosa County Commission Chairman Sam Parker; Santa Rosa County District 5 Commissioner Colten Wright; Nicole Stacey, VP of Destination Development of Visit Pensacola; Darien Schaefer, President & CEO of Visit Pensacola and NWF Tourism Council Chairman; J. Collier Merrill, Triumph Gulf Coast Board Member; Matt Algarin, Tourism Director for Walton County; Santa Rosa County Commission Vice Chairman James Calkins; Reynolds Henderson, Treasurer of Triumph Gulf Coast and Bryan Corr, Sr., Triumph Gulf Coast Board Memer. Front row: Julie White, Santa Rosa County tourism director; David Bear, chairman of Triumph Gulf Coast Board; KErry Sutsko, destination stewardship manager for Destin-Fort Walton Beach 

The Triumph Gulf Coast Board has unanimously approved a grant of $10.5 million to VISIT FLORIDA, that will benefit all eight counties impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Leveraging the Triumph funds, county-level matching contributions, and state-level support from VISIT FLORIDA, this campaign will unite the region’s destination marketing organizations under a single, unified effort to extend their marketing efforts year-round and increase tourism’s economic impact. 

Triumph funds will be utilized for a three-year initiative to enhance the marketing efforts and promote the diverse tourism product in Bay, Escambia, Franklin, Gulf, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton, and Wakulla Counties. The expanded promotional effort, led by VISIT FLORIDA, intends to reach new audiences, raising awareness of the year-round adventures the region offers. This effort ultimately aims to add resilience to the region’s tourism industry by promoting visitation outside of the peak summer season and extending seasonal employment. 

“While perhaps best known for its beautiful beaches, Northwest Florida is also home to a wide array of unique waterways, beautiful state parks, and protected nature preserves,” said Dana Young, VISIT FLORIDA President and CEO. “We are grateful to the Triumph Gulf Coast Board for their support in recognizing the value that tourism brings to the region, and excited to start implementing this innovative program that will introduce visitors to new experiences they may not have otherwise considered.” 

This project builds upon the recent success of Northwest Florida Beaches’ “Adventure within Reach” campaign that drove demand among families looking for new outdoor adventures for the first time, inclusive of charter fishing, diving, snorkeling, paddling, and hiking. With the full support of the Northwest Florida Tourism Council, local tourism boards, and the Board of County Commissioners in all eight counties, these funds will be used to directly impact marketing efforts.  

“An investment of this magnitude presents an exciting opportunity for the tourism industry to make a lasting, transformational impact on our community,” said Darien Schaefer, President & CEO of Visit Pensacola and Northwest Florida Tourism Council Chair. “The result of the ‘Adventure within Reach’ campaign goes beyond a marketing campaign. This significant expansion will generate new product demand for our small businesses, creating an environment where adventure careers can thrive and entrepreneurs can innovate.”

“Tourism helps drive the economy in Northwest Florida and each county does an amazing job promoting and developing tourism within their respective communities,” said Triumph Gulf Coast Board Chair David Bear. “Through this grant to VISIT FLORIDA, Triumph is pleased to support a unified, regional effort to enhance and expand the impact of our tourism promotion.”

The Triumph Gulf Coast Board of Directors is appointed by the Governor, Attorney General, Chief Financial Officer, and presiding officers of the Legislature. The appointees to the Triumph Board are David Bear (Chair), Bryan Corr, Sr., Reynolds Henderson (Treasurer), David Humphreys, Collier Merrill, Jay Trumbull, Sr. (Vice Chair), and Leslie Weiss. All meetings of the Triumph Board are public.