Tourism Development Council welcomes new chairman

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Bruce Craul, the chief operating officer of Legendary Inc. in Destin, will serve as the council’s chairman through the remainder of fiscal 2018.

By Heather Osbourne | 315-4440 | @heatheronwfdn |

DESTIN — Bruce Craul was voted the new chairman of the Tourism Development Council on Oct. 27.

Craul, the chief operating officer of Legendary Inc. in Destin, will serve as the council’s chairman through the remainder of fiscal 2018. He bring 46 years of hospitality experience to the chairmanship.

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Craul recently answered questions about the new position and how he hopes to bring more tourism to Okaloosa County.

Q: What are your responsibilities and how do they differ from the TDD’s executive director position?

A: The TDD director’s position is similar in that she is managing a multi-faceted team. Jennifer Adams has to plan, direct and control the marketing aspects that relate to her position. She has to establish the environment that her team can operate in to maximize their own potential while they strive to meet and exceed the goals of the TDD. She also has the responsibility to guide and direct the operational components of the convention center which is an integral part of community. … My job is to assist, coordinate and support the director together with the rest of the TDC board.

Q: What are the biggest challenges of being Okaloosa County’s TDC chairman?

A: The biggest challenge is getting everyone to forget the past, look forward through the windshield instead of in the rearview mirror. To focus on doing the job, perhaps the new job and not to worry about anything other than meeting and exceeding our goals as a community as it relates to tourism. Also working within the framework as set forth by the county’s administration, since this is so different than working in business.

Q: What TDC projects excite you the most?

A: Working on a total refresh of who we are, what makes us different, and how we communicate that to the world. We live in very exciting times and our county, as it relates to tourism, has to catch up. We are behind, and the first project is to admit that we are behind.

Q: What are some of the ways in which you and the TDC will get “heads in beds,” or to keep tourists visiting the area?

A: We have to market to the people we want, not necessarily just to the people we have. Knowing who those potential guests are is half of the battle. Then we have to target those people using today’s methods of reaching them. While social media certainly has become the marketing tool of choice, television and or a video message is still the most impressionable medium to reach the people you want. Think about the Sandals Resorts’ commercials, or the cruise industry’s ads; they make you want to be there. Think about Trivago and all of the internet booking search engine commercials and how they are memorable.

Q: What are your goals for your first year?

A: To be Jennifer and her staff’s discussion partner. To support the efforts to renew our brand, our messaging and to work closely with the Committee and the County Commissioners. I am a team builder, much like Jennifer, and she needs to have a TDC and a TDC chair that she can count on to support her. So doing just that is one of the goals. I would like to see our website overhauled as soon as possible, our messaging change to reach the people we want, constantly improve our marketing plan, and to create an environment for our stakeholders to feel like the TDC is one of their best partners.

Q: What’s the biggest obstacle to increasing tourism in Okaloosa County?

A: Having a bridge that the tourists and our associates have to pay to cross. Having traffic bottlenecks, such as the bridge on Saturdays, when our guests want to come here and find it so difficult. I remember back when I use to fly a lot for business between all of our hotel locations, and all of us road, or I should say air, warriors would reroute ourselves as to not go through Atlanta because of the hassles. The new airport solved most of the issues and now is one of the busiest airports in the world. People want to do business where its easy to do business. The 98 project of putting in six lanes (on the island) is a three-year project. The Brooks Bridge replacement bridge is going to be a huge obstacle during construction. Our friends to the East have a brand new bridge, and when you come over it, the entrance to Walton County is going to be Disneyesque. Quite a contrast to entering our county. Our biggest obstacle is that we have been too slow to act. We have been reactive and not proactive and it has caught up with us in many respects.

Q: What is unique about Okaloosa County and how do you plan to market it?

A: We have many unique characteristics. While much of our Emerald Coast, from Pensacola to Panama City, has the pure white sand, Fort Walton Beach and Destin have the emerald waters to go with it. Our incoming tide is as good as it gets. Then add our harbor. There isn’t another harbor in Florida that is a working harbor hosting the largest charter fishing fleet in North America. Our best seasons, formally called shoulder seasons, have some of the best weekend, or week-long or even month-long events compared to anywhere in the state. All that said, the most unique and the best asset we have are our people. The people that live and work here, understand and are part of southern hospitality.

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