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Davenport resigns from Lee County VCB

By Staff | Dec 2, 2009

Last week, the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau (VCB) announced the resignation of its executive director Suya Davenport, who is returning to the private sector to work or consult with hotels and the hospitality industry. Her resignation is effective Dec. 10.

Lee County Manager Karen Hawes said a search for Davenport’s successor will commence immediately and that she hopes to have a new director in place by March 1, 2010. In the meantime, Hawes named VCB Deputy Director Tamara Pigott as interim director.

In her resignation, Davenport said, “It’s time for me to return to my professional roots. I’ve made major contributions to the VCB in the two and a half years I’ve been on board, and I’ve found in this experience that my heart really lies in the private sector.”

Davenport joined the VCB in June 2007 with more than 20 years of tourism marketing experience, including work in both the leisure and meetings sectors and experience with some of the world’s most respected service providers such as The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and LXR Luxury Resorts. At the VCB, she oversees a budget of $11.7 million and 24 employees, including sales offices in Washington, D.C.; Minneapolis, Mn.; the United Kingdom and Germany as well as representation in France.

In the last fiscal year of her tenure, which ended Sept. 30, 2009, visitation for the destination was up 1.5 percent year-over-year; and visitor expenditures were on par with fiscal year 2007-08, with a slight dip of 0.2 percent. Available room nights were up 3.2 percent; and occupied room nights were up 4.2 percent, leading to occupancy rates just slightly higher than the same period last year. Average length of stay also increased 4.6 percent.

“Thanks to teamwork between the VCB staff and our industry partners, our most recent tourism numbers are stellar in light of the economic times that have taken a toll on the travel industry,” said Davenport. “Southwest Florida has been my home for more than 25 years, and I have a great passion for this destination and deep ties to the community, so I’m particularly thrilled to have held our numbers in these tough times. I look forward to making similar contributions upon returning to the private sector.”

Davenport said she leaves the VCB in a good position to build upon the momentum it achieved in its most recent fiscal year. Having just completed a 2009-2010 integrated marketing plan based upon sophisticated data analytics, she and her staff have plans in place to drive another successful year.

The organization earned top tourism marketing honors in the nation in September, with a Destiny Award from the U.S. Travel Association (USTA) in the “Complete Marketing Program/Full Campaign” category. It is the fifth time the VCB has earned recognition in the prestigious awards competition, and the VCB is the only one in the country that has won more than two Destiny Awards. The coveted award came on the heels of the VCB’s earning state honors with a Flagler Award from VISIT FLORIDA in August.

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