Tampa Bay Shines at PRSA Travel and Tourism Conference

By Mary Haban, APRPress trips go digital at the PRSA Travel + Tourism Conference. Attendees converged on Busch Gardens for a day-long workshop to learn the tricks of the trade.

What do you do when hundreds of the brightest minds in the travel industry converge on your city for three days? Show off, of course.

And that’s exactly what Tampa did during the 2014 PRSA Travel and Tourism Conference. The annual event took place this year from June 8 to 11 at the Tampa Marriott Waterside and attracted more than 300 public relations professionals who specialize in hospitality. From digital press tips, to amazing keynote speakers, to intensive sessions on how to integrate your public relations plan into a social-media-savvy success story, the conference offered a valuable forum that was engaging and memorable for all who attended.

Popular speakers included Lee Abbamonte, who’s on course to be the youngest American to travel to every country in the world, as well as Jeff Corwin, host of the TV show Ocean Mysteries. Both provided meaningful messages about the travel sector and how those who practice in it can impact the world through communication.

To demonstrate how popular many of the conference sessions were, imagine standing room only and jam-packed workshops. This was the scene at several of the panel discussions, which were stacked with top editors and travel industry pros. The rousing response of the audience and the follow-up question-and-answer period were proof that attendees not only craved this knowledge, but also appreciated the chance to interact with some of the industry’s most prolific influencers.

The kickoff reception proudly showcased the Tampa Bay History Center, while a media mixer gave attendees the chance to get up close and personal with sea life and journalists at the Florida Aquarium. Other dining events took attendees to some of Tampa Bay’s finest eateries, like Bern’s Steak House, the Columbia, Boca, the Epicurean Hotel, and the Edison Food + Drink Lab.

All in all, the conference provided an invaluable opportunity to get insights on strategies and tactics from some of the best, discuss top issues and trends with nationally renowned leaders, and get to network with PR pros from the region and nation. It was an honor to be able to attend.

To find out more about how much the attendees loved our great city, check out the PRSA Travel Twitter and Instagram feeds:

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PRSA Tampa Bay Awards $1,650 in Scholarships for Three Conference Attendees

Mary HabanProfessional development, education and networking are just a few of the many rewards of an active PRSA membership, but three lucky members have just gotten cash awards as part of their PRSA membership benefits as well.

PRSA Tampa Bay recently had the privilege of awarding scholarships to three PR pros to allow them to attend two major conferences and have the entry fees and some partial travel expenses covered. One recipient was just given the opportunity to attend the PRSA 2014 Travel and Tourism Conference from June 8 to 11 in Tampa, and two recipients will have the fortune to be able to make it to the PRSA Sunshine District Conference from July 10 to 12 in Naples. The winners were decided on based on their service to the chapter and a personal interest or need.

The conferences represent invaluable opportunities to learn award-winning strategies and tactics from recent campaigns, discuss the latest issues and trends with nationally renowned experts, and hob knob with some of the top PR pros from the nation. And the scholarships are one perk in particular that the chapter is proud to be able to offer as yet one more reward that members can reap.

Mary Haban, of MBH Communications, was selected as the first scholarship winner and just attended the national PRSA Travel and Tourism Conference, hosted by PRSA Tampa Bay and held at the Tampa Marriott Waterside. Haban was selected from a long list of candidates based on her contributions and support to the chapter. As an active member of the chapter for more than 10 years, she has demonstrated a true capacity to serve the profession by volunteering her time and lending her talents to a variety of chapter initiatives.

Haban said it was an honor both to be selected and to represent the chapter at this prestigious national event.

“From digital press trips to social media strategies, the PRSA Travel and Tourism Conference did not disappoint the more than 300 attendees that packed the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel to learn the latest and greatest from the best of the best,” said Haban, who is also an active member of the Society of American Travel Writers and PRSA’s Travel & Tourism Section. “Several PRSA Tampa Bay members, including Travis Claytor, Kelly Prieto, Paula MacDonald and Gina Morales, were among some of the attendees on hand for the multi-day conference. A full report of conference activities and photos are coming soon, so stay tuned.”

Jenna StockThe next scholarship winners include Jennifer Medeiros, public relations and media manager at Girl Scouts of West Central Florida, and Jenna Stock, TV digital coordinator at Home Shopping Network (HSN), who will be heading to Naples for the 2014 PRSA Sunshine District Conference, a conference that represents one of PRSA’s 10 national districts and one that represents 1,000 public relations pros from seven chapters throughout Florida.

“I’ve been a part of PRSA since I was introduced to it as an undergraduate at the University of Central Florida,” Medeiros said. “Fast-forward through my graduate studies and now my career, and it’s been an honor and a privilege to have been a part of this organization, as it’s played a significant role in my development as a professional. As a member of PRSA Tampa Bay, I’ve been able to make invaluable connections and have had the unique opportunity to work with some of the best in our industry.”

Stock shared similar thoughts on her selection as a scholarship recipient.

“I’m thrilled to have been selected to attend the Sunshine District Conference on behalf of PRSA Tampa Bay,” Stock said. “I’m hungry to learn and excited to excel in my career, and this rewarding opportunity will provide me with the knowledge and resources to help achieve my professional goals. As an undergrad, I was actively involved in PRSSA at the University of Minnesota. It was an invaluable experience, and as a result, joining PRSA Tampa Bay was a no-brainer when relocating to Florida.”

Reflecting on their scholarships and their time in PRSA, Medeiros and Stock also offered some advice for new PR pros on how to reap the greatest benefit from their new profession.

Jennifer Medeiros“If I could offer advice to new PR professionals,” Medeiros said, “it would be to network as often and as much as possible — you never know who you’re going to meet! For me, this was my biggest challenge when first starting out in the field, because I can be shy. But once I pushed myself to open up, I gained confidence through experience, and it’s now something I can do with ease.”

“My advice for recent grads?” Stock said. “Step out of your comfort zone and make a point to get involved in your local PRSA chapter. Take on a leadership role. You’ll meet like-minded professionals and build long-lasting relationships that will benefit you both personally and professionally. Most importantly — be curious, constantly challenge yourself and soak up as much information as you can after graduation.”

Congratulations to Mary, Jennifer and Jenna on their scholarships, and a special thank you to the PRSA Orlando chapter for helping with the judging for the scholarships.

Don’t forget, you can still sign up for the Sunshine District conference today! For more information, visit

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