Celebrating Some Wins on Florida’s Space Coast
The past year has proven to be one of Perseverance, shooting for the moon and going for the gold despite the difficult times. The Space Coast Office of Tourism thanks everyone who worked hard and supported the industry, which is one of the largest employers in Brevard County. The community rose to the occasion securing personal protective equipment to give to those in need and provide lodging rates for first responders, essential workers, and people transitioning to a new working from home life. This, all during hurricane season and high profile launches that the Space Coast Office of Tourism team were also on-call for. While the team is looking forward to a brighter future, let’s reflect on some major wins over the past year.
National Geographic Best of the World
Florida’s Space Coast was honored to be one of National Geographic’s 25 destinations on the rise for 2021 in their yearly Best of the World rankings and is featured in the family travel section alongside locations in Canada, England, Hungary, and Romania. The section highlights Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and the incredible opportunities to view launches, and also mentions the natural wonders of the surrounding Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (including the manatees and bioluminescence in the Indian River Lagoon.) “We’re honored to be included in the Best of the World for 2021 and are in great company with the other members on this list,” says Peter Cranis, Executive Director Space Coast Office of Tourism. “Visitors are inspired to dream bigger here, whether that’s from viewing a launch or encountering our unique ecosystems, beaches, and wildlife.”
Brevard Zoo ranking
The Brevard Zoo was voted one of the best zoos in North America by readers of USA Today’s 10Best. The Zoo, which came in fifth place overall, was the highest-ranked facility in the Southeastern United States and the only Florida zoo to make the list. “This is such an incredible honor for us to have one of our gems listed in a top 10 national poll like this,” said Peter Cranis, Executive Director of the Space Coast Office of Tourism. “It is a testament to the vision and hard work the Zoo staff and community have put in to make our local Zoo truly one of the best in the country.”
Return to Human Spaceflight
2020 was a major year for the Space side of the area, leading off with the return to human spaceflight. In May, more than 200,000 people came to the Space Coast to watch alongside Brevard County residents as ‘Space Dads’ Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley launched the first commercial crew flight and first crewed flight from US soil since the end of the shuttle program in 2011 atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 in the Dragon capsule. Even in the middle of a difficult year, this brought the county and country together. Following Demo-2, the Crew-1 flight launched to the International Space Station in October. Looking ahead, Crew-2 from SpaceX and test flights from ULA and Boeing’s Starliner are scheduled for early 2021.
Humans weren’t the only precious cargo sent to space in 2020. The Mars rover, Perseverance, made its way to the red planet in July and is set to land after Valentine’s Day 2021. This mission will seek signs of ancient life and collect samples for possible return to Earth. The Mars Helicopter, Ingenuity, is joining Perseverance for a demonstration of powered flight in the thin Martian air. These two incredible machines will help prepare for future missions, including providing valuable data for possible human missions.
AAU Junior Olympic Games
In August, The Space Coast gained a major sporting event from the Amateur Athletic Union. The 54th AAU Junior Olympic Games made their way to town after their original host city was unable to provide venues and was officially announced at the Viera Regional Community Center with the team from AAU and Governor DeSantis. The event combined with the Sunshine State Games for Archery, Footgolf, and bowling. 3,853 total athletes, 3,362 from outside of Brevard County, joined in the competition for students ranging from age 6 to 18, with adult levels in certain sports.
Space Coast Challenge
A second major sporting event also relocated to the Space Coast this year. The Cancun Challenge is a pre-season college basketball tournament organized by Triple Crown Sports for the top eight NCAA Division I Men’s and top ten Women’s teams. The pandemic forced changes to college basketball, including limiting travel of players, so they shifted focus and brought the tournament to Eastern Florida State College as the Space Coast Challenge over Thanksgiving. Only the top four teams (Clemson, Liberty, Mississippi State, Purdue) were able to play, with the Clemson Tigers coming out on top. Due to safety precautions, fans were not permitted to enter, but all of the games were televised on CBS Sports Network.
TUI UK and the Most Scenic Airport
Fans on PrivateFly.com voted Melbourne Orlando International Airport (MLB) as the #1 Most Scenic Airport in North America and #4 Most Scenic Airport in the World for 2020. In addition to this exciting news, TUI, the world’s leading holiday company and the UK’s number one holiday provider, has partnered with MLB to make the airport the gateway to Florida for their customers beginning in 2022. Construction is underway for a new terminal to deliver concierge services, unique concessions, innovative passenger amenities and many other family-friendly features for the more than 156,000 annual passengers TUI will fly into the airport. MLB will also have a team of international ambassadors to greet visitors with a glass of fresh Florida orange juice and assist with additional arrangements. Schedules are still being developed, but there is the potential of nonstop flights between MLB and nine European cities. Marella Cruises, a division of TUI and the third-largest cruise line in the United Kingdom, also intends to homeport the Marella Discovery at Port Canaveral. This will be their first ship with a homeport in the United States and was projected to begin sailing in 2021.
The Right Stuff
The Right Stuff, by National Geographic, premiered on Disney+ in September this year. Portions of the series were filmed on the Space Coast, including along Cocoa Beach and Lori Wilson park, the blockhouse at Launch Complex 5/6 and actual launchpads where the Mercury 7 blasted off including Launch Complex 5/6 and Pad 14. A dealership in Titusville was even dressed to look like Rathmann Chevrolet in the 1960s where the astronauts got their Corvettes. Cast and crew spoke fondly of their visit and the ability to see these historic landmarks and artifacts in person to greater connect with the story.
What do hotel brands Hampton Inn, Home2Suites, Hyatt Place, Springhill Suites and Extended Stay have in common? They have all opened up properties on the Space Coast in 2020. Hampton Inn and Springhill Suites have each opened 1 property. That’s 9 new properties representing 1,044 new hotel rooms in 2020, bringing the total hotel rooms in Brevard County up to 10,275 rooms which is an 11.3% increase! “The addition of new hotel inventory is always an exciting prospect for a community, but to add 9 properties in 1 year is unprecedented for us,” said Peter Cranis, Executive Director of the Space Coast Office of Tourism. “It is a real testament to the resilience of our economy, even in the face of COVID. These new properties will provide safe, family-oriented options to stay up and down the Space Coast. We think we have exactly what families want right now which is wide-open spaces and plenty of beach for all.”