Martin tourism head aims to get county noticed

MEET YOUR NEIGHBOR: Nerissa Okiye, 41

When asked what brought her to Florida, Nerissa Okiye quickly answers. “The job.”

Two years ago, she, her husband and two sons moved to Palm City for her to become the manager for the new Martin County Office of Tourism and Marketing.

Since then, she has been organizing the now two-year-old county office all while learning about Martin County.

She has used all that knowledge while working with county staff and others to spearhead the creation of a new brand that has gotten Martin County noticed in magazines like “Coastal Living,” which named Stuart as one of the Happiest Seaside Towns.

The marketing campaign capitalizes on all that Martin County has to offer — sites like the Tuckahoe Mansion and activities like fishing. Slogans include “Naturally Quaint” and “Make Reel Memories.”

“The entire process has been wonderful,” Okiye, 41, said.

Okiye was recently named a member of the Southeast Tourism Society’s board, which has members in 12 states — Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

The group looks at legislative priorities on a national level as well as ways to create a powerful marketing alliance throughout the country.

“My goal as a member of the board is to make sure that the organization is in tune with the needs of the smaller DMOs (destination marketing organizations),” Okiye said.

Martin County’s tourism office is an example of smaller DMO. She said only about $612,000 goes to promotions compared to an area like Fort Myers, which has a $17 million budget.

Despite the small budget, Okiye said Martin County’s tourism efforts are starting to get noticed.

“Country Living” and “House Beautiful” released their list of “50 Most Beautiful Small Towns in America,” and Stuart was No. 9. In August, the office earned the Shining Example Award for Tourism Office of the Year for offices with budgets less than $2 million, and also in August, it received a Flagler Award for tourism advocacy at the 2016 Florida’s Governor’s Conference.

“We have an emphasis on getting our story out there,” Okiye said.

Okiye was born and raised in the U.S. Virgin Islands and grew up watching her dad interact with visitors in his role as a lifeguard and fisherman.

She left for college and returned to the Virgin Islands, where she worked as the special assistant to the governor’s wife.

When the governor lost his bid for re-election, Okiye moved to Atlanta to work for Swissotel then took a position at what became the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

“I was there for 13 years prior to moving to Martin County,” she said. She was the director of research in the tourism department for five years before the move.

Now, she is simply focusing her current role and the success that they are having.

“I’m enjoying learning about the county, falling in love with it and then sharing that,” she said.

Reader Comments

Next Up in News

Palm Beach County elections chief Bucher: Observer shoved me at audit
The poll-watcher who was booted during the Palm Beach County Canvassing Board’s Nov. 18 election audit had entered a secured area and had shoved...
County to decide whether Ag Reserve land goes up for sale
Caught between angry preservationists and a South Florida Water Management District threatening legal action, Palm Beach County commissioners are...
Judge dismisses lawsuit challenging election of Fla. Sen. Bobby Powell
A Leon County judge Monday dismissed a lawsuit over the election of Riviera Beach Democratic state Sen.
Cerabino: Is the Mile-High-Mom Club the next step for airlines?
Cerabino: Is the Mile-High-Mom Club the next step for airlines?
News item: A woman on a Florida-bound Southwest Airlines flight gave birth on Sunday, causing the airliner to make an unscheduled stop in South...
Video of cars crashing in snow is winter driving in a nutshell
Video of cars crashing in snow is winter driving in a nutshell
Video posted on Facebook of snowy and icy conditions on the streets of Montreal sums updriving in winter conditions and Monday feelings in a nutshell.
More Stories

You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of free premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on