Destination: Orlando Meeting & Event Planning City Guide
By Holly Woolard
November 20, 2013
Quick, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Florida? Walt Disney World? Miami beaches and nightlife? Spring break in the Keys? Retiring to the Gulf Coast? Well, if sports were somehow overlooked, feel free to take a mulligan.
Sports in Florida annually combine for a $36 billion industry, highlighted by nine professional franchises, PGA and LPGA tournaments, the Daytona 500 and a bevy of minor-league teams. There are also hundreds of amateur athletic associations and groups that annually descend on the state for national and regional competitions.
With a tagline of “Where the World Comes to Play,” Florida has established itself as a top amateur sports destination by virtue of terrific year-round weather and efforts by organizations such as the Florida Sports Foundation, which works directly with 25 sports commissions throughout the state. The foundation and commissions pursue athletic associations and their events with the same business savvy that has helped make the state a meetings and conventions center.
“It’s an economic engine,” says John Webb, president and CEO of the foundation. “Our No. 1 industry in the state is tourism. We have to take care of the visitors so they’ll come back.”
Since its birth in 1995, the foundation has awarded an estimated $19.1 million in grants to help recruit and stage sports events throughout the state. Grants have supported six Super Bowls, two NHL All-Star games, International Law Enforcement Games, the NCAA Women’s Final Four and four college football national championship games. The grants are funded by the sale of pro sports license plates. It’s a win-win for sports fans who get to support their favorite teams and Florida’s thriving sports industry. Pro teams also benefit from their affiliation with the foundation and commissions, which help secure events in the offseasons, when venues are vacant.
The foundation and commissions are so crafty that they regularly reach out to decision makers to remind them of meeting and playing options in Florida. In January, for example, the annual meeting of the Association of Chief Executives for Sports (ACES) will convene in Pensacola Beach. ACES members include all 46 U.S. Olympic Committee national governing bodies.
“We want to expose them to all that the state has to offer,” Webb says. “We’re extremely proud of the industry and work hard to stay ahead of the curve.”
Whether your next event is suited to team-bonding in a luxury suite during a Miami Heat game, golfing where the pros tee off or staging a championship event for senior athletes, Florida has a venue for you.
Main image: Daytona International Speedway
By Steve Winston
August 15, 2013
The swath of central Florida that runs from Orlando and Kissimmee in the center of the state to Daytona Beach on the coast is one of the busiest meeting regions in the United States.
By Jessie Fetterling
November 20, 2012
Florida is full of excitement, from Miami’s Latin-inspired festivities to Orlando’s never-ending theme-park rides. But it also offers a bounty of natural wonders to discover: The third largest coral reef barrier system in the world off the coast of Miami. The Everglades in the south. The nation's largest urban park system in Jacksonville. And several national and state parks in between.
By Steve Winston
August 30, 2012
You probably know that Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center is the second-largest in America. You may know that Orlando has nearly 116,000 hotel rooms—the second most in America. And that it hosts the second-largest number of meetings and trade shows in the U.S. And of course you know its major theme parks all rank among the Top 10 in the world.
By Gary McKechnie
April 28, 2012
In 2010, Orlando became the first city in American history to welcome more than 50 million visitors in a single year. This happened because, among other reasons, Orlando is home to seven of the world’s top 10 most visited theme parks, as well as one of the busiest airports on earth. The city also offers the nation’s second-largest convention center and a 115,200-room inventory among its resorts and hotels. Perfectly placed in the heart of Central Florida, Orlando is only 45 minutes from the Atlantic Ocean and 90 minutes west of the Gulf of Mexico. Not only does a slate of international corporations call it home; nearly 400 arts and cultural organizations do as well. Per capita, Orlando has the country’s highest number of entertainers and artists ready to share their creative talents.
In addition to regional U.S. fare, Orlando restaurants feature international cuisine for an international clientele, and there are more certified wine sommeliers than in Paris. It’s quite likely, too, that the 176 golf courses and golf resorts surrounding the City Beautiful far surpass those found in the City of Light.
It’s difficult to see everything Orlando has to offer. But with advanced planning, incentive groups, midsize corporate groups and large associations can get a satisfying taste of it over three days.
By Robert Jenkins
August 29, 2011
On a map, the area of central Florida defined by Orlando, Daytona Beach and Kissimmee is a pretty narrow triangle. But it offers planners the broadest range of meeting options outside its high-tech convention centers: an oceanfront playground, the world’s most-popular collection of theme parks and simple, back-to-nature Florida. You can put your delegates in hotels streamlined to host conventions or lodgings with décor that plays upon fantasies and dreams. As for the all-important R&R outside the professional development sessions and exhibit halls, planners will need a checklist—there’s hot-air ballooning, ziplining, getting up-close-if-not-quite-personal with alligators, surfing and golfing where the top pros compete. Airlift is among the nation’s best, with no winter storms to close the runways.
Learn about Orlando for Event Venues, Services & Meeting Destinations
Orlando: Meetings, Conferences and Conventions
Number of Meetings Hotels: 450
Total Hotel Rooms: 111,000
Number of Special Events Venues: 550
Local Convention Centers: Orange County Convention Center
Local Airports: Orlando International Airport (MCO)
Local CVB: Visit Orlando, Cocoa Beach Area, Orlando Orange County CVB, Bradenton Area CVB, Kissimmee CVB
Orlando: Why Orlando, Florida is the Perfect Conference, Convention or Meeting Destination
With the second-largest convention center in the U.S., 3-million sq. ft. of meeting space and a mind-blowing array of entertainment options, it’s no wonder that more meeting planners intend to hold destination meetings in Orlando than in any other North American location over the next three years. In fact, the city attracts 10-million meeting and convention attendees every year, and it’s not hard to see why.
A location that’s tailor-made for behemoth conventions and other destination business events, the Orlando region has gained its reputation from its stellar corporate events amenities, but keeps attendees and corporate event planners coming back with the endless activities that are decidedly business casual. Outside of the meeting room, check out the iconic Disney’s Hollywood Studios where grown-ups and kids alike can get slimed. See what your stomach is made of at SkyVenture Orlando – a wind tunnel that replicates skydiving, minus the scary jump out of a plane. Get brainy in the five-story Orlando Science Center, with its 50,000 sq. ft. of exhibits. Or visit close relatives of Shamu at Sea World.
For New Englanders and business event attendees living in colder climates during the winter, Orlando is a particularly appealing spot to hold a conference, providing a warm and welcome escape from harsh winter weather. So come and see what the buzz is about! With waterparks, history, culture, arts and wildlife attractions all at your fingertips, Orlando matches its large group meeting capabilities with an after work activity for every interest.
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