GREATER FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (May 10, 2017) – The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau (GFLCVB) celebrated National Tourism Day at its annual luncheon on Wednesday, May 10, by recognizing the millions of visitors that contribute to hotel occupancy, jobs and positive economic impact  throughout Broward County.

The tourism bureau also used the occasion to celebrate and thank Broward County’s best hospitality employees who created WOW experiences for destination visitors, presenting them with SUNsational Service Courtesy Awards.

“My first year at the GFLCVB has seen challenges and exciting new opportunities for Greater Fort Lauderdale,” said Stacy Ritter, President and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau.  “We are thankful to all our visitors who chose to spend their business and vacation time with us having unforgettable experiences. We also want to thank our frontline employees who, in many ways, have a direct impact on our tourism success with their service excellence. Their commitment to go above and beyond to assist our guests is an important part of why Greater Fort Lauderdale enjoys such positive brand recognition and year-round popularity. We can’t thank them enough.” 

Held at Gulfstream Park, a popular entertainment complex with thoroughbred racing, gaming, shopping and dining in Hallandale Beach, the event drew more than 400 industry partners who watched the Tourism Day Classic, a special horse race named to celebrate National Tourism Day.

Greater Fort Lauderdale also revealed a new approach to more sophisticated information gathering and metrics for reporting visitor data to focus marketing and sales efforts in source markets that yield or have the potential to yield the highest influx of visitors. These new measurements showed domestic visitation for 2016 was 12.27 million visitors, up 4 percent from the previous year, according to the latest research from DK Shifflet. Preliminary international visitation, excluding Canada, showed approximately one million visitors from overseas to Greater Fort Lauderdale in 2016, according to Travel Market Insights Inc. Currently, Canadian travelers are tracked at the state level and not by county. VISIT FLORIDA reported 3.7 million visitors from Canada to the state in 2016, with Canada being the top international source market for Greater Fort Lauderdale with more than 600,000 Canadians arriving by plane into FLL. That number does not take into account the large number of Canadians that drive to the destination or arrive at other airports. Additional research is being finalized, with final visitation data expected to be revealed in Q3 2017.

In addition, the SUNsational Service Courtesy Awards finalists of the class of 2017 were saluted for their commitment to quality service – constant, consistent and persistent – and each with a special story.

  • Evelyn Wilson, Front Desk Agent at Sonesta Fort Lauderdale had many stories submitted with a favorite involving a nervous and excited guest who wanted to propose to his fiancée. He wanted it to be spectacular and called in advance asking for help and ideas for the proposal Evelyn was very excited when she received the call, as she knew this could be the opportunity for her and her teammates to create a memorable experience and, at the same time, deliver excellent service.

    After several phone calls and emails, Evelyn had arranged for the perfect room with the best view, champagne, chocolate covered strawberries and flowers. The day after their arrival, Evelyn saw the guest and he was very happy and thankful for her help. He said the expression on his fiancée’s face when she entered the room was priceless and she was impressed with every single detail. The guest posted a great review and has become a loyal guest at the property, always remembering Evelyn’s name. She is a true ambassador for our destination.

    Evelyn says the best part of her job is taking care of the guest to the best of her ability and working as a team with her fellow front desk agents. She says “I look forward to coming to work because we are all treated equally and with respect. We are all here for one common goal, to create amazing moments for our guests and each other.”
  • Luz Fabian, Laundry Attendant, Hampton Inn by Hilton Hallandale Beach. In early November 2016, the maintenance department was doing touch-up painting on the breakfast area tables at the Hampton Inn in Hallandale Beach. A female guest happened to sit by one of the tables in the breakfast area that had just been touched-up and her jacket was stained by the paint, both in the back and one of the arms.

    The hotel sent the jacket out for dry-cleaning to remove the stain. Unfortunately, they could not remove the stain and they brought it back to the hotel with a note that regretfully said they could not remove the stain.

    The front office manager saw the note on the jacket and immediately took the jacket to Luz Fabian to take care of the stain. With her expertise, Luz was able to remove the stain from the jacket. Not only was she able to remove the stain but she also hand washed, air dried and ironed the jacket.

    The guest was told that one of our team members was able to remove the stain and she was appreciative about the extra effort Luz made to make sure the paint stains were removed so she could wear the jacket to an important meeting.

    Luz has been employed by the Hampton Inn by Hilton Hallandale Beach as laundry attendant since September 2005 and has been recognized as outstanding team member of the month on several occasions.
  • Cohen Richards, Bellman at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort is more than a superstar, he’s a lifesaver. One day, a family was enjoying the beach and the wind began to pick up. As they were leaving the beach and returning to their car with bags and beach chairs in tow, the wind became stronger.

    The mother and daughter arrived to the car safely, but the son was struggling to fight against this strong force. All of a sudden, the 7-year old boy lost his grip on the boogie board he was holding and it flew up in the air pulling him with it. As the child was being lifted from the ground and beginning to fly away, Cohen ran into the street and grabbed the boy from being blown away! It was an amazing site to see. The boy's parents and guests ran over to thank Cohen and congratulate him for being a hero!
  • Aldo Salazar, Valet Parking Manager at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, assisted Commissioner Chip LaMarca and his wife after they attended an event before they were to go out for an anniversary dinner. They returned to their vehicle to find they had a flat tire. They called a roadside service number and waited for them to arrive, but unfortunately, they were delayed more than an hour and when they finally arrived they had not sent the proper technician as requested.

