Even a Tier 1 meeting city needs to work to get its message out to the convention industry. Yes, Orlando is the No. 1 destination in the country. But there's always something new opening, expanding, or being reimagined. It's never wise to rest on one's laurels, and Orlando continues to raise the bar with new resources, venues, and dining and attractions options for meeting attendees.
The big picture: Orlando boasts more than 119,000 hotel rooms at a wide range of price points, and 150 meeting hotels offer a combined 4.5 million square feet of meeting space.
In 2017, Universal Orlando Resort opened the 1,000-room Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, a Caribbean-themed property built around a lagoon and waterfall that has 247,000 square feet of contiguous meeting space.
The Orange County Convention Center stays busy filling its 2.1 million square feet of exhibition space and 480,000 square feet of flexible meeting space. It's also made some noteworthy additions, including:
• The addition of Vision Garden, the largest aeroponic garden in a public venue in the country. It produces 780 plants a week (40,000 per year), including bok choi, celery, chard, and other greens that are included in the center's catering offerings.
• A new pedestrian bridge that will connect the West Building of the OCCC to the adjacent Hyatt Regency Hotel.
• Two new ballrooms -- a 62,182-square-foot Valencia Ballroom; and the 48,961-square-foot Tangerine Ballroom and Sunburst Room, which has an attached outdoor Sunburst Hospitality Terrace.
As the caretaker for the most-visited destination in the United States, Visit Orlando is connected to more than 1,200 member organizations -- including 450 hotels, restaurants, shopping venues, nightlife spots, and the area's seven theme parks, and has an abundance of promotional material available to share with planners and potential meeting attendees.
It's true that the destination is in the middle of a desert, but the city itself is a stunning oasis -- available to do business or incentivize people under warm blue skies, says Jill Philbrook, director of destination and partnership services for the Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"It's beautiful all year round, with 300 days of sunshine a year," Philbrook says. "Friends from the Midwest can come out in winter when its 75 degrees here. We also have unique outdoor meetings spaces that utilize natural sunlight."
There are nine cities in Greater Palm Springs, which competes flexibly with Phoenix, Scottsdale, San Diego, and Las Vegas for business. There are five Indian casinos in the area, all which have entertainment venues where groups can see shows or use the venue for presentations and meetings.
Incentive trips are often booked that include 100 peak nights, but some include up to 1,500. Philbrook says that groups of 800 or more can literally "have the keys to the city."
Some cities offer the duality of big-city facilities and a small-town charm, and that mix is served up in Greenville, SC, with a large dose of southern hospitality. Centrally located on the East Coast between Atlanta and Charlotte, Greenville is a popular destination for corporate meetings, trade shows, banquets, and special events.
The city offers a variety of unique meeting venues, including Fluor Field, home baseball park to the Greenville Drive, a minor league affiliate of the Boston Red Sox; the picturesque downtown oasis Falls Park on the Reedy; and the Peace Center, a downtown grouping of flexible special event spaces that includes the Peace Concert Hall, the TD Stage, Huguenot Mill, the Wyche Pavilion, the Gunter Theatre, and Genevieve's Theatre Lounge (all of which can be customized with menu, lighting, furnishings, and audiovisual elements).
On the larger scale, Greenville's TD Convention Center features 280,000 square feet of exhibit space, 60,000 square feet of meeting and conference space, and a 30,000-square-foot ballroom. The center recently completed $22 million in enhancements -- complete with permanent fiber-optic capabilities for free, wireless internet connectivity throughout -- and can host any type of event.
Then there's the 15,000-seat Bon Secours Wellness Arena and its dedicated group of professionals that offer turnkey management solutions for trade shows, corporate events, and parties. The Arena boasts 30 luxury suites and 800 club seats. The in-house catering staff aims to impress at events by offering classic or modern, local favorites or menus with global flair.
VisitGreenvilleSC has access to a full directory of community resources to help plan and execute events. In addition, the bureau can help promote meetings to attendees with Greenville photos, brochures, maps, visitor guides, and promotional videos. Local sign-age options are also available, along with exclusive dining discounts for meeting groups.
Stunning panoramic views and an array of outdoor scenery are major contributing factors that make Colorado Springs, CO, an attractive meetings destination. Yes, the city has intrastate competition with Denver; but Colorado Springs' altitude and proximity to mountains make its year-round climate milder than that of Denver, Salt Lake City, or Minneapolis.
Classified as an alpine desert, Colorado Springs offers an annual average of 300 days of blue, sunny skies, an abundance of sunshine, and low humidity. The average daily temperature in July is 84 degrees. Evenings are cool -- and bug-free.
The city has its own airport, served by six major airlines and 11 nonstop flights. Colorado Springs is also just a 70-minute drive by car or shuttle from the Denver International Airport.
There are nearly 15,000 guest rooms in the Colorado Springs region, including 5,000 first-class hotel rooms at 20 full-service properties, that also offer 400,000 square feet of flexible meeting space.
A major component of the local meetings package is The Broadmoor, a Forbes Five Star (55 years running) and AAA Five Diamond resort complex. The property's 185,000 square feet of innovative, technology-rich event space includes numerous venues.
There are, of course, a range of activities to book for guests outside of Colorado Springs' meeting facilities. The city boasts more than 55 attractions, including trains, museums, parks, and a zoo. Outdoor adventures range from mild to wild.
The Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau is adept at helping promote the city as a meetings destination to attendees with images, promotional copy, and local public relations support.
In addition, the CVB can coordinate with local charities to brainstorm and create team-building events and other fun, educational, and fulfilling activities that give back to the surrounding community.
Questions or comments? Email [email protected]
This article appears in the May 2018 issue of Successful Meetings.