Tourism workers recognized after record-setting year

Alachua County brought in a record $155.8 million in overnight lodging in 2022
Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 5:43 PM EST
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NEWBERRY, Fla. (WCJB) - After a rough two years because of the pandemic, tourism in Alachua County has surged to record levels.

The county brought in $155.8 million in overnight lodging in 2022, a more than 30% increase from before the pandemic.

Visit Gainesville celebrated the efforts of tourism workers--like laundry workers to front desk clerks--with an award ceremony today.

“It’s kind of a marker to say here are some of the unsung industry workers that we can really acknowledge and thank for their contributions to the hospitality and tourism industry,” said Alachua County Tourism Department Manager Jessica Hurov.

11 people were recognized with awards here at the ceremony today and two of them shared what it means to them to receive recognition.

“Oh man, I feel amazing,” said Homewood Hilton Laundry Worker Merlinda Gibson. “Amazing. I feel so special right now. On top of the world.”

“I’m thrilled and very humbled. It’s quite a wonderful holiday surprise, and I love hospitality industries, all my love and all my life,” said UF’s Tourism Department Chair Dr. Rachel Fu.

Alachua is not the only North Central Florida county to set tourism records in 2022.

Marion County enjoyed a 32% increase in tourist development taxes this year.

“Coming out of limited ability to travel during COVID, people were more eager than ever to get out and do things,” said Hurov.

“We can enhance the quality of life, we can enhance the economy for our communities, we can bridge different cultures together,” said Fu.

Recipients of the awards were nominated by peers for their contributions to the industry.

Both winners said the award is extra special knowing their hard work was recognized by a co-worker.

Along with the 11 recipients, three more people received special leadership recognition.

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