News & Politics

Palm Beach to DC: “We Want You”

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

A luncheon, complete with palms, to promote Palm Beach and environs at the National Building Museum. Photograph 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

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.