The Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach was awarded Palm Beach County’s top tourism prize on Thursday, beating out two other competitors for the coveted title.
The marinelife center was given the county’s 2015 Providencia Award during a brief ceremony at the PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens. Delray Beach Marketing Cooperative, the city’s official tourism marketing arm, and the Brazilian Court Hotel on Palm Beach also were finalists for the annual award.
The award is presented to an individual or organization that has a major impact on tourism.
The marinelife center promotes conservation of Florida’s coastal ecosystems with a special focus on threatened and endangered sea turtles. The beachside campus is home to one of the world’s most advanced sea turtle hospitals and research laboratories. The center educates more than 300,000 visitors each year.
Jack Lighton, the marinelife center’s president & CEO, told a group of about 100 industry representatives who attended Thursday’s ceremony that the organization was honored to receive the award and planned to use the prize to help promote the county as a tourist destination.
“We are going to use this award to drive more awareness of our incredible county, our amazing beaches and, of course, our turtle hospital,” Lighton said.”I thank you so much for this support. You have no idea how much it means to us.”
The winner of the annual Providencia Award is determined by a public vote. Jorge Pesquera, president and CEO of Discover The Palm Beaches, which awards the annual prize, said more than 500 votes were cast this year. The public voting period ran from Nov. 2 to Nov. 19. Voting was held on The Palm Beach Post’s website, www.palmbeachpost.com.
Ten groups were nominated for this year’s award. Nominations are based on several criteria: contributing to the growth of the local tourism industry; implementing innovative sales, marketing, public relations and social media initiatives; and creating awareness of the county as a tourist destination.
Following the application process, a committee of local tourism representatives selected the three finalists.
The award is named after a Spanish ship that sank off the coast in the 1880s. The crew sold its cargo of coconuts to people who planted them along the waterfront. Ultimately, that’s how Palm Beach got its name.
The award has been given out 24 times since 1989.
Pesquera praised the work of this year’s finalists, adding that the tourism industry as a whole has made the Palm Beaches an “exceptional travel destination.”
Last month, Discover announced that a record-breaking 6.7 million tourists are expected to visit the county in 2015.
“It is really not just these three (finalists), but the collective effort of an entire community that has helped us get to another record setting year,” Pesquera said.