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Behind the Scenes – Driving Homegrown Tourism in West Orange County

Almost 20 years ago, when I was just starting out at West Orange Chamber of Commerce (WOCC), little emphasis was given to the homegrown attractions that are now known as agri, cultural, eco and heritage tourism sites. Many have been here since the founding of our towns and cities, and some were developed later by visionary leaders. All of these assets, whether natural or man-made, have grown into a booming industry for West Orange County.

That wasn’t always the case, and oftentimes, the assets of West Orange, aside for our fabulous theme parks, were not so well-known. Since then, the WOCC has played a pivotal role in spreading the word about them to our residents and even to our visitors. We have done so by working behind the scenes with our municipal partners, community organizations and visionary leaders to showcase our assets.

Just a few years ago, the chamber partnered with the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation (WGHF) to develop a colorful brochure called “Explore Orlando’s West Side, West Orange County” that highlighted the area’s man-made and natural attractions, including the West Orange Trail, Withers-Maguire House, Nehrling Gardens, Oakland Nature Preserve and Windermere’s 1877 schoolhouse.

The need to produce this brochure arose because of a partnership between Visit Florida and WGHF, a partnership brought together by the chamber to have WGHF recognized as a Florida Certified Tourist Information Center. This designation literally put WGHF on the Florida state map that is sought out by tourists visiting Florida. This brochure is distributed locally but also to tourists at the highest-trafficked visitor spot entering the state on I-95.

Just recently, the chamber was called upon by Visit Orlando. They wanted to develop a training video as part of their “Love & Learn Orlando” series for travel advisors on how to sell the portfolio of experiences that Orlando offers, in the U.S. and international markets. Naturally, we connected Visit Orlando with WGHF to help in the creation of this video. The resulting video showcased Winter Garden and will be seen by tens of thousands of potential visitors both here and abroad, and it will have the benefit of ultimately drawing visitors to patronize the shops, restaurants and museums.

Connections such as these are just some of the things the chamber is called on to support our municipalities and community partners. The chamber has been proud to provide letters of support for the funding of operations for WGHF, for the town of Windermere’s 1877 schoolhouse as well as the funding for the Green Mountain Scene Byway, the expansion of the bike trail and cleanup of Lake Apopka, to name just a few.

We’re proud to be connectors and promoters of our communities and the assets of each.

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Written by Stina D'Uva

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