Hello, I'm Rachael Gillette, and I am honored to be serving as the board chair of Visit Pensacola for fiscal year 2024. I first became involved with Visit Pensacola as president of Studer Community Institute, organizing and facilitating meetings and focus groups for the "ReVisit" Pensacola 2020 Strategic Plan.
The global pandemic had halted many of the plans, and it was time to get stakeholders input on the way forward. Following that, CAPT Sterling Gilliam, USN (Ret), Director of the National Aviation Museum, asked me to become involved as a board member. Sterling is a smooth talker; he can talk just about anyone into anything! It didn't take much asking, though, as having lived and worked in Pensacola for 21 years, I knew the importance of tourism to our community and was honored to have the opportunity to serve.
I immigrated to the USA from Great Britain in 2002. I grew up in Liverpool, a port city with a proud heritage and a huge tourism industry of $5.1 billion. Seeing my hometown of Liverpool thrive, buoyed by tourism, watching the positive changes that have taken place in our area over the last 20 years I have lived here, my involvement in the greater Pensacola community, and my passion for sailing have allowed me to provide a unique perspective and voice to Visit Pensacola over the last several years. I look forward to stepping up as chair and advocating and advising as we build on the many successes achieved over the years.
Pensacola, Pensacola Beach, and Perdido Key have an incredible almost 500-year history, unique and beautiful scenery, the best beaches in the world, diverse and interesting neighborhoods, arts and culture, baseball, basketball, festivals, restaurants, cool bars and breweries, Naval Air Station Pensacola, the Blue Angels and now American Magic, the U.S. America's Cup sailing team! The list goes on and on.
We also have an incredible team at Visit Pensacola, led by Darien, who work tirelessly to showcase Pensacola to the world and visitors in the best possible light. Darien and the team work hand in hand with Showcase Pensacola, a group of talented agencies who split the duties of ad creative, digital, TV, radio, print, and web. In my opinion, this collaboration is unique to Pensacola and powerful. They are all wonderful to work with, and we rely heavily on their expertise and the research they share to ensure we, as a board, use dollars wisely.
It seems destined that I would be chair as we recognize the importance of tourism beyond beaches and the Blue Angels. Pensacola Bay has been recognized as a premier sailing venue by one of the premier sailing organizations in the world. After learning of the advantages of sailing on Pensacola Bay, American Magic began training here in 2018 on a test boat and returned in 2019 on DEFIANT, the team's AC75 monohull. In 2022, American Magic returned with PATRIOT and began training for the 37th America's Cup on our bay. The team has also committed to locating their training base on the Port of Pensacola after they bring back the Cup (I'm an eternal optimist and praying hard)!
This opens another huge area of visitors and tourism dollars - from the worldwide sailing community. It will also create jobs beyond tourism in tech, manufacturing, research, product development, and more. It will bring new regattas, conferences, trade shows, and an international spotlight! Visit Pensacola has capitalized on this by investing in a unique partnership with American Magic. Our logo and the word "Pensacola" are prominently displayed on the sail and swag for all the world to see!
We have a LOT going for us already, and now this is another incredible opportunity to promote our area and further the mission of Visit Pensacola. As the board's new chair, I am grateful to take the helm. Visit Pensacola is a strong ship with a great crew. It is my goal to help chart a strong course, keep our sails trim, apply good tactics, maximize the forecasts, keep our VMG high, and help the team bring home the trophies of more visitors and tourism dollars that will bolster our economy and create an even more vibrant community, on land and sea, for visitors and residents alike.