Monroe County Tourist Development Council representativs pose with Flagler Awards received Nov. 19, 2020, in Tampa, Florida. From left: Clinton Barras of Two Oceans Digital, the TDC’s website provider; Stacey Mitchell, TDC director; Andy Newman, president, NewmanPR. TDC provided image.

NewmanPR — the public relations agency of record for the Florida Keys Tourist Development Council for 40 years — garnered a gold “Henry” Award at the Visit Florida 2020 Flagler Awards ceremony in Tampa in November. The awards are bestowed annually by Visit Florida, the state’s tourism-marketing organization. The statewide competition was judged independently of Visit Florida and evaluated work accomplished in 2019.

NewmanPR won for its holistic communications program, “Protect and Connect,” which began in late 2018.

The program takes inspiration from a quote from famed ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau: “We protect what we love.” The ongoing program throughout the Florida Keys seeks to inspire travelers to connect with and help protect the unique Keys environment.

Visitors from around the world are drawn to the Florida Keys to experience the island chain’s priceless natural resources. And those who live in the Keys are committed to protecting and nurturing those resources — including the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef.

Once visitors forge a personal connection to the Keys environment, the hope is they’ll be motivated to protect and preserve it — by incorporating positive eco-activities and experiences into their stay in the island chain.

While the “Connect & Protect” program might be new, the Keys’ passion for protection dates back more than a century. The Key West National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1908, launching a dedicated commitment to long-term environmental stewardship. Since then, milestones include the 1957 establishment of the National Key Deer Refuge to protect and preserve habitats for wildlife — particularly the tiny Key deer that live only in the Lower Keys — and the 1963 creation of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, America’s first underwater park.

In 1990 the U.S. government created the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, protecting 2,800 square nautical miles of coastal and ocean waters surrounding the entire Keys island chain — including the precious coral reef.

In recent years, experts have begun spearheading coral restoration efforts in the Keys by replanting new growths from coral nurseries to the reef.

The “Connect & Protect” program incorporates Keys environmental and wildlife rescue centers such as Marathon’s world-famous Turtle Hospital; ways to enjoy diving and fishing adventures with eco-conscious “Blue Star” operators; sustainable food choices like stone crab claws and locally sourced fish; unforgettable experiences such as kayaking through the tranquil backcountry waters or viewing playful dolphins in the wild; “voluntourism” opportunities including assisting in a coral nursery; and much more.

As stewards of priceless natural resources, environmentally aware Keys residents practice a culture of conservation while eating, playing, swimming, exploring and simply living each day in the magical 125-mile island chain. With “Connect & Protect,” they invite visitors to join them.

The Monroe County Tourist Development Council also garnered additional top awards at the Tampa ceremony.

The TDC received “Henrys” in the print advertising, television advertising and out-of-home categories as well as the public relations award. A silver award was conferred for mobile marketing and a bronze was bestowed for direct marketing.

Tinsley Advertising and Two Oceans Digital are the respective advertising and internet agencies for the TDC.

Named after Florida tourism pioneer Henry Flagler, the Flagler Award program is an annual statewide competition recognizing outstanding Florida tourism marketing. It was created by Visit Florida to honor individuals and organizations that help position Florida as one of the world’s top travel destinations.

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