Palm Beach to DC: “We Want You”

A small luncheon gives another possible sign of a recovering economy.

By: Carol Ross Joynt

Denizens of luxe Palm Beach came to town on Tuesday to woo us Washingtonians. Why? Because they miss us. Back in the Golden Age of “Palm,” the city north of Miami with its 47 miles of Atlantic beaches was a regular destination of President and Mrs. Kennedy. Politicos mixed with show-business types on the town’s golf courses and polo fields and hobnobbed at its high-end hotels.

These days, says Jorge Pesquera, the president and CEO of the Palm Beach County Convention and Visitors Bureau, “I don’t believe we’re as well-known as we could be.” More precisely, “we think the greater DC area is a very important market. There’s money here, and people are spending.”

So Pesquera and the representatives of a handful of hotels took over a private suite at the National Building Museum, decorated it with palms, and hosted a luncheon of butternut squash soup, spinach salad, chicken breast, chocolate cake, and wine, and gave us the soft sell: pitches about the charms of a destination that will remain warm as DC begins to move into the frozen parts of the year.

Back in the glory days the hotels were only open during the “season,” from mid-December through Easter—“a wonderful time of the year,” said Pesquera. Today they are open year-round, and though Palm Beach’s reputation as a socialite’s hub is not undeserved, Pesquerra pointed to the community’s more populist side, including boat shows, fishing, hunting, and Major League Baseball spring training.

Palm Beach was built as a place to have fun, he said, and it is “big, beautiful, and stress-free.”

Like many Washingtonians, Pesquera knows something about stress. His previous post was on Aruba, where he headed the island’s hotel association during the 2005 disappearance of Alabama high school student Natalee Holloway, putting him on the front lines of the media storm and managing tourism damage control, which he described as extreme. Only now, he said, is the island beginning to bounce back. Would he go back? “No.” He said tourism in Palm Beach County is setting records.