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Flamingoes, a sloth, bagpipers, and belly dancers greeted guests at Tampa International Airport on May 8 to celebrate National Tourism Week.

The "Rally for Tourism" is an annual opportunity for members of the hospitality, travel and tourism industry to say thank you to the visitors of Tampa Bay. Supporters waved posters with such messages as "Tourism Dollars Support America" and "Tourism Matters in the Tampa Bay Area."

In remarks to the crowd, Chris Minner VP of Marketing for TPA, discussed importance of world-class customer service and the airport's role in the tourism experience.

"We are the first and last impression that all of these travelers coming in and out of our community have," said Minner. "And that impression can be the difference in whether or not those visitors return to Tampa Bay."

Minner cited the airport's recent investments in renovation and construction to continue to improve the level of service. The Main Terminal Modernization project, a $30 million package of renovations including restrooms, concessions and tourism information centers is designed to enhance the level of customer service for everyone using the airport.

David Downing, Deputy Director with the St. Petersburg/ Clearwater Convention and Visitors Bureau commented that the St. Pete/Clearwater area welcomed more than five million overnight visitors in 2011, resulting in more than $6 billion in economic impact. In addition, the tourism industry accounted for 82,000 jobs for local residents last year.

Kelly Miller, CEO of Tampa Bay Company remarked on the upswing in the tourism industry, with 14.5 million people visiting Tampa/Hillsborough County in 2011 and visitor spending estimated at $3.4 billion.

In his comments to the crowd, he encouraged everyone to do their part to continue the positive trend by vacationing local and taking advantage of the everything that Tampa Bay has to offer right in our own backyard.

"I want you to stay, I want you to celebrate, and I want you to spend," said Miller."It's so important that we continue to support small businesses on both sides of the bay."

The Convention and Visitors Bureaus also celebrated the outstanding Spring Break season that Tampa Bay experienced February through April 2012. A record breaking number of guests at hotels, restaurants, attractions and beaches gives everyone in Tampa Bay something to cheer about.


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