Success in the Sunshine State: Highlights from HFTP’s 2018 Florida Regional Conference

The beautiful Sarasota Westin Hotel — with its bright white facade, multitudinous windows and stunning rooftop pool area — made a very picturesque setting for the 2018 HFTP Florida Regional Conference, which took place July 25–27, 2018. Approximately 145 attendees made their way to Sarasota, Florida last week to enjoy education, exhibits and networking with their fellow hospitality professionals.

The conference was hosted by the HFTP Florida Manasota chapter, along with the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee chapter and the Florida Gulf Coast chapter. The involved chapters commenced their planning process last summer — meeting several times to determine topics, recruit expert speakers, draft session descriptions, organize the exhibition, and refine the overall agenda.

As a result of their combined and continued efforts, the conference featured 30 concurrent educational sessions, an outstanding keynote presentation, 19 vendor exhibits presenting the latest in the hospitality industry’s products and services, and 20 additional event sponsors.

The three-day professional development event kicked off on Wednesday evening with a welcome session and comedy performance by the Bermuda Mavericks. Professional comedians Les McCurdy and Ken Sons gave attendees the perfect combination of stand up comedy, improvisation and audience participation that incorporated hospitality issues and hot topics. Les has owned McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre in Sarasota for over 30 years and delighted the crowd with local wit and wisdom.

The keynote presentation took place the following morning and featured Nick Bollettieri — a revered American tennis coach, creator of the tennis academy concept and the IMG Tennis Academy, and 2014 inductee into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. He has coached 10 world #1 ranked players including Andre Agassi, Venus and Serena Williams, Jim Courier and Monica Seles, and has guided the development of hundreds of successful collegiate players.

In his keynote session, Nick shared stories about his own career and some of his successful champion students. “His primary point was that everyone has to overcome adversity in their life, and his suggestions in this area were quite enlightening,” shared Glenn Price, CFO of the Gasparilla Inn and Club. “His speech was fun, informative and highly entertaining.”

The rest of the educational program explored a wide range of topics that included:

  • Enhancing the customer experience through innovation
  • Trends and tactics of the cyber threat landscape seen through the eyes of a practicing security engineer
  • Detecting potential fraud by exploring seven genius fraud schemes
  • Understanding Visa options for hospitality organizations
  • A preview into the future of successful private clubs
  • Issues and opportunities from a sales and use tax perspective in the hospitality industry
  • And much more

“The education this year I felt was very pertinent to current events and issues that we deal with on a daily basis,” said Alison Liska, controller at The Founders Golf Club in Sarasota. “I was able to take away some valuable information, as well as vendor options if needed in the future.”

Alison also organized the Lido Casino Night, a successful “FUN”-draising event that took place on Thursday evening and secured more than $2,500 for their charity of honor The Loveland Center, a local day training facility for adults with disabilities.

Established in 1962, the Loveland Center is a nonprofit organization serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. For more than 55 years, Loveland has been dedicated to providing each person the opportunity to find their own voice — creating a platform for them to be seen. Through educational programs and vocational services, Loveland encourages self-advocacy and strives to develop greater independence for those we serve.

With the HFTP Florida Manasota chapter’s continued assistance, Loveland opened a residential facility called “The Village” on the same campus as the center. This unique environment has strengthened the center’s mission statement, which is “to help individuals with intellectual and development disabilities live their lives to the fullest.”

Congratulations to the HFTP Florida area chapters for a productive and successful event. Visit the “Conferences & Events” section of the HFTP website for details on upcoming regional, national and international conferences (including the HFTP 2018 Annual Conference this October), as well as local chapter events.

Briana Gilmore is the HFTP communications coordinator.
Briana can be reached at or +1 (512) 220-4017.

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About the Author: Briana Gilmore