OBJ Gets Up Close and Personal with President & CEO George Aguel

George Aguel, president and CEO of Visit Orlando, recently sat down with the Orlando Business Journal to talk about goals, his best advice, lessons learned and more.

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Visit Orlando Honors Dr. Abe Pizam, Retiring Dean of UCF’s Rosen College

Dr. Abe Pizam 

In August, Dr. Abe Pizam will retire as dean of UCF's Rosen College of Hospitality Management, leaving a tremendous legacy that spans more than three decades.

Dr. Pizam grew hospitality education at UCF from a course offered in the College of Business to a world-renowned pinnacle for the university. Our entire tourism community, and Central Florida as a whole, has benefitted from his leadership.

On Thursday, during a meeting of the Visit Orlando Board of Directors, Chairman Don Engfer recognized Dr. Pizam for being a longtime partner of our organization. We appreciate all he has done to advocate for the work of Visit Orlando, and to champion the local tourism industry.

Wishing you all the best in retirement, Dr. Pizam!


Hogan and Leonard Honored by CFHLA

2017 Charles Andrews Memorial Hospitality Award

Congratulations to Steve Hogan, CEO of Florida Citrus Sports, for receiving the 2017 Charles Andrews Memorial Hospitality Award for Community Leadership. The award is the highest honor given by the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association (CFHLA). In addition, a special congratulations to Visit Orlando board member Jay Leonard, general manager of the Wyndham and Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs Resort Area, for winning the 2017 Lodging Member of the Year. The awards were presented Dec. 16 at CFHLA's annual Hospitality Gala at the Hyatt Regency Orlando.

2017 Lodging Member of Year 


Mills Finalist for Central Floridian of Year

Harold Mills

Congratulations to Harold Mills, member of Visit Orlando's Board of Directors, for being selected as a finalist for the Orlando Sentinel's 2018 Central Floridian of the year. Mills was chosen because of his work in academic, civic and charitable organizations, including LIFT Orlando. Mills also serves as the Vice Chairman of the Board for ZeroChaos, a workforce management solutions company founded by Mills.


Aguel Presents Award to John Arie Sr.

Business Award

Last week, Visit Orlando CEO George Aguel presented Fun Spot founder John Arie Sr. with the 2017 i4 Business Leader of the Year Award in the category of tourism. The awards ceremony, sponsored by i4 Business magazine, took place at the Country Club of Orlando.

A highly respected figure in the family entertainment center industry, Arie is someone whose leadership and vision continue to add value to our destination. Over the years, his strategic planning and aggressive brand of entrepreneurship have yielded tremendous results - for Fun Spot and Orlando as a whole.

In the December edition of i4 Business, Aguel's column focused on Arie's leadership and vision ...

It's hard to believe, but this month marks the 20th anniversary of Fun Spot's arrival on I-Drive. Even more incredible is how John Arie Sr., an Oviedo native, has been steadily growing his theme park empire for more than 40 years.

On behalf of Visit Orlando, we're excited to see him recognized as a 2017 Business Leader of the Year.

During the recession, for instance, Arie had the foresight to expand operations. More recently, when looking to grow Fun Spot's geographical footprint, he chose to re-invest in our community instead of venturing into other markets. Along those lines, the partnerships he's forged with similar companies, such as Gatorland and Old Town, have made Orlando's regional tourism community even stronger.

Most every successful business leader operates under a unique set of guiding principles, and Arie has often stated that his are faith, family and fun. Judging from Fun Spot's growth, that seems to be a winning formula - one that's been rewarded by a surge in passholders the past couple of years.

To quote a certain commercial all of us have seen many times on TV, Arie has built a "HUUUUUGE" legacy. And it's only getting bigger. Congrats, John, on a job well done!


Verbaas Elected Board Chairman at Xenia


Congratulations to Marcel Verbaas, a member of Visit Orlando's executive committee, for being elected chairman of the board of Xenia Hotels & Resorts. Verbaas has served as Xenia's president and CEO since its formation in 2007; in his new capacity, he will retain the title of CEO. Read the full release here.


Keeping Travel Safe and Secure

Orlando International Airport

Last week's senseless attacks in Paris were tragic and our thoughts and prayers go out to the French people and everyone affected by this terrorism. But unfortunately, this event has resulted in several of our nation's Congressional lawmakers re-examining the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP) for potential security gaps. It's important during times like this to communicate a better understanding of the VWP, without resorting to a quick overreaction that dismisses the facts about this important program.

The truth is that the VWP not only facilitates inbound travel to the United States but also protects our homeland by requiring pre-screening of travelers who are pre-approved through the program. It also enables greater information sharing through enhanced international partnerships with law enforcement and intelligence services and making passports more secure for participating countries. You can send an email to your Senators and Representative to let them know that now is the time to defend this tried and true security program and champion policies such as the VWP that keep travel safe and secure.

By the way, we would like to remind you that now is also the time to register for Visit Orlando's Annual Meeting and Luncheon, presented by Emirates, on Dec. 8. Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich will deliver a powerful keynote presentation along with other opportunities to reflect on the great year for tourism we've had in Central Florida. We hope to see you there.


Register Now for Visit Orlando's Annual Meeting

With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, there's not a lot of time to register for Visit Orlando's Annual Meeting and luncheon on Dec. 8 at Rosen's Shingle Creek Resort. As a destination, our entire tourism community pulled together this year to achieve what all indications suggest will be another historic, record-breaking year for our community. As a friend of tourism you won't want to miss the recap of 2015 and "look ahead" at what's in store for 2016.

If you haven't heard, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich has accepted our invitation to share his outlook on next year's economy and Presidential race, as well as the resulting effects on our businesses community. Our local business and Central Florida community leaders alike will surely find this very special keynote presentation fascinating.

Please join Visit Orlando's Chairman of our Board of Directors Peter Kacheris for what promises to be a memorable event. Click here for registration information.


Job Shadow Offers Insight Into Industry

2014 Rosen Job Shadow


With an industry employing more than 380,000 people directly and indirectly, it is important to help inspire and shape the future leaders of Orlando's tourism community. What better time than World Tourism Day. Last week more than 75 students from the UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management shadowed industry professionals to learn more about the variety of career opportunities available right in our own backyard.

Students participated in a full day of educational, hands-on experiences, paired with the employer that best suited thier career interests. From theme park management to lodging operations and event planning to convention sales, the program opens student's eyes and provides a realistic 'day in the life.' National activities surrounding World Tourism Day started in 1980 and are coordinated by The World Tourism Organization. 


Fred Shea Named Senior Vice President of Convention Sales & Services


Fred Shea named senior vice president of convention sales. 

Visit Orlando President and CEO George Aguel today announced the promotion of Fred Shea to senior vice president of Convention Sales and Services for the nation's premier destination tourism association, effective immediately.

"After an extensive, nationwide executive search, we were delighted to find that Fred demonstrated unequivocally that he had the experience, credentials and national recognition that we were looking for," said Aguel. "Fred has been highly respected in our industry for many years due to his sales knowledge and service-orientation."


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