Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

June 14 2016

How One Major Meetings Destination Is Making Site Visits Easier For Everyone

Jeanna Hofmeister

FAM tours and site visits are the proverbial 800-pound gorilla for meeting planners, as well as destinations and suppliers. Time and availability are often limiters for planners. Outreach, expense and coordination present challenges on the supplier side. With so many destinations competing for a planner’s attention, how can they choose which invitations to accept?

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VISIT FLORIDA decided to change the game by bringing all of the state’s destinations and suppliers together in one place at one time for an event called Florida Encounter. This whirlwind, appointment-based trade show/site tour/networking extravaganza features 100 Florida destinations and suppliers. The state hosts an equal number of meeting planners from around the globe, covering airfare, accommodations and more. “We really try to keep it at a one-to-one ratio,” says Lily E. Etemadi, CTC, TMP and Manager of Meetings & Travel Trade for VISIT FLORIDA. “It keeps things more intimate so people really have the chance to network and get to know each other.”

VISIT FLORIDA offers DMOs and local organizations a variety of opportunities to help support and entice planners to the state, from association partnerships  to grants to attract meetings.  And to further encourage industry growth, they’ll even provide insurance for meetings and events through their Cover Your Event program. But the Florida Encounter concept is unique in that destinations and suppliers, who are often competitors, all work together to grow the Sunshine State’s share of mind and establish it as a leading destination in the convention and meetings industry. The concept has been so successful, Florida Encounter has been happening annually since 1980.

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“By matching planners to the exact destinations and suppliers they want to meet, it’s the equivalent of getting to do 34 site tours in just two days,” says Etemadi.

I was curious to find out from someone on the other side of the appointment table what the experience was like for them. She suggested I track down Steve Crist, Associate Vice President Meeting & Convention Sales at Discover the Palm Beaches, to find out, firsthand, about the Florida Encounter experience. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: Tell me about your team's experience with Florida Encounter. 

A:  We have been supporting and participating with Florida Encounter since its re-launch at PGA National Resort and Spa in 2013. The experience has always been excellent, with planners coming in from all over the US and Canada with business specifically for Florida. The appointment process is well-tuned and effective in getting you in front of the planners you want to see.   

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Q: With nearly 100 suppliers, do you feel like you are competing with other destinations?

A: It is tough competition at the show, because Florida, as a destination, has great offerings no matter where you go. What the show does is allow you to build on relationships through the planned networking events. There is always time after the planned events to continue networking with the planners as everyone there wants to learn and meet others.  From the planner’s point of view, the experience is just as good. They get the best that Florida has to offer from DMOs to top resorts and hotels, all under one roof.    

Q: How long has your team been attending Florida Encounter?

A: Me personally, since the early 90’s!  Our team has been participating just as long and we are looking forward to continuing to participate.

Q: As a DMO, how does VISIT FLORIDA help your destination to attract meetings and conventions?

A: By allowing us to attend and host events like Florida Encounter. The cost is minimal when you consider how many planners you can meet with. It’s the one of the most effective uses of my time and allows me to continue to build on existing relationships and make new ones.

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Florida Encounter happens later this fall, November 30-December 2. To find out how to attend this one of a kind event, just click here.

To find out more about what makes Florida a great destination for meetings and events, contact the meeting professionals at VISIT FLORIDA.

Brought to you by Visit Floridavisitflorida

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