Veteran Tourism Promoter Eric Garvey At the Helm of Major Brevard County Economic Driver
By Space Coast Daily // February 17, 2016
Manages the Space Coast’s Multi-Million Dollar Tourism Initiatives and Programs
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Tourism on the Space Coast is big business, estimated to pump almost $3 billion a year into the local economy and provide about 22,000 jobs in Brevard County.
Leading the tourism charge is Eric Garvey, who has been the Executive Director of Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism since November 2014.
Garvey is responsible for the administration of all the action within the Tourism Development Office of Brevard County including marketing and promoting the Space Coast to tourists around the world; managing the tourist visitor centers; overseeing beach re-nourishment initiatives; marketing and promoting cultural and sporting events; and assisting the Brevard Zoo, the film commission and applying for grants.
Brevard County’s 5 percent tourism tax revenue, which is collected on local hotel rooms and other short-term rentals, exceeded $10 million for the first time in the budget year that ended Sept. 30 of last year.
Garvey expects the figure to top $15 million in the budget year that runs from Oct. 1, 2017, to Sept. 30, 2018.
A veteran of the tourism industry, Garvey came to the Space Coast via the Jekyll Island Authority in Georgia, which manages a state-owned barrier island resort that includes 10 miles of beaches, four golf courses, a 250-acre historic landmark district and various lodging establishments. In 2009, he was the authority’s senior director of marketing and business development.
Garvey describes his experience as “20 years of leading people in the boardroom, in the office, around the dinner table and on the soccer field. Creative thinking, combined with pragmatic leadership, delivering actionable solutions.”
Q SPACE COAST DAILY: Eric, congratulations on your appointment and the good work that you are doing with the Space Coast Office of Tourism. The tourism business in Brevard has exceeded all projections since your appointment. To what do you credit this growth?
A ERIC GARVEY: We have seen great year-over-year lodging revenue growth, but that is completely coincidental to my arrival. When I look at the trends it appears to me that we were late with the post-recession recovery and are now catching up to the rest of Florida.
Q SPACE COAST DAILY: What have you been most proud of during your first period in your role as Executive Director?
A ERIC GARVEY: Well, the Space Coast Stadium/USSSA deal is the most impactful. When I arrived, I was concerned about having a great, big, empty stadium. But to sign on USSSA and allocate the funds needed to convert the stadium into an entire amateur sports complex is amazing. So that is the biggest deal. The project I’m most personally proud of though is the TDC’s participation in Space Coast Field of Dreams. I had the honor of taking part in the grand opening ceremony, and to see the smiling faces on the kids and the families who will use the facility made me most proud.
Q SPACE COAST DAILY: Has your first year on the job been what you thought it would be?
A ERIC GARVEY: In many ways it has exceeded my expectation. I love challenges, and we certainly had a few to deal with. But the people on the Space Coast are great, and the area is rich with so much beauty. We really love it here.
Q SPACE COAST DAILY: Who are your role models and why?
A ERIC GARVEY: I may be too old for role models. If I had to pick one, it would be Stephen Covey because he was able to take age-old ideas and communicate them in a way that could help people become more successful. And his approach was always so positive and optimistic.
Q SPACE COAST DAILY: What motivates you as the Executive Director of the Space Coast Office of Tourism?
A ERIC GARVEY: I am completely driven by the desire to have a positive impact on people. So as Executive Director, I enjoy leading our team and hopefully influencing and mentoring each so that their careers are more fulfilling and successful. From a community perspective I am motivated to help make the businesses more profitable and the area a better place to live, work and visit.
Q SPACE COAST DAILY: What are the key areas of focus for the TDC now and over the next 24 months?
A ERIC GARVEY: I really feel good about where we are with our marketing team and marketing plans. I will continue to give that area attention and leadership as we roll out new programs. We will also focus on making the relocation of USSSA an amazing success. But we also need to focus on tourism product development – new hotels and attractions. And we need to get our arms around the short-term rental and Airbnb businesses. We have to figure out a way to increase their compliance with tax law, ordinances and licensing.
Q SPACE COAST DAILY: What have you learned about tourism in Brevard and how are you planning to continue the expansion of tourism on The Space Coast?
A ERIC GARVEY: I knew generally about the area, but I have been surprised by the depth of the experiences here. Whether it is space-related or nature-based, we have amazing assets in our community. We need to do a better job of organizing those assets, making them accessible to visitors and then promoting the heck out of them.
Q SPACE COAST DAILY: How do you plan to promote tourism here in Brevard and what new ways are there to attract more tourists?
A ERIC GARVEY: Brevard is unique in that we have several great destinations within the county. So we need to treat the Space Coast as our corporate or umbrella brand, and work on clarifying the brand message for each one of our destinations – Cocoa Beach, Titusville, Melbourne and the beaches, Palm Bay, Port Canaveral and Viera. So we need to tell the stories connected to each destination through highly engaging content. This means more video productions, user-generated images and personal stories of the great experiences people have when they travel here.
Q SPACE COAST DAILY: How do you feel about Major League Baseball leaving Brevard and youth sports filling the gap? What are your expectations?
A ERIC GARVEY: Having a professional baseball team is prestigious, but they did not seem to integrate into the community very well. I am excited about USSSA relocating to the Space Coast. Their business is more family-oriented and they will become a stronger part of the fabric of the community than another Major League Baseball team.
Q SPACE COAST DAILY: What have been the most important issues that you have worked on so far and how effectively have they been dealt with?
A ERIC GARVEY: Reorganizing the tourism office and restructuring the marketing team was the most important. We needed to adjust to the changing marketplace and marketing landscape. And the results have been the most rewarding. We have some great new talent and energy and are already producing improved results. We also have improved our financial reporting and transparency for TDC members.
We now produce a really great suite of reports which provide itemized financials in an understandable format, and a tax analysis monthly report which graphically shows the sources of tax collections each month.
Having the numbers makes the TDC better informed, and allows me the better manage the operation. Making those changes required some creative problem-solving, but more importantly required the support and confidence of the County Manager, the Board and the TDC. So I am thankful for their support in allowing me to make the changes that were necessary.
Q SPACE COAST DAILY: The public now largely uses digital information to decide where it will visit and stay while on vacation. How does the TDC compete in that environment and gain the edge it needs to attract more tourists to Brevard?
A ERIC GARVEY: I am excited because we just became a partner with Facebook/Instagram giving us preferred access to their digital science and creative teams. Together with our research through Nielsen we will be able to fully exploit the opportunities offered via the digital channels and serve our great content to people we have targeted as being likely to want to travel to one of our destinations.
Q SPACE COAST DAILY: What do you like to do in your spare time?
A ERIC GARVEY: I love to hang out with my wife and daughter in Cocoa Beach. We are renting a really great place on the Banana River and it is beautiful. I also enjoy golf and paddle boarding, And I keep threatening to learn to surf.
Q SPACE COAST DAILY: Where do you like to go on vacation and why?
A ERIC GARVEY: We are in that life stage that when we travel we go see our kids. We have a son in San Diego, a daughter in Athens and a son at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro. For vacation, we stay at home in Cocoa Beach and love it!
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