We’re #1 With Kissimmee

with Caroline Booth

The Kissimmee team with partners from CND Homes, Fun Spot, Ramada Gatewa,Westgate Resort and VoX International

DT Minich

Kathleen Glace, Magic Village Resort

Rossy Valerio, WestGate Resorts

Mingling on the penthouse patio

It was a full house on the 7 th floor penthouse of Toronto's Soho Metropolitan Hotel recently where local travel partners were hosted to a VIP luncheon by Experience Kissimmee. The occasion was an opportunity to meet DT Minich, the organization's new President & CEO who was in Canada for the 1 st time under the Kissimmee banner. Along with local airline, tour operator and theme park reps, Florida based partners CND Homes; Fun Spot; Ramada Gateway and Westgate Resort reps were also on hand.

"We're here today to say thank you," said Minich. "Canada is our #1 international market. It always has been and I know that it always will be." The destination experienced a record winter in 2014, and although Minich joked about it being in part a result of a certain “snow and ice dance" marketing tactic that prompted Canadians to flock to the sunshine state, there really is no question that central Florida can draw visitors based on its own merits without the help of divine intervention. “It is the gateway to all theme parks. One of the beauties of Kissimmee is we have the easy access, and we have great product and a really diverse product in terms of hotels and accommodations."

Touted as the vacation home rental capital of the world, the area will soon see an influx in upgrades to existing properties and the development of 1000 new vacation homes in the next 12 months alone. Most will be located just outside the gates of Disney including the Magic Village Resort, a boutique style luxury resort featuring 180 villas with 3 and 4 bedroom suites, fully equipped kitchens and patios with barbecues. Not only all of that – but, the 3 storey homes actually have private elevators.

Having spent the last several years on Florida's west coast, Minich has been getting to know his new turf for the past 9 months and says he is impressed by all Kissimmee has to see and do. “We can offer the man-made world famous theme parks but also offer the true Florida experience. One day be in the shadow of the world's most famous castle, and the next be kayaking the headwaters of the everglades in the shadows of 2 and 3 hundred year old cypress trees." And here's an interesting fact: Osceola County shares population statistics with a region in Alaska for hosting the largest bald eagle count in North America. Thanks to the area's varied topography and many lakes that are teaming with fish, the eagles are present year-round. “There's a natural side to central Florida that people don't even realize."

With Minich at the helm, the organization has already undergone significant changes. It is no longer a government agency having gone private last year. The advantage is the ability for more flexibility in the marketplace and the ability to react much quicker to trends and doing things 'outside the box'. Minich has been hostomg town hall meetings where travel partners are encouraged to ask questions and share ideas.

Another change is with the organization's Board of Directors, which is now made up of representatives from all of the theme parks, major resorts and tourism companies. Prior to this, members were elected officials who may not have had as much of a deep understanding of the tourism industry. A look ahead to 2016 will see the allocation of more resources to international markets - a plan that has garnered full support of the Board.

"Canada is extremely important to us and will continue to be extremely important," said Minich. “We see so many partners here who have continued to bring business to Florida through the years. You make us a success and we want to make you a success. Together we can work to sell central Florida and Kissimmee."

(will not be published)