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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

The Emerald Coast: An Abundance of Riches

Open a bag of sugar, plunge a measuring cup inside and slowly pour out the sweet granules: That’s the image tourism directors and meeting planners hope you’ll take away after visiting the Emerald Coast, a 100-mile stretch of Northwest Florida’s Panhandle along the Gulf Coast.

The region’s name was coined in the 1980s.
“It comes from the color of the water here,” said Maureen Morgenthien, deputy director of sales and marketing for the Emerald Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The sunshine, combined with the pure white sand we have, creates this image of the water looking emerald green. It’s that vibrant a color.”
The Emerald Coast includes Destin, Fort Walton Beach and a geographic area known as Okaloosa Island. All three are located along Highway 98 between Pensacola and Panama City Beach.
Visitors love to fish, golf, boat and do a wide variety of water sports, like diving, snorkeling and sailing. Geocaching, bird-watching and other beach activities are also popular. In addition, the Gulf to Table food trend is big. There are many fine restaurants at which to dine on the freshest seafood anyone could imagine.
In addition to the thousands of tourists who flock to the Emerald Coast, the area draws local and regional events, sports teams, dance and cheer competitions, and small corporate meetings. Many government and military groups meet there as well because of the area’s proximity to Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field, another Air Force installation.
“Part of my job is to increase group business, and conferences and meetings,” said Morgenthien. “We welcome any and all of that business.”
The community has impressive meeting facilities large and small, and outstanding accommodations to make any group members feel comfortable in their surroundings. Whether a planner is organizing a meeting, a group activity or a special event, the CVB staff is more than willing to assist.

Convention Center

This corner of the Florida Panhandle may be an ocean retreat for tourists, but it’s also busy enough to support its own large meeting facility. The Emerald Coast Convention Center boasts 65,000 square feet of space: 35,000 square feet of that space is indoors, and since the weather is always pleasant, another 30,000 square feet is outdoors. “That area works great for outdoor events like RV shows and boat shows,” said Morgenthien. The 14-year-old center, located on Okaloosa Island, features 12 distinct meeting rooms, ranging from an intimate 450 square feet to one that can be sized to 10,800 square feet. The Emerald Grand Ballroom is popular. “It’s all very flexible,” said Morgenthien.

Dan Dickson

Dan has been a communicator all his professional life, first as an award-winning radio and TV news reporter for two decades and then as a communications director for several non-profits for another decade. He has contributed to The Group Travel Leader Inc. publications since 2007.