2023 Florida Tourism Industry Awards Announced
September 07, 2023
ORLANDO, Fla. – Yesterday, VISIT FLORIDA announced the recipients of the 2023 Florida Tourism Hall of Fame and Flagler Awards during the annual Chairman’s Dinner. Each year, leaders in Florida tourism are chosen by selection committees to receive these prestigious awards. This year’s event was held during the 2023 Florida Governor’s Conference on Tourism at the Rosen Shingle Creek, in Orlando, FL. Find photos of the award winners here.
Florida Tourism Hall of Fame
Since 2001, individuals have been chosen annually to be inducted into the Florida Tourism Hall of Fame. This honor, presented by the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors, recognizes contemporary and historic figures whose vision, creativity and drive have had a positive and significant impact on the development of Florida as a desirable visitor destination.
The 2023 Florida Tourism Hall of Fame Inductee is Tony Lapi. Tony began his hospitality career in 1976 when he and his wife, Angie, moved from Rochester, NY to Sanibel Island. He along with some other partners purchased the historic Tween Waters Inn that October. The Inn at that time was composed of 47 cottages, a small marina and modest restaurant. In those days Captiva was still only known to a few winter visitors and the summers were extremely slow.
As General Manager and later as President/CEO, Tony was involved in extensive expansion of the property. In 2011, Tony was instrumental in having Tween Waters Inn placed on the National Register of Historic Places. During this period of growth, the operation went from six employees to 230 and rebranded itself as Sanibel Captiva Beach Resorts. In the beginning of 2022, Tony stepped down from President and CEO and is now Chairman of the Board. After the impact of Hurricane Ian which devastated the barrier islands of Southwest Florida and destroyed three of the four properties, Tony will remain involved in the rebuilding of these three properties along with his continued involvement in the hospitality industry.
Tony has been recognized for his service to the community and the hospitality industry and received many of the following awards. In 1997 he was awarded Sanibel Citizen of the Year by the Sanibel Captiva Chamber of Commerce; in 2005 he received the Sam Bailey Award for Community Outstanding Service; in 2006 Tween Waters Inn received the Lee County Business Hall of Fame Award"; in 2009 Tony received the Sanibel Community House "Gordon Schopfer Lifetime Achievement Award; in 2011 he was named the Junior Achievement Hall of Fame Laureate; In 2012, he was the recipient of the Junonia Award by the Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau; and in 2013 Tony was awarded the "Paulette Burton Citizen of the Year Award" by Lee County.
In the past Tony has been President of the Sanibel Captiva Chamber of Commerce, President of the Sanibel Community Center, Chairman of the Sanibel Annual Shell fair, Commissioner of the City of Sanibel Planning Commission, and past Chairman of Visit Florida. Currently he serves on the Lee County Horizon Council, Lee County Tourist Development Council, The United Way of Lee County, The Captiva Community Panel, the Captiva Island Historical Society, the Sanibel Captiva Foundation of the Islands and he serves on the Advisory Board for Florida Gulf Coast University's School of Hospitality.
"With his unwavering dedication, visionary leadership, and tireless commitment to promoting the beauty and culture of Florida, Tony Lapi has not only transformed the tourism industry but has also inspired countless individuals to explore and appreciate the beauty of our state. His legacy as a true industry pioneer will forever shine as a beacon of inspiration for generations to come." – Dana Young, President and CEO, VISIT FLORIDA
"On behalf of the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors, it is an honor to induct Tony Lapi into the Florida Tourism Hall of Fame. His outstanding contributions and lifelong dedication to Florida tourism have not only enriched our industry but have also left an indelible mark on Southwest Florida. As we welcome him into this prestigious group, we celebrate his remarkable journey and enduring legacy." - Jennifer Rominiecki, President & Chief Executive Officer, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens; Chair, VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors
For more information about the Florida Tourism Hall of Fame, click here.
Named for Henry Flagler, the Flagler Awards were established in 2000 to recognize outstanding tourism marketing in Florida. Annually, the Flagler Awards honor many of the countless individuals and organizations that help maintain and improve Florida’s position as one of the world’s most popular travel destinations. The awards are open to all individuals, private businesses and not-for-profit organizations offering a product or service that promotes tourism to or within the state of Florida.
As in previous years, the 2023 Flagler Awards drew entries from Florida’s tourism partners, large and small. Working independently, a diverse panel of thirteen judges evaluated the creativity, innovation, production quality and effectiveness of each entry. Based on the judges’ cumulative scores, awards were presented to the top three entries in each category: the Bronze Award for the third highest scoring entry, the Silver Award for the second highest scoring entry, and for the highest scoring entry in each category, the Henry Award. The 2023 Flagler Award winners in 18 categories, plus Best in Show at three budget levels, are listed below.
