For many years, the Bradenton area has been known as "the friendly city," mainly because of our residents who love the community we live in, and who know how important it is to showcase our warm hospitality to our visitors from around the globe.
But how important are our visitors to our community? According to our research firm, domestic visitors spend $87.72 a day, and our international visitors spend $95.40 a day while visiting our community. Our visitors generated more than $844,880,200 in economic impact in Manatee County alone last year, so showcasing a friendly face or providing unique hospitality plays a very special role in our economic foundation.
Today, we are truly blessed to have one of the top educational programs in the industry right in our own back yard at the University of South Florida's College of Hospitality and Technology Leadership. This fall, it celebrates the 10th anniversary of the program that has achieved an impressive 97-percent industry placement and 80-percent graduate and retention rate.
What is the secret behind the success? A balance of challenging courses including: planning, finance, marketing and staffing, combined with a student requirement of 1,000 hours of hands-on experience working directly in area restaurants and hotels.
For the past few years, this program has been led by one of the most dynamic educators I have encountered, Dean Cihan Cobanoglu. If you have a chance to meet Dr. Cobanoglu, you will be filled with energy, passion, and a total love for educating in the field of hospitality -- all qualities he seeks to instill in students who are entering the program. He is well on his way to developing this hospitality and leadership school as one of the best in the world.
This unique program will help us to drive visitors to our community on a year-round basis that will ultimately cater to our job growth, business sustainability and real estate transactions. It is important that we continue to enhance customer service in our area because we are facing tough competition for visitors throughout Florida. The best way to compete with other areas is to educate our residents in the hospitality field because they know the community intimately, they believe in our community, and will no doubt, be great ambassadors.
To me, the best place to begin an education in hospitality is at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. For those who have already worked hard to earn their degree, I urge you to support this
dynamic program by sponsoring their fundraising events throughout the upcoming year. For information about the upcoming events, please visit www.usfsm.edu/chtl
Elliott Falcione, executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, can be reached at Elliott.Falcione@BACVB.com or 941-729-9177 ext. 222.