The nation’s premier regional outdoor communicator’s organization, the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association, awarded the Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau the Second Place Excellence in Craft Award in the Industry Public Relations category during the organization’s Awards Banquet in Johnson City, Tenn., Sept. 29. The honor recognized the Bureau’s “The Big Year Birding Weekend Media Trip” held last October in which six Florida-based travel journalists and bloggers migrated to Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands to take advantage of the area’s good nature and share their experiences with readers …..

“With seven sections of the Great Florida Birding Trail, Charlotte County is attractive to birders,” said Lorah Steiner, Director of the Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau, “Together with our tourism industry partners, hosting ‘The Big Year Birding Weekend Media Trip’ was a way to generate editorial content in print and electronic publications and generate buzz on social media channels as Twitter and Facebook to raise awareness of the birding paradise we offer ……” Held Oct. 27 – 30, 2011, the media trip coincided with the birding movie “The Big Year,” based on the book by Mark Obmascik. Participating journalists represented regional and national print and electronic publications ….. Assisted by members of the Venice Audubon Society and the Charlotte County Department of Environmental Services, more than 30 bird species were sighted during the tour ….. According to a 2006 survey from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, there are 48 million birders in the U.S. An estimated 20 million of them travel specifically to birding destinations and spending an estimated $12 billion, with more than half of that on food, lodging and transportation ….. About Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands Located halfway between Tampa and Naples on the Southwest Florida Gulf coast, Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands is a charming collection of nine coastal communities surrounding the state’s second largest harbor. Florida’s premier year-round eco-tourism destination, Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands offers a pristine unspoiled beauty that has served as the backdrop for seven major feature films as well as countless memorable vacations. A haven for outdoor enthusiasts, Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands has been named to SAIL magazine’s “10 Greatest Places to Sail in the United States,” ranked by Golf Digest as “Third Best Place to Live and Play Golf in America,” and rated by MONEY magazine as one of the “Best Places to Live in the South.” ….