|By Alyson Matley, Florida Keys Keynoter, Marathon|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
May 18, 2005 - After five years championing the hospitality industry in the Florida Keys, Peter Ilchuk is stepping down as president of the Lodging Association of the Florida Keys and Key West.
"I was not anticipating resigning last week," said Ilchuk. "The chair and board members did not agree with my style of doing things."
"We're hoping it will be a seamless transition," said Joy Smatt, chairwoman of the trade group and general manager of the Pier House Resort. "We are hoping he will be here long enough to pass the torch."
Though Smatt did not want to go further into detail, Ilchuk said only that he felt the board expected to him to act as a figurehead, not a role he's accustomed to.
Ilchuk came to the Keys in 1978 as the owner operator of the Banyan Resort. Over the years since he sold the property, he has consulted for various hotels. He also served as executive director of the United Way and the Lower Keys Medical Center Taxing District Board.
"I've spent five years building this association into a strong, dynamic voice for the lodging industry," he said, "and to prepare the industry for the serious threats down the road."
The most imminent, he says, is the potential development along the Monroe County border in Florida City and Homestead.
"The second most difficult problem is the need for adequate air service to the Keys. I worked very hard as president to support the expanding of air service into Marathon," he said.
Cuba, he said, is not a real threat to tourism in the Keys.
"I was there recently, and tourism is already thriving," he said. "A far greater threat is the Yucatan. It's cheaper to get there than it is Key West."
Ilchuk's term spanned the horrendous season following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Business that year dropped off dramatically for hotels, and Ilchuk was at the forefront with suggestions to encourage travel to the Keys.
"During the past five years, I was charged with raising the level of visibility and involvement of the Florida Keys Lodging Association and to expand it through the Keys," he said.
The association grew out of the Key West Hotel Motel Association. Now, Ilchuk said, there are 80 lodging members and 160 associate members Keyswide. And he's pleased there are monthly meetings of the group in the Upper Keys.
Ilchuk was the first full time president of the Association.
Smatt said the search for a replacement has begun.
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Copyright (c) 2005, Florida Keys Keynoter, Marathon
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