    The vehicle was on top of the ramp and the tech would not service the tire unless it was moved to the bottom of the ramp. After cancelling the service call and trying to get a new tech, Aldo began making small talk with Commissioner LaMarca, never knowing exactly who he was, just two men talking about life. Aldo proudly spoke of his son and his education at Broward College and when he learned that Commissioner LaMarca was a Broward College alum, they began a kinship. Finally Aldo asked how he could assist. After learning that the commissioner and his wife would need to wait even more for a new technician, Aldo said, "You and your wife need to have an anniversary dinner. We will change this tire." Needless to say, the anniversary dinner was salvaged (only two hours late for the reservation) and it was all thanks to Aldo.
  • Candyce Toleman, Assistant Group Tour Manager at Flamingo Gardens was giving a tour to a group when she discovered two people in the group who just found out that the gentleman was being deployed overseas in a few days and they had to move to Texas immediately. They were distraught at what to do as they wanted to plan a wedding in Fort Lauderdale before the move, so their parents and friends could be present. That’s Candyce jumped into action and told the couple to call their family and friends and have them be at flamingo gardens at 8:00 am the next morning.

    In the short time before the next morning, Candyce arranged a wedding for the happy couple at the wedding gazebo in the park at flamingo gardens. At 8:30 am that morning, the lovely couple wed with Candyce officiating. Yes, not only is she a tour guide at flamingo gardens, she also has the power to marry people. It was a morning filled with tears of joy, happiness and a beautiful couple starting their married lives together.
  • Emily Orsini, Sales Manager at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Pompano Beach Resort & Spa, was prepping carefully for a very important site visit with one of Marriott’s national accounts. She had worked hard to secure this site visit in hopes to win a large piece of group business for the resort. After much preparation and a successful meeting, the client still shared his hesitations to confirm the resort due to the fact that he had typically confirmed “5-star luxury-type properties.”

    He disclosed that he was also considering an upscale property in St. Augustine and had used a property in Palm Springs in the past. While at first discouraged, Emily still maintained her friendly and helpful way about her and wished the client the best of luck with his venue selection.

    About two hours after the site visit concluded, the client called Emily in a panic as he had just remembered leaving his laptop in his guestroom! He was already two hours north on I-95 on his way to his next site visit in St. Augustine!

    Emily, being the smart and kind sales person that she is, offered to drive north and hand deliver this client’s laptop to him so that he didn’t need to back-track any further. Wow - he was impressed by her offer. Emily then jumped into her car and started driving north on I-95. Clever thinking, she also placed a surprise note inside the laptop for the client to find even after the laptop delivery!

    After Emily returned to the resort, the client had left her a message thanking her profusely, and also gave her the “verbal definite” that he would indeed be booking his meeting with the resort due to the excellent customer service and confidence that he had in her as a sales manager.
  • Nysa Joseph-Sealy, guest service representative, started working at the Residence Inn Marriott Fort Lauderdale Airport & Cruise Port a little over a year ago and is the first associate at the property to receive the spirit to serve award from Mr. Marriott’s office. His office had this to say about Nysa: integrity. A word some use carelessly. A word these days that apply to a select few. Your employee Nysa Joseph-Sealy at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott/Residence Inn exemplifies the meaning of integrity.

    Nysa ensures that any celebration a guest mentions upon check-in time, is recognized by the staff, who signs a card that is presented with a small token of appreciation to the guest for celebrating a birthday or anniversary at the hotel. Nysa always helps create a special memorable moment with other team members for guests by decorating a cheese and fruit platter, a personally decorated bottle of wine, or even going up to the guest’s room and singing happy birthday.

    Nysa makes sure the hotel selects a guest of the day and they ring the front desk special bell when they arrive. Nysa loves taking pictures with the guests and presenting a surprise gift bag and a flyer with the guest name at the front desk. Nysa has such a great personality she was selected to be the front desk trainer and the Marriott quality assurance role play manager.

    While on a family vacation, a large group arrived at the residence inn in Dania beach. The couple had hidden a bag of jewelry with sentimental value under their mattress before going to dinner. Early the next morning, in the confusion of gathering their family together for the flight home, they departed thinking the valuables were in the suitcase when they were actually still under the mattress. They called the hotel and Nysa answered. She went to the room, retrieved the forgotten bag and sent it back to the couple the next day. They are still singing Nysa’s praises.

Stacy Ritter presented the seven SUNsational Service Courtesy Award recipients accolades and prizes, including a two-night hotel stay and $100 dining credit; new Hello Sunny luggage, part of the Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB’s new merchandise line and a SUNsational Courtesy Award plaque; a $100 Play Pass for two at Xtreme Action Park; and two VIP packages from Gulfstream Park.

All of the 87 nominees received a “Tourism Day Classic” pint glass; commemorative photo; Gulfstream Park signature bottle opener; two Grandstand tickets for this year’s Winterfest Boat Parade; Hello Sunny luggage tag and t-shirt.