(Elizabeth Mack, Tallahassee Democrat) – Five years ago, seven statewide associations decided to form a partnership to create a united focus on tourism in Florida. 

On March 22, the group will host its annual Florida Tourism Day downtown.

“It has been a tough year for tourism in Florida,” said Carol Dover, president/CEO for the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. “We’ve weathered the oil spill. It’s time to move forward.” 

About 200 people will be flying in to the capital city for Tourism Day, hosted by the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Visit Florida, the Florida Attractions Association, Florida Association of Convention & Visitor Bureaus, Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, Florida Association of Museums and Florida Sports Foundation, Dover said. 

“Together, we will be helping promote Florida’s diverse arts and cultural tourism opportunities,” said Chris Cate, director of communications for the Florida Department of State. “Tourism Day is a great opportunity to promote the countless reasons why Florida is a great place to live and visit, and has been for a long time, which is why we have such a compelling and rich cultural heritage to promote.”

Cate said it’s a day-long event that consists of morning CEO briefings, a leadership luncheon, meeting legislators and a reception/block party.

The block party, on Adams Street, will feature live entertainment by Billy Dean and Band. A pre-show is at 5 p.m., with Billy Dean and his folks taking the stage at 6 p.m.

There will also be food vendors and characters from around the state, such as Captain Fear of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Raymond Ray from the Tampa Bay Rays.

This event will not only shine a light on what the organizations do, but also why they are important. 

“This is a great opportunity for us to get the word out about what tourism means to Florida,” Dover said. “It’s the economic engine of this state.”