As the country’s most visited destination and No. 1 meeting destination (as ranked by Cvent), Orlando sets a high bar. The destination has one of the largest convention centers in the U.S., the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC), as well as some of the biggest names in theme parks and entertainment, scores of hotels and resorts across every category, and more than ample airlift. But Orlando has another big advantage that planners shouldn’t discount — almost two years of experience successfully hosting live events during a pandemic.
In January on stage at Convening Leaders 2022, OCCC executive director Mark Tester and Visit Orlando president and CEO Casandra Matej spoke about the power of meeting face-to-face. “[It] couldn’t be more relevant in this new world, especially with supplier chain issues, new health protocols and the competitive staffing issues that many of us in the industry are facing,” said Tester. “Exchanging ideas and best practices is best done in person.” Currently outpacing the national average for meetings recovery with more than 100 citywide conventions on the calendar for 2022, Orlando is proof of that power. Read on for a deeper dive into the reasons why Orlando continues to be a top pick of planners nationwide.
In the past few years, Orlando has continued to grow and evolve, adding a host of both new and renovated hotels, thrilling attractions, unique options for indoor and outdoor meeting space and, later this year, we will welcome a new MICHELIN Florida Guide that will showcase Orlando’s culinary offerings.”
An impressive resume. Since July 2020, Orlando has hosted more than 200 live events and welcomed one million attendees at the OCCC alone. Events included Premiere Orlando, InfoComm, IAAPA Expo, I/ITSEC, American Public Transportation Association, AKC National Championship Presented by Royal Canin, PGA Show, Veterinary Meeting & Expo, and the co-located NAHB International Builders’ Show and Kitchen & Bath Industry Show.
High standards in venue safety. The OCCC was the first convention center, both domestically and internationally, to achieve GBAC-STAR reaccreditation, the gold standard for cleaning and disease prevention, but several other facilities in the destination hold GBAC-STAR accreditation as well, including the Orlando International Airport, several convention hotels, and the Amway Center arena and Camping World Stadium in downtown. In addition, the OCCC follows a set of data-based Recovery and Resiliency Guidelines developed in consultation with Orange County Government’s Health Services Department and the Florida Department of Health in Orange County to prevent risk and protect guests.
Ample accommodations. Orlando is home to more than 480 hotels totaling 130,000 rooms and 5.8 million square feet of hotel meeting space. And even more properties are in the pipeline. At Walt Disney World Resort, the highly anticipated new Star Wars-themed hotel, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, will open in March, and later this year Disney plans to open a 900-room resort on Bay Lake.
Easy connections. Increased airlift and new rail service is making getting to Orlando even easier. At Orlando International Airport, the new South Terminal Complex is nearing completion. Part of a multi-phase, $3.82-billion renovation and expansion project, the new terminal will include 15 gates and the Intermodal Terminal Facility (ITF), which will connect passengers with the Brightline train. Brightline is expected to complete an extension of its Miami-Orlando line by 2023.