07 MAY 2012: Colleagues were stunned to learn of the sudden and unexpected death of Visit Orlando president and CEO Gary Sain. As chairman for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida, Sain spoke at a fundraiser for Celebrate the Children at the Orlando World Center Marriott on Friday evening. Reportedly he felt ill sometime after making the speech and walked to the lobby, where he apparently collapsed and was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The official cause of death has not been released, according to Visit Orlando officials.

Making a difference

Sain went to what was then called the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors bureau in 2007, after working for decades in Orlando's hospitality industry with Hyatt and Premier Cruise Lines.

He brought with him a new vision, a restructuring, and a name change - rebranding the organization “Visit Orlando.”

With a reputation in the industry as a marketing and branding expert, Sain developed several business and leisure advertising programmes for the destination, including the hugely popular - Orlando Makes Me Smile

In fact, the 61-year-old Sain, is credited with helping make the Orlando area one of the world's top travel destinations

As an advocate for corporate social responsibility at Visit Orlando, Sain encouraged his employees to volunteer with local charitable organizations. His passion for self-improvement and personal growth led to his development of iBrand, a personal branding program that focuses on achievement through the strengthening of one-on-one relationships and creating a well-established identity.

He has been recognized for his leadership as one of the 25 most powerful people, forces or trends in the meetings industry by MeetingNews magazine (2007 and 2008), one of the top 20 Elite Individuals in the tradeshow industry by Expo Magazine (2012), Orlando’s most influential tourism executive by Orlando Business Journal (2008) and as one of the 50 most prominent people in Orlando by Orlando Magazine (2008, 2009, 2010).

Sain’s participation with industry organizations and boards has included: the US Travel Association and Brand USA Marketing Advisory Council, Board of Directors posts for Visit Florida, the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association (CFHLA), International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE), advisory council for the Federal Reserve Bank. He was also a member of the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), Meetings Professional International (MPI) and American Society of Association Executives.

Sain’sprofessional designations include Certified Travel Counselor (CTC), Certified Hospitality Marketing Executive (CHME) and Certified Travel Marketing Executive (CTME).

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said Sain, "helped put Orlando on the map as the No. 1 tourism destination in the world, continuing to solidify our tourism market and the backbone of our economy."

Paul Tang, chairman of the Visit Orlando board of directors said in a statement, “As the leader of Visit Orlando, Gary served as our community's brand ambassador working tirelessly on behalf of Orlando and the entire travel and tourism industry.

“He spent his entire career working in hospitality and was honored numerous times for his contributions. The Visit Orlando team, our destination partners and our community have lost a wonderful leader and friend. He will truly be missed by all that knew him.”

Gary Sain is survived by his wife, Pam, mother, Elizabeth Sain, and two daughters - Vanessa Sain-Dieguez (Luis) and Olivia.

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