Visit Sarasota County Announces Fiscal Year 2020 Board of Directors

Appointment signals launch of five-year Destination Strategic Plan and 2020 Annual Action Plan

January 8, 2020

Visit Sarasota County (VSC) announces the fiscal year 2020 Board of Directors. The board members serve from October 1, 2019 until September 30, 2020. Coinciding with the recent appointments and the new decade is the launch of the Destination Strategic Plan (DSP) for 2020-2025 and Annual Action Plan for 2020.

The Executive Committee of the Board of Directors is comprised of the following individuals:  Chair, Christine Johnson, President, Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast; Vice Chair, Nicholas Mavrikis, General Manager, Embassy Suites; and Secretary/Treasurer, Lorrie Liang, Chief Operating Officer, Sarasota Memorial Hospital. Steven High, Executive Director, The Ringling Museum is the Immediate Past Chair. 

Returning general members of the VSC Board are: Heather Kasten, President/CEO, Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce; Dr. Patrick Moreo, Professor and Dean of College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership, USF-Sarasota Manatee; Russell Matthes, Owner/V.P. of Marketing, Daiquiri Deck Raw Bar; Sondra Guffey, Marketing & Business Development Specialist, The City of North Port; and Varinia Van Ness, Esquire, Van Ness Law Group, P.A.

New appointments to the Board are: Alan Maio, County Commissioner, Sarasota County Commission; Gil Reyes, General Manager, Westin Sarasota; Lori Ruth, Associate Publisher, Observer East; and Richard Russell, Executive Director, Sarasota Opera.

The DSP for 2025 was developed in conjunction with the local tourism industry and the community. The key priorities are:

  •  New and Repeat Visitors: There are phases of visitor types and understanding how to reach and convert each type will be a critical shift in how VSC targets potential targets in the future.
  •  Roles and Importance of the Beaches: The beaches of Sarasota County continue to be the lead reason for a visit, but just having beautiful beaches isn’t enough in today’s competitive market. There will need to be continued thought on beach access, programming, business opportunities, transportation and issues around water quality.
  •  Public Venues: Across Sarasota County there are key venues and assets that relate to sports, arts and culture, and recreation and nature.
  • Events: A comprehensive countywide approach to evaluating and promoting events is a new initiative that can help grow current events to a scale that drives new visitation around those high priority events.
  •  Preparedness: With the potential for natural or manmade catastrophic events, it will be critical to have a proactive plan in place for how reserve funds are accessed and utilized and how communication and messaging is distributed.
  •  Funding Implications and Strategies: There are opportunities through the creation of a model and tools to ensure TDT investments are being made strategically.

The 2020 Annual Action Plan is the first business plan and budget based upon the newly adopted VSC DSP. It calls for significant shifts in priorities in the way that we market and promote Sarasota County. It also places a greater emphasis on the evaluation of the success of this plan. To view the 2020 Annual Action Plan, visit

To learn more about the Fiscal Year 2020 Board of Directors, the 2020-2025 DSP or the 2020 Annual Action Plan, visit or contact Britney Guertin at [email protected]

About Visit Sarasota County

Visit Sarasota County leads and supports the tourism industry in Sarasota County by providing the highest quality, and most innovative, marketing programs and promotions to ensure the continued growth of tourism and travel from visitors around the world. It is the mission of VSC is to make Sarasota County the must experience destination on Florida’s Gulf Coast. To learn more, visit