Numbers don’t lie. Meeting planners bring niche groups to Orlando’s Medical City for education or to resorts for a more relaxing conference environment, but the #1 reason Orlando routinely ranks high as a meeting destination is its reputation for providing creative experiences in the area’s theme parks.
“The ROI for a planner is that they can deploy their money to enhance onsite experiences because they don’t have to spend marketing money to ‘sell’ the destination,” says Tammi Runzler, senior vice president of convention sales/services for Visit Orlando. “People want to come here and plan extensive pre- and post-stays around their meetings.”
Some specialized groups are drawn by the innovative medical simulation and robotics training only found in Medical City or at the Simulation and Training Association, but Runzler says, “Planners ultimately want their attendees to have an emotional connectivity with memorable experiences not found elsewhere or on their own.”
Favored group events include behind-the-scenes tours of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the newly refurbished Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom, and an interactive conservation experience at SeaWorld Orlando.
As important to getting an initial booking from a planner is providing reasons to return, which Runzler says occurs because, “Orlando is always reinventing itself.”
For example, Embassy Suites Orlando-Lake Buena Vista South just opened a 300-suite hotel with 40,000 sf of meeting space. Loews Hotels is building their first value-priced hotel at Universal Orlando with 1,800 rooms, set to open in 2014. Also at Universal, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is expanding, and Transformers 3-D will showcase 35-foot battling robots when it opens later this year. Lastly, SeaWorld Orlando’s new Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin features a mobile simulator in each car.