PUNTA GORDA/ENGLEWOOD BEACH, Fla. (April 25, 2018) – Like the rest of the United States, Southwest Florida is a melting pot of cultures. To celebrate the ways cultural heritage enriches the travel experience, the Charlotte Harbor Gulf Island Coast tourism community will come together Thursday, May 10, at 11 a.m. at the Charlotte Harbor Event & Conference Center during the annual Tourism Luncheon and Charlotte County Tourism Hall of Fame Induction. The signature event hosted by the Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach Visitor & Convention Bureau features keynote speaker Kevin Willmott, an acclaimed filmmaker; induction of Mark O. Asperilla, M.D., into the Charlotte County Tourism Hall of Fame; and a menu representing global flavors. 

Representatives from local ethnic groups will offer informational displays and the menu will celebrate cultural heritage from around the world.

Mark O. Asperilla, M.D., will be the 2018 inductee into the Charlotte County Tourism Hall of Fame and will be honored in a ceremony following the keynote address. Established in 2014, the Charlotte County Tourism Hall of Fame was created to honor people whose body of work in support of Charlotte County tourism has been both exceptional and diverse. The Charlotte County Tourism Hall of Fame is in the Charlotte County Administration Building at 18500 Murdock Circle, Port Charlotte. Previous inductees are Ms. Becky Bovell (2014), Capt. Marian Schneider (2015), Capt. Ralph Allen (2016), and Mr. John Wright (2017).

The 2018 Charlotte County Tourism Luncheon and Hall of Fame Induction will take place May 10 between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the Charlotte Harbor Event & Conference Center located at 75 Taylor St., Punta Gorda, Fla. 33950. Cost to attend is $20 per person. Tickets for the luncheon can be purchased either online at www.tourismlunch.com or by calling (941) 743-1900 no later than May 7, 2018. All tickets are general admission and there is no assigned seating. (Note: service fee applies when purchasing online)

Jimmy Dean, publisher of Harbor Style magazine, will serve as the lunch’s emcee.

Keynote Speaker Kevin Willmott 
Kevin Willmott, acclaimed filmmaker and Associate Professor in the Film Studies Department of Kansas University has worked on several projects delving into cultural issues. Notables include: 
•    Chi-Raq, written with Spike Lee, a modern-day adaptation of the ancient Greek play "Lysistrata" by Aristophanes.
•    C.S.A: Confederate States Of America, about America if the South won the Civil War.
•    The Only Good Indian. Domestically, the film is currently being seen on the Encore and Movieplex television networks, and can be streamed online at Netflix.
•    The Battle for Bunker Hill from a script he wrote with Greg Hurd.

Mr. Willmott grew up in Junction City, Kan., and attended Marymount College receiving his Bachelor of Arts in Drama. After graduation, he returned home, working as a peace and civil rights activist, fighting for the rights of the poor, creating two Catholic Worker shelters for the homeless and forcing the integration of several long standing segregated institutions. He attended graduate studies at New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, receiving several writing awards and his Master of Fine Arts in Dramatic Writing

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. (Image courtesy of Mark O. Asperilla, M.D.)

Image of Charlotte County Tourism Luncheon Keynote Speaker Kevin Willmott (Image provided by Kevin Willmott)

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.