Although Orlando is a city that typically plays host, this week saw the tables turned as Orlando tourism promoters became visitors instead, engaging in a weeklong "roadshow" that included stops in three cities in order to stimulate convention business in Orange County, Florida.
The roadshow comes as fewer meetings are finding their way to Florida. While convention attendance was down 1.2 percent nationwide in the first quarter of 2008, reports the Orlando Sentinel, it was down 8.6 percent in Orlando. There, attendance at the Orange County Convention Center dropped by more than 40,000 travelers to approximately 450,000, the lowest since the convention center's large north-south wing opened nearly five years ago.
The downward tourism trend in Central Florida began last year, according to the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau. It cites data showing that group-meeting travel to the area fell 5 percent last year, the first year-over-year decrease in four years. In fact, one of the country's largest annual trade shows, the International Builders' Show -- which has been held in Orlando for each of the past four years -- reported that attendance this year was 11 percent lower than in 2007.
To turn the tide on its falling number, Orlando's visitors' bureau spent $500,000 to organize this week's three-city roadshow, which it designed in order to connect city marketers face-to-face with meeting planners. The blitz began Tuesday in Washington, D.C., moved to Chicago on Thursday and will conclude in New York early next week. Invited to events in each city were representatives from individual businesses, convention-planning companies and trade groups for a variety of industries.