Tourism Visit Orlando

Five Leaders Who Impacted Tourism This Year

Take (5) with Visit Orlando

Congratulations to Fun Spot’s John Arie Sr. for being named the i4 Business Tourism Leader of the Year – a well-deserved honor. In the spirit of recognizing high achievement in our tourism industry, here are five others who made their mark in 2017.

DALE MASON, Vice President and Executive Art Director, Universal Creative

Rising high above Interstate 4, the 200-foot Krakatau volcano stands as the centerpiece of Orlando’s newest landmark, a 28-acre “next-generation” water park six years in the making. The creative visionary behind Volcano Bay, which opened May 25, is Dale Mason, a 28-year veteran of Universal and “probably the greatest unsung hero of theme park design,” said Bob Shreve, vice president of attractions development at Herschend Family Entertainment. “He is, without a doubt, Universal’s secret weapon in forging new and exciting attractions.”

DAVID BARTEK, Vice President of Operations, Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando

Volcano Bay is not the only exciting development transforming the skyline at Universal. Iconic new hotels are popping up, too, and they all have one thing in common: Loews’ David Bartek. In 2016, Bartek opened the 1,000-room Sapphire Falls Resort, and this year he oversaw completion of a 400-room expansion of Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Construction is also underway on Loews’ 16-story, 600-room Aventura Hotel, scheduled to open in August 2018.

JOSH WALLACK, Managing principal, Skyplex; COO, Mango’s Tropical Café

It will not open until 2019, but Skyplex — Josh Wallack’s $500 million entertainment complex that will feature a 501-foot “polercoaster” and myriad other high-adrenaline attractions — continues to drive the conversation about the future of I-Drive. Meanwhile, just across Sand Lake Road, Wallack is putting the finishing touches on his 14-story Hollywood Plaza entertainment complex and parking garage, a fitting companion for his 55,000-square-foot Mango’s Tropical Café, which opened in 2016.


For years, the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions had been headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia. But that changed in 2017 when the association, which has 5,300 members across 99 countries, packed its bags for Orlando. A driving force behind that move was Paul Noland, who also extended IAAPA’s annual trade show at the Orange County Convention Center through 2030. Each year, that show draws more than 30,000 attendees, generating upward of $50 million in economic impact.

JOANN NEWMAN, President & CEO, Orlando Science Center

The Orlando Science Center just keeps growing in popularity, and at the center of it all is JoAnn Newman, a STEM advocate and former industrial engineer with AT&T. Under Newman’s leadership, OSC welcomed a record 627,000 visitors in FY 2017 (nearly three times more than a decade ago) and has become the most attended cultural institution in Central Florida. The center also recently completed its largest renovation project in two decades (the $5 million KidsTown exhibit) and was a finalist for the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries for service to the community. 

GEORGE AGUEL, President & CEO of Visit Orlando


The Legacy of Fun Spot’s John Arie Sr.

I’s hard to believe, but this month marks the 20th anniversary of Fun Spot’s arrival on I-Drive. Even more incredible is how John Arie Sr., an Oviedo native, has been steadily growing his theme park empire for more than 40 years.

On behalf of Visit Orlando, we’re excited to see him recognized as a 2017 Business Leader of the Year.

A highly respected figure in the family entertainment center industry, Arie is someone whose leadership and vision continue to add value to our destination. Over the years, his strategic planning and aggressive brand of entrepreneurship have yielded tremendous results — for Fun Spot and Orlando as a whole.

During the recession, for instance, Arie had the foresight to expand operations. More recently, when looking to grow Fun Spot’s geographical footprint, he chose to re-invest in our community instead of venturing into other markets. Along those lines, the partnerships he’s forged with similar companies, such as Gatorland and Old Town, have made Orlando’s regional tourism community even stronger.

Most every successful business leader operates under a unique set of guiding principles, and Arie has often stated that his are faith, family and fun. Judging from Fun Spot’s growth, that seems to be a winning formula — one that’s been rewarded by a surge in passholders the past couple of years.

To quote a certain commercial all of us have seen many times on TV, Arie has built a “HUUUUUGE” legacy. And it’s only getting bigger. Congrats, John, on a job well done!

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