Milton Segarra interview

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President & CEO of Discover The Palm Beaches, Palm Beach County’s official tourism marketing agency.
Posted on
March 3, 2024
by
M. James Ward in ,
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

This week's Cognizant event at PGA National Resort is the opening act for the Florida swing of the PGA TOUR. The Palm Beaches are ground zero for a plethora of golf options with a wide array of engaging dimensions.

To better understand the scope and dimension of such involvements an interview was conducted with Milton Segarra.

 

Who is Milton Segarra?

A distinguished Certified Destination Management Executive (CDME) who currently serves as President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Discover The Palm Beaches - Palm Beach County’s official tourism marketing agency. Year-round the organization works to increase visitation to Palm Beach County, also referred to as The Palm Beaches, and stimulate the local economy.

Since joining the team in 2022, the destination marketing organization has achieved record-breaking visitation and tourism’s economic impact on the community surpassed $10 billion. Prior to this role, he led the Coastal Mississippi Tourism Board as CEO, and Meet Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico Convention Bureau) as President & CEO.

His career journey has seen him in the hotel industry with prestigious brands such as Hilton Hotels and Resorts, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, and Sands Hotels and Casinos Beach Resort and serve on distinguished boards including Destinations International and the Gulf Coast Business Council. Segarra earned his Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration with a focus on Business Management, Finance, and Marketing from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez.

Milton Segarra interview

The Segarra Story

The reputation of The Palm Beaches’ brand always spoke to me. The perception as an affluent region was certainly part of the initial draw. Now, having worked for the destination for two years, I realize it has so much more to offer beyond the luxury we pride ourselves in offering.

I first came to the organization as the Chief Marketing Officer and worked my way to Chief Executive Officer. My new position as CEO allows me to tap into my past CMO experience, my leadership abilities and my fresh perspective as both a recent visitor and resident.

As a new resident of Jupiter, FL (one of the cities and towns we represent in The Palm Beaches’ collection), I am quickly learning about the natural wonders, the superb dining options, and of course the golf mecca we are so blessed to have here.

Because this destination is Florida’s Golf Capital, I consider myself lucky to live where many choose to vacation and I clearly see the potential to attract so many more visitors who have yet to discover its charm. As CEO, I get to encourage my team to truly tap into the authenticity and wide-ranging appeal of the destination.

Par 3 Golf Course

My perspective as a new resident who is still discovering the area, as a husband, father and grandfather have been part of my own journey here and I get to build upon the strong and reputable destination marketing foundation that the leadership before me established and grow the bigger picture.

My role is a fulfilling one. I get to inspire individuals to realize their travel dreams, reach new levels of emotional wellbeing and a more relaxed state of mind, while making lifelong memories that they will treasure. I also get to work alongside a dynamic, diverse and inspiring team of colleagues and a community of passionate hoteliers, restauranters and attraction associates which truly make this an outstanding destination. Doing our jobs right and well means visitors will continue to come back for more, year after year, with new generations who help us build upon our destination legacy.

We are living in an era of transformational travel, and my goal is to make visitors aware that their aspirational travel dreams can become a reality here. Since we have 39 cities and towns to explore and something new and unexpected to discover during a first or next visit, a trip to The Palm Beaches is very much attainable and can be transformative no matter what interests you want to explore – be it golf, shopping, family adventures or culture.

The Park

***

What makes The Palm Beaches area uniquely special when compared to other coastal Florida locations?

Our history as America’s First Resort Destination certainly sets us apart. Few places have such deep-rooted connections to the railroad legacy, Native American history and legendary historic properties that carefully balance modernity with preservation – all can be found here.

The Palm Beaches’ diversity of experience has captivated me as has the genuine hospitality of its diverse communities and people. As cliché as it sounds, there is something for everyone here.

If you want family-friendly, you can find it in our museums, waterparks, parks, beaches and even a drive-through animal safari! If you want culture, we have more than 200 cultural institutions teeming with art, theatre and music.

Best-in-class shopping, sports, outdoor experiences and dining – all offering an unmatched, elevated experience no matter the price-point, age or interest.

 

How important a role does golf play in the visibility and economics of The Palm Beaches?

As Florida’s Golf Capital, the role golf plays in the visibility and economics of The Palm Beaches cannot be understated. Annually, the Palm Beach County Sports Commission – our sister agency - hosts a PGA Tour event, PGA Tour Champions event, NCAA golf regional and conference championships, and a vast collection of premier amateur and youth tournaments.

Professional golf generated over 13,000 room nights in Palm Beach County hotels while creating an influx of direct visitor spending of $9.1 million for our local business and hospitality community.

PGA National Resort - Champion Course (Credit PGA National Resort)

How significant does the annual PGA TOUR event at PGA National play economically and in visitor attendees?