Creativity in Public Relations
Bronze: Destin-Fort Walton Beach for their Influencer Campaign
Silver: The Monroe County Tourist Development Council for “Groundhog Day Conch in the Florida Keys
Henry: The Cultural Council for Palm Beach County and Discover The Palm Beaches for the “Palm Beaches in Bloom” New York Media Event
Bronze: The Amelia Island Convention & Visitors Bureau for “It’s an Island thing”
Silver: Visit Lauderdale for “Welcome”
Henry: The Florida Keys & Key West for the Florida Keys & Key West Print Advertising Campaign
Bronze: Visit Lauderdale for “The Next Wave of Greatness”
Silver: The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau for “Formula One”
Henry: Visit Pensacola for the 2022 Sun Belt Basketball Championship
Bronze: Discover Martin for “Summer of Fun with Atlanta Magazine”
Silver: Visit St. Pete/Clearwater for Travelzoo Digital Advertising
Henry: Visit Panama City Beach for “GET TO THE REAL. FUN. BEACH. REAL. FAST!”
Bronze: Visit Sarasota County for the “Sarasota: The Only Place to Pull Ahead” Carousel Card
Silver: Discover Martin for “Mood for Martin” Direct Mailers
Henry: Fort Myers – Islands, Beaches and Neighborhoods for “Hearts and Engagements Soar with Lee County” Direct Mail Piece
Bronze: Walton County Tourism for “Walton County Tourism: County-Wide”
Silver: GoPegasus for GoPegasus Art On Wheels
Henry: Visit Tampa Bay for “Measure the Treasure in Tampa Bay”
Social Media Marketing
Bronze: The Franklin County Tourist Development Council for “Don't Take Our Word For It”
Silver: Visit Lauderdale for “Visit Lauderdale’s Old Florida Book Shop”
Henry: The Amelia Island Convention & Visitors Bureau for their Social Media Travel Guides
Bronze: Destin-Fort Walton Beach for the Little Adventures In-Destination Campaign
Silver: The Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium for the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium Times Square Billboard
Henry: The Florida Keys & Key West for the Florida Keys & Key West Los Angeles Commuter Campaign
Bronze: The Amelia Island Convention & Visitors Bureau for Amelia Island Podcast Advertising
Silver: Discover Martin for the Treasure Coast Songwriters Festival Radio Ad
Henry: Visit Panama City Beach for the Pirates of the High Seas & Renaissance Fest Radio Spot
Bronze: Experience Kissimmee for their Shoulder Season Campaign
Silver: The Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau for “Beach On” TV
Henry: Visit Lauderdale for “Welcome”
Bronze: Wyndham Celebration Resort for “Using AI and ChatGPT In An Evolving Hospitality World”
Silver: Visit Tampa Bay for the Tampa Riverwalk Attraction Pass
Henry: The Amelia Island Convention & Visitors Bureau for the Amelia Island Weather Trigger
Bronze: Destin-Fort Walton Beach for the New “Little Adventures”-Focused Website
Silver: The Islamorada Resort Collection for the New Islamorada Resort Collection Website
Henry: Florida’s Sports Coast for Florida’s Sports Coast Website Rebrand
Bronze: Discover Martin for “Martin Memories Holiday Campaign”
Silver: The Florida Keys & Key West for the Florida Keys & Key West Fishing Campaign
Henry: The Cultural Council for Palm Beach County for “Go Beyond Basel: Attracting Art Fair Visitors from Miami to The Palm Beaches”
Bronze: Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa for their Memorial Day Weekend Activities Brochure
Silver: The Cultural Council for Palm Beach County for the Art&Culture Magazine: A Vibrant Resource for Cultural Tourists Visiting The Palm Beaches
Silver: Visit St. Pete/Clearwater for the Gulf to Bay Destination Magazine
Henry: Visit Tampa Bay for the Visit Tampa Gay Guide
Bronze: Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures for “VR Takes Boggy Creek to Travel Partners Worldwide”
Silver: Visit Lauderdale for the “Everyone Under the Sun” Trade Show Display
Henry: The Florida Keys & Key West for the Florida Keys & Key West Film Commission LookBook
Sustainable Tourism Marketing
Bronze: The Alligator & Wildlife Discovery Center for “Help us do our small part”
Silver: Visit St. Pete/Clearwater for “Unwind and Be Kind”
Henry: Destin-Fort Walton Beach for the Little Adventures Pilot Program
Rural County Marketing
Bronze: The Franklin County Tourist Development Council for the Villages Re-engagement Campaign
Silver: The Holmes County Florida Tourist Development Council for “Wild, Welcoming Unexplored Florida”
Henry: The Gulf County Tourist Development Council for “Ordinary Magic”
Mixed Media Campaign
Bronze: ZOOTampa at Lowry Park for ZOOTampa’s Creatures of the Night Campaign
Silver: Discover The Palm Beaches for “The Golden Age of Travel” Mixed Media Campaign
Henry: Visit Lauderdale for “Welcome”
Best of Show
Annual marketing budget less than $500,000: Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures for “VR Takes Boggy Creek to Travel Partners Worldwide.”
Annual marketing budget between $500,000 ‐ $2 million: Discover Martin for “Mood for Martin Direct Mailers.”
Annual marketing budget greater than $2 million: Amelia Island Convention & Visitors Bureau for the Amelia Island Weather Trigger.
With their Best of Show award, Amelia Island Convention and Visitors Bureau has now won more Best of Show Awards than any other organization that has entered the Flagler Awards - a total of six since the Best of Show award was introduced in 2005.