Visiting Tampa Bay – Greenly

by Alison Lueders, Great Green Editing

The Republican National Convention rolls into Tampa next week. Some 50,000 visitors and 15,000 media are expected. It’s exciting to have Tampa in the national spotlight, and I hope the convention organizers succeed in providing those visitors with a fantastic experience of the city and its environs.

We should be up to the challenge. After all, tourism is Florida’s largest industry, with 1 out of 7  jobs being tourism-related, and $80 billion in direct spending flowing in the state. Employment in the tourism industry has been growing, even in this tough economy. The 22.1 million visitors to Florida in the second quarter puts Florida on track to beat its previous record for visitors – which was set just last year.

To keep that tourism machine humming, it makes sense to protect and enhance those natural assets that make Florida – and the Tampa Bay region – the truly special place it is. Florida’s natural treasures – from rivers to the bay, from the Gulf beaches to the Everglades – are a huge draw for people and businesses. They aren’t just “pretty” – they are unique, and fragile, and the foundation of many of our livelihoods.

Tampa Bay hotels and restaurants increasingly know this. So, for example, InterContinental Tampa’s “Destination Earth” program began in 2008 to reduce the hotel’s environmental impacts through activities like water-saving initiatives and recycling. And the number of Tampa Bay restaurants that tout their locally-sourced foods or the value of composting their food waste – well, there are more than you can shake a fork at. My latest find in this regard: Evos on South Howard in Tampa. Who knew that a grass-fed beef burger and air-baked fries could taste so good?

Tampa Bay’s hospitality will shine next week (barring a visit from Isaac). Let’s hope we win new fans, in part, because our commitment to green and sustainable practices will be on display, along with our other fine qualities.