Orlando & Central Florida - A Successful Meetings Destination

SUCCESSFUL MEETINGS April 2007 With the recently expanded, 2.1-million-square-foot Orange County Convention Center in place, local government officials have turned attention to Orlando's other major public events facilities. County leaders recently announced plans to build two new multimillion-dollar centers (for special events and for the performing arts) in downtown, with planned openings for 2010. Meanwhile, the area around the OCCC is evolving, with projects like Pointe Orlando-the multifaceted complex that is undergoing a $40-million redevelopment-and new hotels on the horizon.

Essential Tool Box
Convention Facilities: ORLANDO: Orange County Convention Center, 2,053,820 sf of dedicated meeting space, with 235 meeting rooms, largest accommodating 61,200 theater style. KISSIMMEE: Osceola Heritage Park, 89,500 sf of flexible meeting space; arena accommodates 11,000 theater style.
For complete listings, visit Facility Quick Search at www.mimegasite.com
Hotel Rooms: 114,527
Rooms Close to the Center: 8,000
Distance from Airport: 13 miles to OCCC
Average Daily Business Travel Costs: Hotel $195.26 F&B $74.52 Car Rental $79.33
For More Info:
Orlando/Orange Co. CVB
Kissimmee CVB
*Source: Business Travel News 2006 Corporate Travel Index

The Big News
Scheduled for completion in 2009, the Hilton Orlando Convention Center, a 1,400-room hotel, will feature 130,000 sf of meeting space, with access to the OCCC's North Concourse via a sky bridge.
* The 30-acre Village of Imagine expects to open Phase I in 2008 with the debut of the 256-unit Westin Grand Imagine.
* Previously a Radisson hotel, the 341-room Sheraton Orlando Downtown has completed a $12.4-million renovation.
* The 510-room Florida Hotel and Conference Center has completed a $23-million renovation of its conference center, including the addition of 20,000 sf.
* The 650-room Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort completed a $6.8-
million renovation of all rooms and suites.
* The former 1,102-room Sheraton World Resort is now the International Plaza Resort & Spa after a $30-million renovation.
* Slated for a mid-2009 opening is a 1,000-room Hilton and 500-room Waldorf=Astoria property, a joint complex at Bonnet Creek, located next to the Walt Disney World Resort. The complex will include 145,000 sf of meeting space, an 18-hole Rees Jones-designed golf course, and a 25,000-sf spa and fitness center.
* The 814-room Hilton in the Walt Disney World Resort completed a $25-million renovation, adding an 18,000-sf ballroom and enhancing all guest rooms and suites.
* The 1,500-room Rosen Shingle Creek opened last fall.
* The 1,012-room Buena Vista Palace completed a $45-million renovation; refurbished public space debuts in Jun.
* Guests at the 730-room Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress can now check in using their PDAs.
* Slated for a 2009 opening, the 1,260-room InterContinental hotel with 114,000 sf of meeting space, called Palazzo del Lago, will be built on Lake Bryan in Orlando.
* Condo-hotels with meeting space: The 240-unit Mona Lisa Celebration opens in Sept with 5,000 sf of meeting space in Celebration. The 727-unit Rapallo Resort at Buena, slated to open mid-2008, will feature 20,000 sf of meeting space and a full-service salon and spa. The 1,300-room Blue Rose with 75,000 sf of meeting space and a 1,000-seat Broadway-style theater, is expected to open late 2008. A 504-unit, $300-million Wyndham Hotel Group project, with 30,000 sf of meeting space, will open in the Lake Buena Vista area in 2009. The 260-unit Sage Resort, to open spring 2009, will feature meeting space for small groups, a business center, and fitness facility.

