MeetingNews Q&A: Meetings Magic Still Strong in Orlando

Despite a memo to CVB members that talked about a fourth-quarter 2007 slowdown in leads, Orlando/Orange County CVB president Gary Sain says things are looking good for meeting and convention business in Orlando.

Q The memo discussed a decrease in leads for fourth-quarter 2007 compared to 2006. Was that indicative of overall business last year?

A No. We were down in the fourth quarter, but we were actually up for the year as a whole. We're also looking towards a busy 2008, both in the convention center and the hotels. In fact, some hotels say that 2008 will mark their strongest group business in years.

Q Will the U.S. economic downturn affect meetings and convention business in Orlando?

A We're booking association meetings and conventions through 2030 right now, so people don't really factor in the current economy when making plans for that far into the future. Actually, these types of meetings tend to thrive during a slow economy because they're all about learning, making connections, and coming away with new solutions. Planners are somewhat concerned about overpromising their numbers, so they are being more conservative in what they are guaranteeing.

The economy has more of an effect on short-term bookings and corporate groups, which may feel the pressure of cost-cutting more than large groups. We may start to see a drop-off in bookings from particular sectors that are hit hardest.

Q How has international business been?

A The international market has been very strong for Orlando. Overseas economies are thriving, and international associations and companies can take advantage of the value of coming to the U.S. I expect that we'll see an increase in international tourists this year and an increase in the number of people attending meetings and conventions.

Q How is the CVB getting the word out that the Orlando meetings market is just as strong as ever?

A Our product speaks for itself. All of the recent and ongoing developments to our meetings infrastructure attest to our optimism for longterm success. We're taking the "new Orlando" on the road this spring to show planners exactly what Orlando has to offer groups. We're also kicking up our advertising in the trade press.

Originally published March 10, 2008