Our Faces of Travel

People Who Make Visits Memorable
Airboat Captain Dennis Martin

Airboat Captain Dennis Martin shares his native Florida knowledge on rides at Corrie Billie’s Airboat Rides.

By JoNell Modys

The U.S. Travel Association began shining a spotlight on the people who keep the tourism industry strong nationwide with the theme ‘The Faces of Travel’ during 2017 National Travel and Tourism Week.  

The travel industry is an indispensable source of American jobs, and these are jobs that can’t be outsourced. In Florida visitors support over 1.4 million jobs and in here in Collier County,  Florida, over 37,000 local people are employed because of tourism. 

Here’s a look at just a few of the fabulous #FacesofTravel that are working hard every day to create memorable experiences for visitors year-round in Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades.

Doug Bladich is a Primate Expedition Cruise guide at the Naples Zoo. He drives the boat that takes patrons for up-close viewing of the zoo’s primates that all live on cage-free islands in the zoo’s Lake Victoria. His favorite primate is Gibson the gibbon. Before he came to work at Naples Zoo a year ago, Doug was a Collier County Park Ranger for 10 years. He’s a Naples native and loves the outdoors and his job.

Rick Medwedeff, general manager, and Bob Pfeffer, director of sales and marketing, are two of the top leaders of the team of 800 professionals at the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort. They are looking forward to the completion of the resort’s new Lanai Tower this fall that will provide an additional 94 luxurious guest rooms, new restaurants, bars and entertainment options, new meeting space, and even more new jobs. 

Marilyn Hellman is the genius behind Marilyn’s Distinctive European Fashion, the one-of-a-kind experiential shopping boutique on Fifth Avenue South in downtown Naples. Marilyn doesn’t just provide the clothing to make you fashionable – she offers an excellent library of video fashion lessons and tips on her website, marilynhellman.com, and in the fall, she starts up her annual free fashion seminar series.

Dennis Martin is an airboat captain at Corey Billie’s Airboat Rides on Tamiami Trail just east of Collier-Seminole State Park. Dennis provides lots of information about the local ecology and Everglades ecosystem, but besides that he is just a lot of fun to talk to and he’s often mentioned in positive reviews for the attraction.

While paid tourism jobs are a major boost to the local economy, another important aspect of the tourism industry is volunteerism. Collier County has some exceptionally knowledgeable and dedicated volunteers that provide invaluable support to some of our nature-based attractions that are run by non-profit organizations. Doug Hughson volunteers regularly at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s nature center, giving talks and demonstrations that support the Conservancy’s educational initiatives. And, you can also find him volunteering at Naples Zoo, providing information for zoo guests about Uno the Florida panther and other animals. 

When you encounter a favorite tour guide, restaurant worker, shopkeeper, or anyone that totally makes your day while visiting Florida’s Paradise Coast, we invite you to post something about them on our FacebookTwitter or Instagram pages with the hashtags #paradisecoast and #facesoftravel. 

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