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Visit Orlando CEO Gary Sain dies during charity event

Gary Sain, president and CEO of Visit Orlando, passed away on Friday, May 7, 2012, while attending a Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida’s fundraiser. Sain delivered the opening remarks at the fundraiser before he collapsed and was rushed to Florida Hospital Celebration Health. Sain was 61 years old.

gary-sainSain is survived by his wife, Pam, their two daughters and his mother, Elizabeth. The Sain family has asked for privacy as they go through this very difficult time, and additional information will be shared as it becomes available.

Sain began working with Visit Orlando in February 2007. As the CEO of the organization, Sain was responsible for marketing and selling the Orlando area as the number one family leisure destination in the world, and one of the top meetings and convention destinations in America.

“As the leader of Visit Orlando, Gary served as our community’s brand ambassador working tirelessly on behalf of Orlando and the entire travel and tourism industry,” said Paul Tang, chairman of the Visit Orlando Board of Directors. “He spent his entire career working in hospitality and was honored numerous times for his contributions. The Visit Orlando team, our destination partners and our community have lost a wonderful leader and friend. He will truly be missed by all that knew him.”

Among his achievements, Sain is credited with Orlando reaching a record of 51.5 million visitors in 2010, the first U.S. destination to surpass the 50 million visitor milestone.

Within the meetings and conventions travel segment, Sain was also noted for his efforts in marketing Orlando as a top-ranked destination for business events. As a result, Orlando held 26 of the top 250 tradeshows in the United States during 2011, ranking it as the number two destination overall behind Las Vegas.

One of Sain’s proudest achievements was working with the community to bring NPE2012, the international plastics tradeshow with more than 55,000 attendees, to the Orange County Convention Center in April 2012. This was the first time the tradeshow had met outside of Chicago since 1971.

“As many in our industry may recall from SPI events and articles, over the past three years Gary was extremely instrumental in helping to attract SPI to Orlando for NPE2012,” said William Carteaux, president and CEO of SPI, the Plastics Industry Trade Association that produces NPE. “His tireless efforts and commitment to the show and our industry helped us create one of the best NPEs in its history.  Gary took some huge risks to ensure our success that could have cost him not only his job, but also his outstanding reputation.  But as I got to know him better along the journey, I realized there was no way he would allow SPI, or himself, to fail in helping create the special event that we did with NPE2012.”

Sain also helped market the Orange County Convention Center, which was recently rated the number one facility in the country by Business Review USA.

Orange County, Fla., Mayor Teresa Jacobs released a statement Saturday morning regarding Sain’s death.

“This is a great personal loss and I extend my sympathy to Gary’s family, friends and the entire community,” said Mayor Jacobs. “Gary’s leadership leaves Visit Orlando in a strong position to carry on his vision to promote Orlando/Orange County as the world’s top tourist destination and a wonderful place to meet and conduct business. Thanks to the solid team Gary put in place, I have total confidence that Visit Orlando will continue to fulfill that mission.”

Sain was recognized for his leadership many times throughout his career at Visit Orlando. In 2008, he was named Orlando’s most influential tourism executive by Orlando Business Journal. He was also named as one of the 50 most prominent people in Orlando by Orlando Magazine for three consecutive years.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer also commented on Sain’s passing.

“This is very tragic news and a terrible loss for our community,” said Mayor Dyer. “Under Gary’s leadership as Visit Orlando’s President and CEO, he helped put Orlando on the map as the number one tourism destination in the world, continuing to solidify our tourism market and the backbone of our economy. He will truly be missed and my thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends during this difficult time.”



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