The man who many considered “The Heart and Soul of Philadelphia” has left the building.
Jeff Guaracino, who helped coin marketing campaign slogans like “Philly’s More Fun When You Sleep Over” as CEO of Visit Philadelphia, passed away earlier this week at the age of 48. As a tourism official and fierce advocate for everything that made Philadelphia an amazing tourism destination, specially for the LGBTQ community, had led the tourism agency since 2018. Personally, Jeff was a wonderful presence to run into at numerous functions, always ready with a warm hug, a kind word, and that ever-present devilish grin. One thing we always spoke about was our mutual love for the City of Philadelphia; much like my own, his adoration for the city was palpable and unending.
When Guaracino’s death was announced, Philadelphians, LGBTQ advocates & allies, and dear friends immediately took to Facebook and Instagram to pay homage to Guaracino. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said in part that Guaracino was a “fierce champion and promoter of his hometown. Jeff was a proud advocate for the LGBTQ community”. Democratic PA State Representative candidate Jonathan Lovitz said that Guaracino’s greatest joy was “bringing people together to celebrate what makes Philly so special”. Event producer Bruce Yelk was a dear friend of Guaracino and spoke of Guaracino’s accomplishments, but also of his “unbelievable kindness, faith and best interests for everyone he interacted with”. Liza Costandino, Director of Public Relations & Social Media at Ocean Casino Resort counted Guaracino as a colleague and friend, and spoke about his mentorship in “media relations, marketing, and how to work a room” & how Guaracino himself was responsible for Atlantic City’s greatest tourism campaign, DO AC.
As the co-author (with Guaracino) of Handbook of LGBT Tourism and Hospitality: A Guide for Business Practice, author and LGBTQ travel expert Ed Salvato had an intimate knowledge of Guaracino both as a colleague and as a friend. He posted a tribute to Guaracino on Facebook, saying in part, he “literally wrote the book on LGBTQ tourism. He stood as a mentor to a legion of executives in Philadelphia. He uplifted friends and colleagues”. Stonewall veteran, author, and Philadelphia Gay News publisher Mark Segal said on Facebook that Jeff was “brilliant, compassionate, pragmatic, and creative, with an outrageous sense of humor”.
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