CHARLOTTE HARBOR & THE GULF ISLANDS, Fla. (May 22, 2015) – Capt. Marian Schneider, who operated Grande Tours in Placida, Fla., for more than 25 years, was inducted into the Charlotte County Tourism Hall of Fame during the Tourism Luncheon at the Englewood Event Center in Englewood, Fla., on May 15. The Hall of Fame was established in 2014 to honor those who have had a substantial and long-standing body of work that has positively impacted tourism in Charlotte County.   

Capt. Marian started her ecotourism business in 1989 with one boat and one employee. It was a venture she began at midlife after a lengthy career in medical technology.  She hoped to educate people about the ecosystem in Charlotte County as well as the history of the area and, at the same time, earn a living.  She accomplished both to a degree she could not have imagined. She helped thousands of visitors and residents develop an appreciation for Charlotte County’s natural product and history. Capt. Marian’s favorite saying is, “If you teach a person to love something, they will take care of it.”  

She was the first outfitter in Charlotte County to receive the eco-tour provider certification given by the Southwest Florida Society for Ethical Ecotourism.  At one point, hers was the first and only business permitted to operate ferry service to Don Pedro Island State Park. When she retired in 2014, Grand Tours had grown to 18 seasonal and full-time employees, 150 rental kayaks and five rental boats. 

In addition to Capt. Marian, nominees for consideration of the induction were Capt. Ralph Allen, Melissa Baldwin, Kathy Burnam and John Wright. Nominations were accepted and the inductee was selected by a panel of judges composed of representatives from various aspects of the regional tourism industry and each geographic area of Charlotte County. The Charlotte County Tourism Hall of Fame is located in the Charlotte County Administration Building at 18500 Murdock Circle, Port Charlotte. Becky Bovell, former director of the Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau, was the first Hall of Fame inductee.  

The Tourism Lunch was hosted by the Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau and brought the Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands tourism community together to celebrate the area tourism industry and ecologinomical values. (Ecologinomical (adj): That which protects the ecology in order to preserve the economy.)  In addition to the Charlotte County Tourism Hall of Fame induction, the event emphasized the importance of ecotourism in the destination. Jimmy Dean, Publisher of Harbor Style Magazine, served as the lunch’s emcee and the keynote address was delivered by North Port residents Sean and Brooks Paxton, internationally recognized as the Shark Brothers

Each year, the Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau conducts marketing, sales and promotional campaigns to increase awareness of and visitation to Charlotte County. In addition to generating economic contributions, the Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau is also focused on developing soft adventure or eco-tourism, a low-impact industry enabling the county to preserve the invaluable natural resources that contribute to its ecological health, distinguish the area and draw visitors.

Photos available of: 
Capt. Marian Schneider 
2015 Charlotte County Tourism Hall of Fame Nominees
Sean and Brooks Paxton, the Shark Brothers, Keynote Speakers 

Image Credit: Robert Pope Photography,

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, the area offers a pristine unspoiled beauty. In 2014 Port Charlotte has been named the top U.S. Best Value Destination by trivago, the world’s largest online hotel search site, and the Charlotte Sports Park, spring training home of the Tampa Bay Rays, was voted “Best Spring Training Facility” by readers of USA TODAY. A haven for outdoor enthusiasts, Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands has been named one of 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.” Englewood was named second of the Top Ten emerging travel destinations in the U.S. by The area is served by five airports: The Punta Gorda Airport (PDG) with private and charter air service, Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ), Southwest Florida International Airport, Ft. Myers, (RSW), St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport (PIE) and Tampa International Airport (TPA).

For more information on visiting Charlotte Harbor visit or call1-800-652-6090.
Jennifer Huber                                
Tourism Public Relations Manager                                  
Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau            
(941) 743-1900   
Cell: (850) 228-2272                                             

Mary Jane Kolassa / Cindy Dobyns
Above Water Public Relations & Marketing
(407) 463-0040 / (239) 596-9149