Visit Orlando CEO and President Gary Sain Dies

May 4, 2012

In deeply sad and shocking news, Gary Sain, Visit Orlando’s president and CEO, passed away suddenly Friday evening.


Shortly after Sain, who was 61, gave the opening remarks as event chairman for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida's Celebrate the Children fundraiser at the Orlando World Center Marriott he was stricken ill and taken to a nearby hospital where he died, according to local news reports.


The official cause of death has not been released, according to Visit Orlando officials.


“As the leader of Visit Orlando, Gary served as our community's brand ambassador working tirelessly on behalf of Orlando and the entire travel and tourism industry,” Paul Tang, chairman of the Visit Orlando board of directors said in a statement.


He added, “He spent his entire career working in hospitality and was honored numerous times for his contributions. The Visit Orlando team, our destination partners and our community have lost a wonderful leader and friend. He will truly be missed by all that knew him.”


Sain is survived by his wife, Pam, mother, Elizabeth Sain, and two daughters - Vanessa Sain-Dieguez (Luis) and Olivia.


With a long career in the trade show industry, Sain started at Visit Orlando in February 2007, replacing industry veteran Bill Peeper, and is credited with Orlando reaching a record of 51.5 million visitors in 2010, the first U.S. destination to surpass the 50 million visitor milestone.


One of his proudest achievements was working with the community to bring the SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association’s NPE2012— an international plastics industry tradeshow with more than 55,000 attendees — to the Orange County Convention Center in April 2012.


This was the first time the tradeshow had met outside of Chicago since 1971 and he considered it game-changing opportunity for the destination.


Sain told TSNN at the time, “The show exceeded the expectations of show management, exhibitors, attendees and us the destinations. Exhibitors told me it was the smoothest move-in they had in 30 years. The question of how Orlando would perform has been laid to rest forever.”


SPI President and CEO William Carteaux, who became close with Sain in the process of bringing the plastics show to Orlando, released the following statement regarding his passing; “Over the past three years, Gary was extremely instrumental in helping to attract SPI to Orlando for NPE2012. His tireless efforts and commitment to the show and our industry helped us create one of the best NPEs in its history.”


He added, “Gary took some huge risks to ensure our success that could have cost him not only his job, but also his outstanding reputation.  But as I got to know him better along the journey, I realized there was no way he would allow SPI, or himself, to fail in helping create the special event that we did with NPE2012."


Sain also was extremely pleased that Orlando recently had scored the No. 2 position on the 2011 TSNN Top 250 Trade Shows list with 26 shows that was released earlier this week.


When Sain heard the news, he wrote in an e-mail to TSNN in his usual exuberant way, “Fantastic!!!!!!”


Sain’s participation with industry organizations and boards included the U.S. Travel Association and Brand USA Marketing Advisory Council; Board of Directors posts for Visit Florida; the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association: International Association of Exhibitions and Events: advisory council for the Federal Reserve Bank; and member of the Professional Convention Management Association; Meetings Professional International;and American Society of Association Executives.


Prior to joining the Visit Orlando in February, 2007, Sain was executive vice president, chief marketing officer and partner of Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell, an Orlando-based international advertising and public relations agency.


Other positions he held includedexecutive vice president of sales and marketing for GES Exposition Services; senior vice president of sales, marketing and passenger services for Premier Cruise Line aka The Big Red Boat; and assistant vice president of sales for Hyatt Hotels Corporation. 


Prior to Hyatt, he served as corporate vice president sales and marketing for the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C./N.Y. and the Whitehall/Tremont Hotels in Chicago, in addition to successfully opening the Stouffers Hotels in Chicago and Atlanta as director of marketing.

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