Saturday, May 26, 2018
Business

Latin American travel conference comes to St. Petersburg for the first time

Nearly 450 operators who work in the travel industry in Latin, Central and South America are about to convene in downtown St. Petersburg for the La Cita de las Americas conference.

Beginning today, those who work in the travel industry, specifically in Latin America and the Caribbean, will participate in a travel industry networking conference at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club. This is the first time the conference, which has always taken place in Florida, will be held on the Gulf Coast, said Rick Still, the managing director and founder of La Cita.

The networking event and conference, which is by invitation only, has previously been held in Boca Raton and Miami.

"The focus is that business is personal," said Still, who worked in the tourism industry for several years before founding this conference. "Especially in Latin America, travel and tourism is about relationships."

The three-day conference is where travel industry suppliers, operators, buyers and marketers will meet and make deals, Still said. Visit Florida and Visit St. Pete-Clearwater are supporting the conference, Still said, which has helped draw the largest delegation of tour operators in the conference's history.

"Because of the support of Visit St. Pete-Clearwater and Visit Florida, we're able to host a buyer program at a significantly reduced cost. We've never had this large of a delegation before," Still said.

Previous Coverage: Where are Orlando's beaches? Pinellas tourism pitch urges visitors to head west

Latin American travelers are an important and growing market for Florida's tourism industry. While Canada is still the top international market for tourism in Florida, Brazil was Florida's No. 3 largest international market, followed by Argentina at No. 4, Colombia at No. 5 and Venezuela at No. 8, according to 2016 data from Visit Florida. Latin American travelers are easily some of the biggest vacation spenders too, Still said.

"Sixty-two percent of all travelers coming to the U.S. from Latin America go to Florida," Still said. "You see that in Orlando, Miami and Fort Lauderdale. They also spend roughly four times as much as Canadians spend while they're here."

While South Florida continues to be the hub of activity for Latin American travelers, Still said Visit St. Pete-Clearwater's investment in attracting this type of international traveler is beginning to pay off.

"We expected to see some attrition when we chose the Vinoy and St. Petersburg" as a host site, he said. "But this region has been aggressive and (Visit St. Pete-Clearwater) has taken their gloves off to go after Latin American business. They're a pioneer in this. And that's why they're the first on the Gulf Coast to host us."

In 2013, Copa Airlines announced it would begin offering nonstop service four times a week to Panama from Tampa International Airport, which opened up Tampa Bay as a gateway to Latin American countries for the first time.

"They're realizing there is a history here that his hip and upscale," he said. "And they're realizing that it's a new product that's only 90 minutes away from something like Orlando and its theme parks."

Contact Justine Griffin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

Comments
An American Airlines passenger was refused beer - so he screamed, fought and spit blood, FBI says

An American Airlines passenger was refused beer - so he screamed, fought and spit blood, FBI says

It began, as so many plane debacles seem to, with strange sounds in the bathroom.They were the noises of Jason Felix, one of the passengers on Wednesday’s American Airlines flight out of Saint Croix, according to a FBI affidavit recounting events lea...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Is the Lightning’s Jeff Vinik the best owner in professional sports?

Is the Lightning’s Jeff Vinik the best owner in professional sports?

Hope of another Stanley Cup has dissolved, and soon the ice will follow. Yet even if sorrow is the price of devotion, the true hockey fans will still buy in when the next season comes around.That concept may not be unique to Tampa Bay, but it does se...
Published: 05/26/18
Five members of 69ers motorcycle gang indicted on federal charges

Five members of 69ers motorcycle gang indicted on federal charges

Last year three members of the 69ers Motorcycle Club gang were implicated in the execution of a rival gang leader in the middle of rush hour traffic in Pasco County.Now those three and two other 69ers members have been indicted on federal charges tha...
Published: 05/25/18
With makeover, ZooTampa at Lowry Park takes a page from the theme parks

With makeover, ZooTampa at Lowry Park takes a page from the theme parks

TAMPA — Behind the construction walls near the carousel at ZooTampa at Lowry Park, hammers, saws and power drills made a racket in the blazing Friday heat. A raft full of 100-pound water jugs took test trips on the new Roaring Springs ride set ...
Published: 05/25/18
U.S. news outlets block European readers over new privacy rules

U.S. news outlets block European readers over new privacy rules

LONDON — U.S. news outlets including The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The Orlando Sentinel and The Arizona Daily Star abruptly blocked access to their websites from Europe on Friday, choosing to black out readers rather than comply with a ...
Published: 05/25/18
Tampa Electric appeals OSHA findings for October accident

Tampa Electric appeals OSHA findings for October accident

TAMPA — Tampa Electric Co. is appealing a recent citation by federal regulators. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration hit the utility with a $76,050 fine and a "serious" violation in April following its investigation into an accident in ...
Published: 05/25/18
Fiat Chrysler recalls 4.8 million cars, warning owners: Don’t use the cruise control

Fiat Chrysler recalls 4.8 million cars, warning owners: Don’t use the cruise control

Associated PressDETROIT — Fiat Chrysler is recalling 4.8 million vehicles in the U.S. because in rare but terrifying circumstances, drivers may not be able to turn off the cruise control. The company is warning owners not to use cruise control until...
Published: 05/25/18
Federal Reserve chairman warns his agency must be free from political pressure

Federal Reserve chairman warns his agency must be free from political pressure

Associated PressFederal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned Friday that the Fed’s independence from political pressure must be respected if it is to succeed in controlling inflation, maximizing employment and regulating the financial system. His re...
Published: 05/25/18
Restaurants like Ford’s Garage use the experience to get you in the door

Restaurants like Ford’s Garage use the experience to get you in the door

Tim Butler’s first car was a Ford Model A pick-up truck — a pearl fawn and cherry red pick-up he got his senior year in high school from his dad, who renovates antique cars. That’s why as Butler waited for a table at the Ford’...
Published: 05/25/18
St. Petersburg man fined $507,513 in penny stock scheme

St. Petersburg man fined $507,513 in penny stock scheme

TAMPA — A St. Petersburg man was fined $507,513 and permanently barred from participating in the offering of a penny stock in a case involving a scheme to manipulate the price of Aureus, a penny stock company incorporated in Nevada, officials said Fr...
Published: 05/25/18