Renowned author, chef and television celebrity Emeril Lagasse delighted attendees at the 45th Annual Florida Governor’s Conference on Tourism held Sept. 5-7 in Orlando with a surprise appearance and announcement that in 2013 he will host a national television series on the Cooking Channel.

Titled Emeril’s Florida, the show has 13 episodes planned, with each airing multiple times, reaching millions of viewers. South Walton is among a very few award-winning destinations to be exclusively featured in dedicated episodes, amounting to feature-length exposure for the destination Lagasse calls home.

In addition to multiple airings, Visit South Walton will benefit from value-added components including a 30-second ad spot within the episode, two video vignettes from the episode for use on digital platforms, signature recipes, photos releases and episode billboards.

According to Jon Ervin, director of marketing and communications for Visit South Walton, “The value of just one 30-second commercial on a national television series airing a half dozen times would be sizeable, but in this special case our destination will be woven through an entire episode. In addition to that exceptional benefit, demographics indicate a viewership with an appetite for travel in addition to culinary offerings, and better yet the whole thing receives 50 percent of its funding from VISIT FLORIDA.”

The Governor’s Conference was designed and coordinated by VISIT FLORIDA, the official tourism-marketing corporation for the state of Florida as the premier educational event for the Florida tourism industry. A highly anticipated part of the conference is the presentation of Flagler Awards, which recognize outstanding achievement in Florida tourism marketing. Visit South Walton was presented four awards, including Silver Awards in the Niche Marketing category for its wedding ad and in the Radio Advertising category for its “Definitions” ad. The Northwest Florida destination won Bronze Awards for its Visitor Guide and television ad titled “The Things You Take.”

Dawn Moliterno, executive director of Visit South Walton, said, "The Flagler Awards represent the pinnacle of tourism marketing in a state that is the number one travel destination in the world, and we could not be more proud to be recognized for our efforts. These are further proof that our team does an outstanding job of promoting one of the most beautiful beach destinations in the world, and advancing an industry with an estimated billion dollar annual impact in Walton County alone.”

Among VISIT FLORIDA’s future marketing initiatives is promotion at the hugely popular Florida versus Florida State football game on Nov. 24. Dubbed the Sunshine Showdown, this interstate rivalry delivers a national audience in a platform ideal for promoting Florida tourism. Visit South Walton will participate in Florida State University's Parents’ Weekend Oct. 12-13, 2012, which coincides with the Boston College football match-up. Marketing strategies will engage consumers with incentives including hundreds of $50 BP gas cards on the 40th anniversary of Tallahassee's Downtown GetDown on Friday and prior to the Saturday game.