Gary Sain, CEO of Visit Orlando, dies

Gary SainGary Sain, the president and CEO of Visit Orlando, the convention and visitors organization for the city and Orange County area of Florida, and a respected figure within the travel industry, died Friday. He was 61.

According to a report in the Orlando Sentinel, Sain collapsed after giving a speech at a fundraiser at the Orlando Marriott World Center resort and was pronounced dead at Florida Hospital Celebration Health. In a statement, Visit Orlando said Sain died "suddenly and unexpectedly."

During Sain's tenure as chief of Visit Orlando, the city recorded a record 51.5 million visitors in 2010, the first U.S. destination to break the 50-million-visitor milestone, Visit Orlando said. Branding initiatives include the "Orlando Makes Me Smile" advertising campaign.

The Sentinel quoted Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer as saying Sain "helped put Orlando on the map as the No. 1 tourism destination in the world."

Sain "served as our community's brand ambassador, working tirelessly on behalf of Orlando and the entire and tourism industry," Paul Tang, chairman of Visit Orlando's board, said in the statement.

Sain joined Visit Orlando in 2007 from Ypartnership, where he was executive vice president, chief marketing officer.

He also held executive positions at Premier Cruise Line, Hyatt Hotels and Ritz-Carlton, among other companies.

Participation with industry organizations and boards included the U.S. Travel Association, Brand USA, Visit Florida and the Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association.

"The industry has lost a true leader whose passion for travel and tourism was second to none," U.S. Travel CEO Roger Dow said Saturday. "His presence on the U.S. Travel executive committee and board has been instrumental in helping advance a host of industry initiatives, from travel promotion and via reform to promoting the value of meetings to elevating the production of international Pow Wow."

Sain is survived by his wife, Pam, and two daughters, Vanessa San-Dieguez and Olivia. 

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