The PGA TOUR event plays a significant role economically with the over 200,000 attendees it attracts annually. The event has consistently been a financial benefit with 11,104 hotel room nights in 2023 that contributed to an overall $40 million in total economic impact.

 

Was there concern when long-time sponsor Honda opted not to renew?

The landscape of professional golf is always evolving, and it is true that American Honda's title sponsorship of the PGA Tour in Palm Beach County helped elevate the event to its status as one of the most popular and fan-friendly events on the Tour’s schedule.

The exciting action between the ropes combined with the tremendous economic impact off the course, led the event to become a cornerstone of our community. The destination moniker “Florida’s Golf Capital” and the fact that The Palm Beaches are such a well-known golf destination coupled with the well-established event’s history in our area helped generate interest from other companies to take over this well-known golf tournament.

The Palm Beaches and the PGA Tour used this opportunity to find a new partner in Cognizant, and we’re appreciative of the brand’s commitment to help grow this tournament in The Palm Beaches for many years to come.

Milton Segarra interview
Lake Worth Beach Golf Course (Credit Lake Worth Beach Golf Course)

How much coordination takes place between your organization and the tournament?

Our communication and coordination with the PGA Tour extend well beyond the tournament dates. The partnership is active throughout the year with The Palm Beaches and the PGA Tour working hand-in-hand to bolster brand awareness, host community events, and create economic impact for Palm Beach County.

As a presenting sponsor, Discover The Palm Beaches, the Palm Beach County Sports Commission and the PGA Tour will continue to work together to align our brands and create a product that builds on the already rich tradition of golf in Palm Beach County.

 

In approximate percentages, where are most of your visitors coming from – USA and internationally?

During 2023, The Palm Beaches welcomed 9.48 million travelers. 5.4 million came from out of state (57%), 3.2 million came from in-state (34%) and 837,500 came from international markets (8%).

Milton Segarra interview
Par 3 Golf Course

How do you encourage visitor feedback and what role does such information play in future decisions made by those your organization serves?

Visitor feedback and sentiment are critical in our research process, our brand’s continuous evolution and ongoing efforts. We have processes in place to get feedback from visitors and potential visitors at various touch points such as via the website, brand perception and key market studies.

Visitor and resident feedback are paramount to the organization’s continued success. This information provides further direction for our initiatives and a better understanding of the needs and expectations of our visitors, so that we can better position ourselves, craft the right messaging and reach diverse audiences and ultimately achieve greater destination growth in a responsible and authentic manner.

If someone were coming to The Palm Beaches for the first time, what do they absolutely have to do before departing?

This depends on their interest, but I would recommend some of our staple and one-of-a-kind destination experiences, starting with a round of golf at any of Jupiter’s public courses, followed by a visit to Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse & Museum where visitors can learn about the original inhabitants of the area.

While in Jupiter they can also take in the turquoise waters from one of the many waterside restaurants and discover the conservation efforts at Busch Wildlife Sanctuary and nearby Juno Beach’s Loggerhead Marinelife Center.

Then, venture to the Flagler Museum, which is located on pristine and posh Palm Beach, followed by one of the area’s many free gardens and a stop for dining or shopping on historic Worth Avenue. Depending on the time they have remaining, the Norton Museum of Art, Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens and Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach are all inspiring venues.

Afterward, Delray Beach and Boca Raton are bustling with activity day and night and the perfect combination of sophistication and style converging with laidback beach retreats.

Milton Segarra interview
PGA National Resort - The Bear Trap at The Champions Course (Credit PGA National Resort)

The most underrated aspect of The Palm Beaches area is what?

We are comprised of a collection of 39 cities and towns. Many know our key cities of Jupiter, Palm Beach Gardens, Palm Beach, West Palm Beach, Wellington, Delray Beach, Boca Raton, but we have 32 other areas to see and explore.

Each city is distinctly unique and has its own character and tourism appeal. Some additional underrated yet deserving locations include Tequesta, Juno Beach, Lake Park, Singer Island/Riveira Beach, Lake Worth Beach, Loxahatchee, Royal Palm Beach, Boynton Beach and Highland Beach.

 

The biggest challenges facing The Palm Beaches - short and long term are what and what specific strategic responses are you implementing to deal with both.

Our greatest challenges are staying top of mind with consumers and ahead of the competition, given unpredictable economic fluctuations and varying market conditions. Our strategy is to continue to invest in tried-and-true markets based on our data and research, with a combined mix of targeted sales, marketing, advocacy and communication efforts.

Enhancing the visitor experience, exploring unique brand partnerships and new marketing technologies and authentic story telling will be big for us. Ensuring the residents and visitors are happy is a delicate balance.

We are increasing efforts to remind residents of the power of tourism on the local economy and the opportunities that come to residents as a result, such as increased employment opportunities.

***

For more info go to:

www.ThePalmBeaches.com

 

Avatar photo

About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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