PUNTA GORDA/ENGLEWOOD BEACH, Fla. (May 15, 2018) – Mark O. Asperilla, M.D. was inducted into the Charlotte County Tourism Hall of Fame during the Tourism Luncheon at the Charlotte Harbor Event & Conference Center in Punta Gorda on Thursday, May 10. The Hall of Fame was established in 2014 to honor those who have had a substantial and long-standing body of work that has positively impacted tourism in Charlotte County.   

Over the decades, Dr. Asperilla has improved the lives of many through his internal medicine practice. He has also raised the visibility of Charlotte County as a tourism destination through his creation and support of numerous events and endeavors. In 2008, he opened the Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham Port Charlotte, Charlotte County’s first hotel after 2004’s Hurricane Charley. The property implemented dozens of “eco-friendly” amenities including interior energy saving technology, biodegradable laundry detergents, and xeriscaping. 

In 2013, Dr. Asperilla purchased the Fishery Restaurant in Placida from the Albritton family who owned it for more than 25 years. Under his ownership, outdoor dining and entertainment were added to the waterfront restaurant and continues to serve a slice of Old Florida. 

Charlotte County is known in the amateur boxing community because of Dr. Asperilla’s efforts. He was instrumental in the recruiting of and/or contributing to high-profile boxing events in Charlotte County which have resulted in thousands of rooms nights and millions of dollars in direct expenditures. These events include several Golden Gloves State and National Championships, as well as the 2016 Sugar Bert Boxing National Qualifier and 2011 Women’s Golden Gloves National Championship. He has also sponsored the Charlotte Harbor Regatta which formed in 2009. Sugar Bert Boxing will return to Charlotte County at the Charlotte Harbor Event & Conference Center on June 2 and 3, 2018.  

Previous Charlotte County Tourism Hall of Fame inductees are Ms. Becky Bovell, former director of the Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau; Capt. Marian Schneider, an ecotourism pioneer who operated Grande Tours in Placida; Capt. Ralph Allen of King Fisher Fleet in Punta Gorda; and Mr. John R. Wright, President of the Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce. The Charlotte County Tourism Hall of Fame is located in the Charlotte County Administration Building at 18500 Murdock Circle, Port Charlotte. 

Hosted by the Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach Visitor & Convention Bureau, the Tourism Lunch’s theme focused on how cultural heritage enriches the travel experience. Groups of the Cultural Heritage Center of Southwest Florida exhibited and shared food from their respective cultures. Participating groups were Caribbean, Gullah, Hispanic-American Citizens Council, Indian, Islamic Society of Southwest Florida, Italian, New World Celts – Sarasota, Punta Gorda Historical Society, Spanish-American Society of Charlotte County, and Ukrainian American Club of Southwest Florida.   Chef Luke Clevenger of the Charlotte Harbor Event & Conference Center prepared a lunch buffet featuring global cuisine made with recipes provided by local cultural groups. 

Musical performances showcased the area’s diversity and included accordion player Vlad Szpiczka from the Ukrainian American Group of Southwest Florida, banjo strummer Warren Worthley from Banjo Bonanza, singer Michael White from Island Flavah, and New World Celts- Sarasota who closed out the ceremony with a bagpipes performance. 

Kevin Willmott, acclaimed filmmaker and Associate Professor in the Film Studies Department of Kansas University, provided the keynote presentation. Mr. Willmott’s films are based on history with many addressing the racial divide including C.S.A: Confederate States Of America (2004), a satirical look at how America would look had the South won the Civil War. Other films include Chi-Raq (2015), Destination Planet Negro (2013), and the biography Jayhawkers (2014). He has collaborated with other filmmakers such as Spike Lee and Greg Hurd.

Mr. Willmott commended the audience for celebrating cultural differences through the participation in the lunch and he encouraged the more than 150 attendees to embrace and celebrate those differences. Although this is a challenge with America he said, “this is what is great about America.”

Annually, the Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach Visitor & Convention Bureau conducts marketing, sales and promotional campaigns to increase awareness of and visitation to Charlotte County. In addition to generating economic contributions, the Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach Visitor & Convention Bureau is also focused on developing soft adventure or ecotourism, a low-impact industry enabling the county to preserve the invaluable natural resources that contribute to its ecological health, distinguish the area and draw visitors. During calendar year 2017, Charlotte County welcomed an estimated 422,500 visitors, tourism generated an estimated $380,841,400 in direct expenditures, and made an estimated $580,783,200 economic impact.

Image of 2018 Charlotte County Tourism Hall of Fame inductee, Mark O. Asperilla, M.D. 
Commissioner Christopher Constance, Spencer Asperilla (Dr. Asperilla’s son), Dr. Mark Asperilla, Commissioner Stephen R. Deutsch, Dr. David M. Klein. 

Image of Acclaimed Filmmaker Kevin Willmott:

Image credits: PureFlorida.com 

Located halfway between Tampa and Naples on the Southwest Florida Gulf Coast, Punta Gorda /Englewood Beach is a charming collection of nine coastal communities surrounding the state’s second largest harbor. Florida’s premier year-round eco-tourism destination, the area offers a pristine unspoiled beauty. In 2014, Port Charlotte was named the top “U.S. Best Value Destination” by Trivago (the world’s largest online hotel search site), and the Charlotte Sports Park, spring training home of the Tampa Bay Rays, was voted “Best Spring Training Facility” by readers of USA TODAY. A haven for outdoor enthusiasts, Punta Gorda / Englewood Beach has been named one of SAIL magazine’s “10 Greatest Places to Sail in the United States,” ranked by Golf Digest as “Third Best Place to Live and Play Golf in America,” and rated by MONEY magazine as one of the “Best Places to Live in the South.” Englewood was named second of the Top Ten emerging travel destinations in the U.S. by TripAdvisor.com. The area is served by five airports: The Punta Gorda Airport (PGD) with private and charter air service, Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ), Southwest Florida International Airport, Ft. Myers, (RSW), St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport (PIE) and Tampa International Airport (TPA). For more information on visiting Punta Gorda / Englewood Beach visit http://PureFlorida.com or call1-800-652-6090.