11 May 2018
FLORIDA KEYS — Some 160 travel industry volunteers from around the country helped Florida Keys organizations Friday to launch “Uniting for Resilient Destinations” for Tourism Cares, an organization that focuses on industry volunteering and charitable giving to travel destinations.
Tourism Cares’ voluntourism activities in the Keys coincide with U.S. Travel Association’s National Travel and Tourism Week, which ends May 12.
The Florida Keys & Key West and New Orleans were chosen by Tourism Cares as “resilient destinations” for 2018. Hurricane Irma impacted the Keys Sept. 10, 2017. The destination reopened to visitors three weeks later and today most tourism facilities are recovered.
“The Keys are a group of communities that have come together and are moving forward,” said Jim De Keyrel, director of sales for the Florida Keys & Key West tourism council, addressing volunteers at a Hyatt Place reception in Marathon, Florida. “We thank Tourism Cares for their efforts not only today, but tomorrow and in the future.”
In the Upper Keys, volunteers rebuilt an enclosure for owls at the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center, built coral nursery maintenance “trees” to be planted underwater by Coral Restoration Foundation for growing coral, and assessed fish and reef health at Reef Environmental Education Foundation.
“Not only is it beautiful to be on land, but underwater is beautiful,” said Fernando Marmolejos, a Miami-based Booking.com senior account manager who aided Coral Restoration Foundation. “I try to dive at least four or five times a year in the Keys.
“If you can come, help and make it more beautiful, why not?”

Cynthia Perry, global director of travel industry sales for Marriott International Inc., and her daughter Brooke, traveled from Apopka, Florida, to monitor fish for REEF.
“I think the Keys look normal, from what I see,” Perry said. “Counting fish is not a bad job to have.”
Other organizations that received volunteer labor included Habitat for Humanity.
“It’s never bad to be in the Florida Keys,” said New York–based Reagan Stulbaum, NYC & Company’s membership executive, who helped to plant fruit and vegetables at Grimal Grove. “One of the most rewarding parts is to interact with people and really feel like you’re doing something,”
Tourism Cares is donating $35,000 from its Destination Disaster Recovery Fund to assist seven Keys organizations.
Tourism Cares information: tourismcares.org/resilience or 781-821-5990
Florida Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS
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