(May 6, 2015) - Tampa tourism industry on May 5 honored Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano with the 2015 Ambassador of the Year award.
Visit Tampa Bay presented Lopano with the recognition at its annual luncheon to mark National Tourism Week.
“I take this very seriously and I appreciate the vote of confidence you’ve given me here today,” Lopano told the crowd of about 500 after accepting the award. “I am proud to be your ambassador and I humbly say a sincere thank you very much.”
Lopano credited the Aviation Authority board, employees and the community with the airport’s success, including growing passenger numbers, an historic expansion and more international flights.
“You can’t accomplish anything without a great team,” he said.
He attributed Tampa’s booming tourism numbers to Visit Tampa Bay marketing efforts and all the attractions the city has to offer.
“The transformation of this city – I’ve never witnessed anything like it in my life,” Lopano said. “And now we have a signature feature downtown – The Riverwalk. We can hold ourselves up to any city in the world.”
A video naming Lopano as the ambassador included words of praise from tourism leaders.
“It’s the energy, it’s the intelligence and it’s the vision,” said Hillsborough County Commissioner and Aviation Authority board member Victor Crist. “Joe is an incredible leader.”
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, also an Aviation Authority board member, called Lopano a “a hard charger” who is “changing the face of TIA.”
“He’s telling TIA’s story all over the globe and it’s resonating,” Buckhorn said.
Roger Dow, CEO of the US Travel Association, referred to Lopano as a “trailblazer.”
“He’s the guy who when everyone else shows up wearing a tuxedo, shows up in Bermuda shorts and people say, ‘I wish I had done that,’ ” Dow said. “Joe doesn’t know slow. He’s always looking at the endgame.”
Speaking via Skype, Copa Airlines CEO Pedro Heilbron joked that he figured Lopano was getting the “stalker of the year” award because he had been so diligent in recruiting the airline to Tampa.
“We’re happy you stalked us and you convinced us to come to Tampa,” Heilbron said.
Previous Visit Tampa Bay Ambassador of the Year award winners included Tampa International Airport director George Bean, Tampa Mayor Dick Greco, and Outback restaurant partners Chris Sullivan and Bob Basham.