KISSIMMEE The 348-room Landmark Sun and Spa Resort, to feature a 160,000-sf conference center, will begin construction near the end of 2007.
* The Ginn Reunion Resort & Club opened its 11-story, 82-unit Reunion Grande Resort, with 12,000 sf of meeting space, two event lawns, and the 5,400-sf Annika Sorrenstam Golf Academy.
* The 1,406-room Gaylord Palms is now smoke-free.
Groups Should Consider these top recommendations from Successful Meetings Home Team experts: the 250-room Grand Bohemian, the 1,000-room Royal Pacific, the 280-room Ginn Reunion Resort, the 750-room Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, the 891-room Peabody, the 730-room Omni at Championsgate, the 70-room Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club, and the 1,052-room Wyndham Orlando Resort.
Contributors who informed this section include Home Team members Rennay Barton; Sherri Cook, CMP; Becky Inks; Kimberly Ruby; and William Youngs. Contact them at siteseditor@successfulmeetings.com

Meet the New Guy
In February, Gary Sain succeeded William Peeper, who retired last year after more than 20 years, as president and CEO of the Orlando/Orange CVB. During a recent New York visit, Sain spoke to Editor-in-Chief Vincent Alonzo about his plans for Orlando.

Successful Meetings: How does it feel to step into the shoes of someone like Bill Peeper?

Sain: Bill was a legend. He set the bar very high, and I know he loved the meetings part of the marketplace. Obviously, a big focus for Orlando has to be the leisure market, but for Orlando to be prosperous, it needs the leisure and meetings economic engines working in tandem.

SM: What is driving change in Orlando right now?

Sain: Certainly in the past five years we've added new, high-end luxury brands, and we are well into a redefinition of Orlando as a destination. Anyone who is planning a meeting with any kind of significant lead time cannot judge Orlando by seeing what it has to offer today. The product we have right now is not what they will buy. They are going to buy a product that, three years from now, is going to be much more enhanced. In a way, we're kind of selling a vision. -Vincent Alonzo

9 Great Places for Group Meals
These restaurants, selected from the Zagat Survey of Orlando, have group facilities. The list was determined by Zagat's food and service ratings of 22 and above and a price of up to $65 per person (without alcohol):
Name, Location, Type of Food
Primo, South Orlando, Italian
Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, Bay Hill/Dr. Phillips, Steakhouse
K Restaurant and Wine Bar, College Park, Eclectic
Roy's Orlando, Bay Hill/Dr. Phillips, Hawaiian
Palm, Universal Orlando, Steakhouse
Christini's Ristorante Italiano, Bay Hill/Dr. Phillips, Italian
Emeril's Orlando, Universal Orlando, Creole
Morton's, The Steakhouse, Bay Hill/Dr. Phillips, Steakhouse
Kres Chophouse, Downtown, Steakhouse
For more information on these and other restaurants in Orlando, please click on www.zagat.com

Readers Recommend
Our subscribers gave Pinnacle Awards to the following:
Orlando/Orange County CVB
Buena Vista Palace
Gaylord Palm Resort & Convention Center
Hard Rock Hotel
Orlando World Center Marriott Resort
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
Renaissance Orlando Resort at Seaworld
Rosen Centre Hotel
Rosen Plaza Hotel
Loews Royal Pacific Resort
Peabody Orlando
Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin
For more listings, visit Facility
Quick Search at www.mimegasite.com

On Site: Orlando
Meetings on a Grande Scale
Luxury is a word the hotel industry uses in spades. But what nearly every chain seems to promise these days, few deliver-especially when it comes to meetings.
Thus, at a Luxury Meetings Forum last fall (held, appropriately, at the 584-room Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes), luxe was on display as The Ritz-Carlton Company discussed its execution for high-end, high-expectation meetings and special events.

Since its opening in 2003, this particular Ritz-Carlton has topped guest satisfaction surveys for the brand. Andrea Strauss, president of Classic Conferences Inc., has had one of her clients choose the property for three years running, even after she showcased 10 other hotels for the group's meeting. "You need trust," she says. High-end events demand service, creativity, and personalization.

"This is a reliability and relationship-driven industry. It's not a space, dates, and rates world here," says Mark Ferland, the hotel's GM. During the forum, our hosts demonstrated their abilities with an impressive "culinary showcase dinner" in their new Tuscany Ballroom (13,485 sf), where a fully set table descended from the ceiling.

In between, we experienced a chef's table at the neighboring 1,000-room JW Marriott, highlighted by eight courses and a cappella tunes. The next day we burned off the calories with some kayaking, fly-fishing lessons, and a golf clinic. We retired to our rooms that evening to find drawn baths, along with hot cider and candied apples. A CD played music from dinner, and I noticed the pillowcases had been monogrammed with my initials.

Yep, they know their stuff. - Karen Gines