The events of last Friday hurt even more in the cold, hard light of Saturday morning. Our industry lost two Destination Marketing pros from the same state within 24 hours. One name was "household" in our industry, the other, not so much. Regardless, losing either one sucks. Losing them both sucks more.
Destination Marketing was in Orlando's Gary Sain's blood, as his Dad set the stage for Las Vegas becoming the iconic destination it is today. And, yet, it wan't his pedigree that earned him the top spot with the DMO with second largest budget in country. Instead it was that he had sensational marketing chops...and, he was a truly good guy.
OK, I may be biased on that one...'cause I still think good guys should win. Especially in a world that seems to honor cut-throat, ethically challenged narcissists. But, yeah...Gary was one of the good guys. And, he will be sorely missed. The world is a less cool place today, with his passing.
I was contemplating Florida Tourism's other loss when the news of Gary's passing arrived. Emerald Coast CVB CEO Mark Bellinger may have done a lot of unusual things over the past year...but he saved the most unusual for Thursday night. He committed suicide.
When the story broke earlier last week that he had purchased a $710,000 yacht with DMO money...and then allegations that he bought his $750,000 house with BP funds hit, the media (and the DMO world) was abuzz. There was laughter. There was head-shaking...both of the WTF variety.
That all stopped Friday afternoon when police announced that he was dead.
The comments on the Florida-based online news stories generally villified Mark, who by most accounts had done an outstanding job for the Emerald Coast during the BP disaster. By contrast, the comments in the Palm Springs-based online media (he had been their DMO Director a few years ago) were shocked, saddened and supportive. That he was such a great guy. And, how could this have happened?
Of course, it wasn't their money. But, it begs the question...how can a good guy so lose his way? And then, when called out, believe that suicide is the only viable path?
I struggled with that all weekend. We all should.
Two good guys gone. One taken. The other by his own hand.
We'll miss them both. I'll miss Gary more.