When I think of Gary Sain, president and CEO of Visit Orlando, I see him with his eyes alert, his head slightly tilted, about to share a great idea or insight. He was one of our greatest thinkers and one of the greatest contributors to the advancement of the travel agency community and industry as a whole.
At press time, his colleagues were reeling with the fact that Gary had passed away while attending a fundraiser at the young age of 61. According to the Orlando Sentinel, he fell while at the Orlando World Center Marriott during the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida's Celebrate the Children dinner and auction.
Paul Tang, chairman of the Visit Orlando Board of Directors, issued the following statement on the day following Sain’s death:
“On behalf of the Board of Directors, I have sad news to share with you. Friday evening, Gary Sain, president & CEO of Visit Orlando, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. Gary was a loving son, husband and father. Our thoughts go out to the people he most cherished, Gary’s mother Elizabeth Sain, wife Pam and daughters Vanessa Sain-Dieguez (Luis) and Olivia.
"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. 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.
"The family has asked for privacy as they go through this very difficult time. Additional information will be shared as it becomes available.”
Gary’s visionary skills and talents most recently made their mark on Orlando (where he and his team raised visitorship to a record-breaking 50 million a year), and where he rebranded the city’s CVB to Visit Orlando and launched the “Orlando Makes Agents Smile” campaign and training program. “The best travel agent is an educated travel agent,” Sain said in 2009 at its launch.
We’ll also remember his marketing prowess during the eight years he spent at Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell, and who can forget his days at Premier Cruise Line, a.k.a. The Big Red Boat?
The reality is, I can’t remember the travel industry when Gary wasn’t on the scene, coming up with innovative programs to bring the trade to a higher level. He will be sorely missed.
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