TAVARES – In the past decade, Lake County experienced a lot of commercial growth, particularly in South Lake County, as the city of Clermont and the surrounding area attracted scores of new businesses.
And even though county leaders still do a lot to promote Lake’s natural beauty — through programs like the upcoming Scrub-Jay Hike that will take place from 8-10 a.m. on Saturday — the county is also starting to get more serious about bringing customers to their new businesses as well.
What they want is for visitors to “Discover Lake” today.
The Lake County Economic Development and Tourism Department just launched this new program. “Discover Lake” is designed to attract more tourism into the county by offering visitors a discount at all participating restaurants, attractions and hotels they patronize.
For example, if a visitor stays at least one night at a county hotel that is participating in Discover Lake, then visit at least four other participating establishments, they’ll receive a special Lake County gift package by mail.
Robert Chandler, director of Lake County’s Economic Development and Tourism Department, said this is part of an ongoing effort to promote the county’s existing tourism base, which runs from the cabins available to rent at Lake Louisa State Park to events like Bikefest in Leesburg, to the antique shops in downtown Mount Dora.
“Lake County has so much to offer,” Chandler said. “This is a way for us to engage our visitors and establish Lake County as a premiere tourist destination.”
Other area cities like Orlando have promoted businesses in similar ways. Mayor Buddy Dyer launched his Buy Local Orlando program to connect visitors and residents with the City Beautiful’s local merchants.
“Unlike other discount services, all Buy Local Orlando vendors are certified City of Orlando businesses and receive 100 percent of revenue generated from sales through the program – so you can rest assured that the money you spend with them directly contributes to our local economy,” the program’s web site notes.
The city also created a Buy Local Orlando mobile app featuring alerts for special offers and discounts, and directions to make it easier to find participating businesses.
Anyone can get their own “Discover Lake Card” by picking it up at one of several locations, including the Economic Development & Tourism office at 315 W. Main St., Suite 233, in Tavares; the Lake County Welcome Center at 20763 U.S. 27 in Groveland; the five Florida Welcome Centers on the local highways like Interstate 75 and the Florida Turnpike; any of the Chambers of Commerce offices in Lake County; and at the participating businesses.
To learn more, call the Economic Development and Tourism Department at 352-742-3924.
At the same time, Lake County is still doing all it can to promote its rural areas as well. On Saturday, birding enthusiasts can check out the state’s only endemic bird species, the Florida Scrub Jay, as well as what is expected to be an abundance of butterflies during the Scrub-Jay Hike on Saturday, June 15 at Pine Forest State Park, 32520 State Road 44 in Deland in Lake County.
Registration is free, and participants are encouraged to bring binoculars, field guides, water, snacks, sunscreen, insect repellent, a hat and hiking shoes.
Bird lovers also are invited to enjoy the Second Annual Wings and Wildflowers Festival, Lake County’s birding festival, which will be held on the weekend of Oct. 4-6 in Tavares. It’s an outdoor enthusiasts’ paradise, featuring unique birding and wildflower programs at Hickory Point Park, along with acclaimed speakers, authors, and native plant experts.
This weekend will provide a host of eco-friendly programs for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, including the chance to take advantage of specialty field trips by pontoon boat, kayak and Conestoga wagon.
The festival’s keynote speakers will be Jeffrey A. Gordon, president of the American Birding Association, and James Currie, the host of NBC Sports’ “Nikon Birding Adventures.”
Contact us at FreelineOrlando@gmail.com.