Orlando Forecasts Increases in Meetings, Attendance

The year 2011 will be a bright one for meetings and conventions in Orlando, according to Visit Orlando, which yesterday released its forecast for the year ahead, predicting citywide growth in business travel, group bookings and convention attendance.

Specifically, the convention and visitors bureau predicts a 2.3 percent increase in business travel this year, to 3.34 million, and a 4.8 percent increase in 2012, to 3.62 million. According to Visit Orlando, that's based on positive trending for year-end 2010, when Orlando experienced:

• A 10 percent increase in hotel room nights, which totaled 2.2 million and came with an estimated $1.7 billion in attendee spending.

• Better-than-expected attendance at several meetings, including the American Society of Hematology's December 2010 meeting, which had 21,000 attendees, a 2,000-person increase over 2009; and POWER-GEN's record-breaking 2010 meeting, which had 19,272 attendees, a 9 percent increase over 2009.

• An increase in the number of meetings and conventions at the Orange County Convention Center, which hosted 95 conventions and tradeshows in 2010, compared with 84 in 2009. Attendance at these events rose 17 percent.

• Eleven consecutive month-to-month increases over the previous year in hotel taxes, which were up 9 percent for the year.

"Upticks across several key indicators demonstrate real strength and growth for Orlando's meetings and conventions community," said Visit Orlando President and CEO Gary Sain. "Orlando is attracting an increasing variety of meetings, more international attendees, particularly from Latin America, and renewed meeting planner interest driven by Orlando's high value and affordability. Orlando was a bullish destination during the economic downturn, adding new hotels at all price points and new amenities for the meetings industry and the meetings industry is responding to Orlando's unique energy, excitement and diversification."

As Sain indicated, Orlando continued to invest in its meetings and conventions offerings during the recession with more than $4 billion in new infrastructure projects, including brand-name hotels like the Waldorf Astoria, the Hilton Orlando adjacent to the Orange County Convention Center and the Peabody Orlando expansion; the new multi-million dollar Amway Center; the new "Medical City" complex featuring a medical college, research facilities and new hospitals; as well as new dining and entertainment options surrounding the convention center campus. The destination also initiated new meeting planner programs and services, adding, for instance, a full-time destination marketing professional focused on attendance-building initiatives and two full-service site inspection professionals to assist meeting planners.

Based on those efforts and its existing offerings, Orlando is set to host several major groups this year. Among them:

• National Association of Home Builders, Jan. 12-15, 47,000 attendees
• Professional Golfers Association, Jan. 27-29, 40,000 attendees
• True Value, Jan. 31-Feb. 2, 15,000 attendees
• Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, Feb. 20-24, 27,000 attendees
• American Pet Products Association, March 16-18, 10,000 attendees
• Electronics House Expo, March 17-19, 9,500 attendees
• MegaCon, March 25-27, 37,000 attendees
• American Society for Training and Development, May 22-25, 9,000 attendees
• Premiere Show Group, June 5-6, 48,600 attendees
• Meeting Professionals International, July 23-26, 2,700 attendees
• International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, Nov. 14-18, 25,000 attendees
• Performance Racing Industry, Dec. 1-3, 45,000 attendees