New Tourism Chief's Promotion of Flights Upsets Airport Boss

July 2, 2007

Jun. 30--Pinellas County's new tourism boss figured it was good business to help bring German airline Lufthansa to Orlando International Airport. But D.T. Minich is learning it wasn't good politics.

Minich agreed to put up $75,000 in county hotel tax revenue to promote Lufthansa's new flights from Frankfurt starting this fall to German tourists, part of an incentive package for the airline.

Word of the deal Friday angered Tampa International Airport's executive director, Louis Miller. The airport works closely with Pinellas to promote local tourism, he said, and Minich needs to encourage visitors to fly into Tampa Bay area airports.

"We're partners with them, and partners should stick together," said Miller.

Airlines fly nonstop to only a handful of international destinations from Tampa International. Except for five flights a week to London by British Airways, the routes go to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

Tampa International marketers have lobbied Lufthansa for Frankfurt flights without success. Tampa's chances will at least be delayed by Lufthansa's decision to go into nearby Orlando, said Miller.

When he was approached by Orlando tourism officials to help with advertising, Minich said, Lufthansa was deciding between Miami and Orlando for the new route.

"Tampa was not in the mix," he said. "When it was down to those two cities, I felt like we need to be a part of it."

Pinellas has participated in joint tourism advertising with Orlando before. Europeans often spend more than a week in Florida and want to fit in both theme parks and a beach trip.

Orlando will kick in $250,000 with the $75,000 from Pinellas for ads promoting the flights in Germany. "We're the beach destination for Orlando," said Minich.

The former boss of Lee County's tourism marketing agency, Minich took over as executive director of the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention & Visitors Bureau on April 30.

He replaced Carole Ketterhagen, who ran the agency for 15 years.

Minich, 43, has his first formal meeting with Miller scheduled for next week.

"I'll probably have some explaining to do," he said.

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