A surprising and relevant issue arose April 29 with the changing of leadership at the Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce. The annual meeting recognizes the hard work and success of the many business owners, staff and volunteers involved with the highly active chamber. The event this year was at the 'Tween Waters Inn/resort in Captiva. Members welcomed Fran Peters as the 2014-2015 chamber chair.
During the evening ceremony a chamber official noted that the chamber office had captured an unusually large number of comments on tripadvisor.com, a web directory that many travelers use to mine informational nuggets and every-person reviews about the places they plan to visit. In an age of instant feedback, it is an especially popular place to post comments about accommodation, flight, dining and other experiences. The hospitality industry is highly eager to capture positive reviews on tripadvisor and urbanspoon, two of the web's popular review sites. The reviews are even ranked, selectively captured by business owners to help promote on websites and brochures. The problem, of course, is that many suspect merchants post their "anonymous" messages promoting their business. But it's a side issue.
The San-Cap Chamber has logged nearly 400 such web reviews, which is a bunch in comparison to other chambers like Fort Myers, even Sarasota, for instance. In the interest of figuring out exactly what visitors think of their time in the islands, here are a few samplings of the many interpretations of Sanibel/Captiva posted on tripadvisor:
2013-2014 Chamber Chair Chris Heidrick and new Chair Fran Peters
* Great older retired type of crowd working or volunteering here. They are not pushy like you find at some of the visitor centers
* This is NOT a root canal so husbands...listen to your wives and stop in for some good information on a small island full of stuff you don't want to see!
* A tip, buy fuel before visiting the island
* These folks obviously love their jobs
* Very helpful staff that take great pride in "their" island
* Careful or you will miss this little cottage on the right side of the road as you come off the causeway
* This visitors center is very busy, it's small inside but does have nice clean bathrooms
* A beautiful map of the island which was custom marked for our interests
* Love the sign in front of the building "Clean snow off before entering"
* The woman that was working here on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving was terrific! Just the right kind of person you want to meet up with at a visitors center!
* Be sure to stop in and save yourself the grief of missing stuff!
* I have experienced a variety of visitor centers around the country, but these gentlemen just seemed sincerely interested in helping you find whatever you were interested in doing for your vacation. I am guessing it is the "island personality" as it seems to have the "don't worry, be happy" attitude. Or maybe they just are enjoying their retirement in a beautiful setting?
* Information, clean rest rooms, recommendations, a bottle of water, and a brochure on the local shells and you are set
* Must stop here if on Sanibel! Or you could drive around aimlessly and argue like we did before we stopped
On a more serious note, the chamber meeting included:
* Fran Peters, owner and manager of Island Vacations of Sanibel & Captiva, Inc. was appointed as chairperson of the Board of Directors for the 2014/2015 term. Peters discussed her plans as chair for the coming year. Three new board members joined the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors there are Lee Ellen Harder of Big Arts, Edie Gleason of Union Mechanical, and David Wright of the Sanibel Captiva Community Bank.
* The New Business of the Year was awarded to Sanibel Island Golf Club owners Ed Lockard & Drew Donnelly.
* The Business Person of the Year Award went to Joe Mondelli, John R. Wood Properties.
* The Citizen of the Year Award was presented to Richard Johnson, Bailey's General Store.
* The Volunteer of the Year was awarded to Mike Valiquette, Sandcastle Construction.
Following the ceremony, a cocktail reception was held at The Old Captiva House, where members of the chamber and guests mingled and enjoyed fine food and cocktails.