Darby Miller is a seasoned professional with more than 25 years of leadership experience in industry, ranging from marketing communications and project management to special events planning and community relations. Miller has owned a business, too, a marketing agency. And now she is director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau at Cocoa Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Surely, Miller has seen much in her years, but nothing like the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. (Who, in fact, ever has witnessed what quickly has become this historic, devastating, unimaginable pandemic?)

Yet, when asked about a tomorrow that no one is really certain about, Miller didn’t hesitate in her response: Tourism in Cocoa, in Brevard and the nearby areas will be back. Strong.

While Miller laments about the likely loss of some businesses, and is especially concerned about smaller Convention and Visitors Bureau partners, she is steadfastly optimistic.

“I’m 100% optimistic. We were 110% optimistic a month ago. Now we’re 100% optimistic. It’s certainly serious and certainly something that everybody should take all the necessary precautions (for). But I believe we will all — and certainly our area — come out of this, and a normalcy will return.”

Darby Miller
Darby Miller

Then Miller makes her most important point: “We [Cocoa Beach and neighboring areas] still have all the things that we could offer people in the past and even more.”

Indeed, just before the world grinded to a coronavirus halt, Cocoa Beach and Brevard County were zooming ahead with new and improved places to go and things to do. As a result, the belief is that once “normalcy” returns, the region will be especially well-positioned to benefit from visitors by virtue of tourism.

“What has happened in the last three or four years is the growth of this area, as far as amenities for people,” Miller explained. “The amenity package for people coming to Cocoa Beach has been enhanced so dramatically, and that is only going to continue with things coming up.”

One example is hotel enhancements on the horizon. The DoubleTree by Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront — closed since Hurricane Irma washed ashore in September 2017 — is expected to reopen this summer (with a coronavirus caveat, of course). Similarly, the Country Inn & Suites by Carlton is planning to reopen just south of Port Canaveral. Not far away, the SpringHill Suites by Marriott Cape Canaveral Cocoa Beach, an all-new, all-suite hotel, is accepting reservations, starting for June 7.

Also, the region’s prevailing optimism for tourism is evident in the complete makeover plans at the International Palms Resort & Conference Center. Sometime before 2021, the 17-acre property is expected to begin a four-year transition into the Westin Cocoa Beach, providing a long-term tourism boost as well as the immediate creation of approximately 2,000 jobs.

Meanwhile, despite the closure of her main office and her satellite information kiosk inside Exploration Tower at Port Canaveral, Miller is busy keeping prospective visitors informed through social media and web communication. Notably, the same continual dissemination of news and information is occurring from the county’s principal tourism driver, Visit Space Coast, and others.

“As far as helping people plan a later trip, all of the tools that they would need to come here are available to them,” she said. “Our message is that we have great places, and great people, to visit when you can.”

Sadly, that’s true for locals, too, given the realities of the past few months. Here are the initial sentences of the official pitch from Visit Florida, the state’s chief promoter of tourism, to attract visitors locally: “Cocoa Beach, along Florida’s Space Coast, makes for an out-of-this-world family vacation.

Sadly, that’s true for locals, too, given the realities of the past few months. Here are the initial sentences of the official pitch from Visit Florida, the state’s chief promoter of tourism, to attract visitors locally: “Cocoa Beach, along Florida’s Space Coast, makes for an out-of-this-world family vacation.

Your group can ride some waves, check out Cocoa Beach’s world-famous pier, marvel at Ron Jon’s, the world’s largest surf shop, hike through nature preserves, and explore mankind’s greatest journey at the nearby Kennedy Space Center.”

Locals, have you forgotten? It’s possible, which is yet another reason for optimism — there will be plenty of pent-up local demand. Miller keeps on her marketing hat.

“We have the ocean, the Indian River Lagoon, dining, attractions. And not just one thing,” she concluded. “It’s multifaceted. … People might come here for one thing. Then they realize the breadth of opportunities of things they can do while they’re in the Cocoa Beach area.

“We’re anticipating tourists coming, not only for our normal amenities, but for the launches and the return of human spaceflight from American soil, which is happening certainly in the calendar year of 2020. And that will be the only place in the world… There’s only one place you can find it. We are unique in so many ways. That’s why people come here.”

Again. Soon.

Michael Candelaria

Michael Candelaria is a veteran of the magazine industry in Central Florida, having served as a writer and editor for numerous publications. Those publications range from city/regional and business magazines to travel/leisure and sports magazines. Formerly, he was the editor of Orlando magazine and president of the Florida Magazine Association. He is well-known in the Central Florida community, working with numerous high-profile business and civic organizations.