Visit Sarasota President Announces Retirement
SARASOTA, Fla. – After serving at the helm of Visit Sarasota County (VSC) for 24 years, Virginia J. Haley announces her plans to retire at the end of September 2023. Haley’s retirement has been planned and the VSC Board of Directors has an established succession plan in place.
“Being given the opportunity to promote Sarasota County as a tourism destination has been a dream position and each week brought the delight of discovering new facets of this amazing community,” said Haley. She continued, “Together, with a visionary Board of Directors, a supportive Sarasota County Commission, a passionate tourism community and dedicated staff, we have built a high-performing team and I’m confident in the destination’s future.”
“Virginia has been a rock in both good and challenging times and has made Sarasota a better community for all of us,” said Nick Mavrikas, Chair of the VSC Board of Directors. “Her vision, commitment and warmth have been a tremendous asset to the organization, the community and the industry. We are grateful for her leadership and contributions and look forward to continuing her successful legacy into the future.”
Haley began her career with VSC at a time when the Tourist Development Tax (TDT) generated $5.4 million annually. Most recently, the TDT generated $40 million annually. During her tenure, Sarasota evolved from a tourism destination with limited accommodations to what is today one of the fastest growing tourism markets in the U.S. In this time, Sarasota has opened significant hotel properties including the Sarasota Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota Westin, Aloft, Art Ovation, Embassy Suites, and multiple properties in Venice and North Port and more.
Haley oversaw strategic planning, launched promotional programs through partnership and expanded sales and marketing initiatives into new markets of opportunity resulting in widespread awareness of and visitation to the destination. Highlights include creation of the Circus Heritage Trail, the Sarasota and Venice Architecture Guides, and Discover Natural Sarasota. She created Savor Sarasota Restaurant Week to drive off-season visitation to area restaurants, and was a driving force in establishing Newtown on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail. Further, Haley was instrumental in growing Sarasota’s sports tourism efforts and aided in the development of spring training facilities for the Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves, the Sarasota BMX Track and Nathan Benderson Park.
“I am most proud of the role VSC and its Board played in 2014 when they started and lead the community discussion on transforming the Sarasota Bayfront into what is now known as The Bay Sarasota,” said Haley. “If VSC had not stepped up to lead the change in those early days, there would not be the spectacular Phase One of the park that is there today.”
Haley was also a prominent figure in the tourism industry on a state and national level. Passionate about destination marketing organizations (DMOs) maintaining the highest standards within the industry, she spearheaded VSC’s effort to earn international accreditation and, subsequently, she chaired Destination International’s global Destination Management Accreditation Program (DMAP) for DMOs. She also chaired Destinations Florida and the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors.
The VSC Board of Directors has formed a community-wide Search Committee to assist the Board in the selection process for the next President. SearchWide Global is leading the process. The VSC Board expects to have a new President named by the summer. SearchWide Global is currently accepting qualified applications for the position. For more information go to SearchWideGlobal.com or contact Kellie Henderson, Senior Vice President, SearchWide Global at [email protected]
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Olivia Turpening, [email protected]