Universal Orlando Ups Group Service Capabilities

Universal Orlando Resort has rolled out two new programs for meeting groups using its three on-property hotels: a golf program, with transportation to four nearby golf courses, and a conference-attendee discount pass for the two Universal Orlando theme parks.

"Golf plays a significant role in the overall meeting experience for some groups, and we wanted to provide a worry-free program where planners can leave the work to us," said Vince LaRuffa, vice president of resort sales and marketing for Universal Orlando Resort. "Our program offers a one-stop shop, allowing meeting planners to focus on their meeting."

While Universal does not have an on-site golf course, it has forged golf-privilege agreements with Metro West Golf Club, Mystic Dunes Golf Club and the Orange County National Golf Center, where Universal meeting attendee groups will be able to play the Panther Lake and Crooked Cat Golf Courses. All the courses are within a 10-minute drive of Universal, and transportation for groups will be provided, LaRuffa said.

He said planners working with Universal's in-house meeting and event marketing staff can arrange anything from group golf tournaments with awards ceremonies and meals to individual golf reservations for meeting attendees.

Meanwhile, the new Afternoon Convention Ticket gives attendees unlimited access to both Universal theme parks at any time between noon and park closing for $60, which is the price normally charged for an adult admission ticket to one theme park.

For an additional $10, the tickets can include the Universal Express Plus option, which allows ticket holders to bypass lines at rides and attractions within the parks. However, the Universal Express Plus option is free of charge to any convention attendee who is a guest at one of Universal's three hotels.

The Loews-operated, on-site hotel inventory at Universal Orlando includes the 750-room Portofino Bay Resort, with 42,000 square feet of meeting space; the 650-room Hard Rock Hotel, with 6,000 square feet of meeting space; and the 1,000-room Royal Pacific Resort, with 85,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 41,500-square-foot ballroom.

LaRuffa said Universal also has created a meetings concierge program, with staff available to make spa or golf appointments, or set up transportation for off-site trips. The program is free for groups of 300 attendees or more.

Universal has a new website for meeting planners, www.uomeetingsandevents. com.