The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association has elected Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce CEO John Lai as its regional director in Southwest Florida. One of the most powerful associations in Florida, FLRA’s mission is to protect, educate, and promote the hospitality industry. The Southwest Florida region of FRLA encompasses Collier, Lee, Charlotte, and Glades counties.
“John brings a wealth of in-market knowledge and experience gained from nearly 30 years in the Southwest Florida hospitality and tourism industry,” wrote FRLA President & CEO Carol Dover in her recent announcement. “He has operated hotels and resorts across Sanibel, Captiva, Clearwater, and Vero Beach, and served on the Tourism Committee for the Lee County Visitors and Convention Bureau, as well as President of the Conference and Convention Council for Fort Myers. John currently serves on the Visit Florida Board of Directors, and, a little closer to home, he is a past president of the FRLA Lee County Chapter and served on the FRLA Government Affairs Committee.”
Lai currently serves on the Visit Florida executive board as second vice chair. He also sits on the board of directors for Lee County Sports, serves as chair elect of the Florida Association of Chamber Professionals, and is past president of the Lee County Hotel Association and the Fort Myers Conference and Convention Council.
Under Lai’s supervision of the chamber of commerce, Visit Florida named the visitor center one of 13 official Florida Certified Tourism Information Centers. He is also responsible for chartering the Southwest Florida Alliance of Chambers in 2018 in response to the water quality crisis. He has been an active advocate for island economic health both in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C.
Since the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Sept. 28, Lai has been instrumental in partnering with various city, county, and state factions to speed recovery. He has become well-known for his collaboration know-how under current circumstances and ongoing where water quality is concerned.
“The catastrophic impact of Hurricane Ian to the Southwest Florida business community has provided the opportunity to create a shared position between FRLA and the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce, and leaders from both organizations agree this is a unique way to keep John’s talents in this market and strengthen the impact of all concerned,” said Dover. “John has worked extensively with FRLA members and the broader hospitality community throughout Collier, Lee, and Charlotte counties, and we are confident he is the right leader for this extraordinary time in Southwest Florida.”