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April 12, 2024


Yesterday, we celebrated Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID), an annual celebration spotlighting the proven value that business meetings, conferences, conventions, incentive travel, trade shows and exhibitions bring to businesses, workers and the economy.

The Orlando community, joined by Visit Orlando, the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) and destination partners, commemorated the impact of meetings and events with the following initiatives:

  • Visit Orlando, in collaboration with Orlando's Poet Laureate, Shawn Welcome, composed a poem on the tremendous value of in-person meetings and the positive impact meetings have on our community, local businesses and economy in Orange County. This was shared through social media and will be used in outreach in the meetings industry.

  • Orlando destination partners participated in an #OrlandoMeeting social media campaign celebrating the importance of meetings and events to Orlando.

  • Visit Orlando's VP of Sales and Services Stephanie Naegele participated in a GMID speaking engagement with the Greater Orlando Chapter of Meeting Planners International.

Orlando meetings and conventions, which include city-wide and in-house events, booked by the Visit Orlando convention sales team in 2023 and beyond, will result in an approximately $4 billion impact on the local economy. Beyond supporting local businesses and employing thousands, meetings bring considerable recognition and benefit to supporting the Orange County community. For example, events at the OCCC alone, over the past year contributed:

  • $1 million in donated home improvement products.
  • 40,000 pounds of repurposed materials to build homes.
  • 32,000 pounds of food donated to those in need.
  • $114,000 in educational scholarships.
  • $60,000 in bicycle donations for foster kids.

Continuously ranked as Cvent's No. 1 meeting destination in the country, Orlando offers world-class event spaces, more than 480 hotels, Michelin-recognized dining and larger-than-life entertainment unlike anywhere else for groups of all sizes.

While GMID is a one-day holiday, Visit Orlando will continue to work with partners year-round to highlight the many ways meetings matter for our community. If you are part of an organization looking for a host location for a future meeting or event, don't hesitate to reach out to our team for assistance.

Image 1: Sushi Saint; Photo credit: Bianca Gifford. Image 2: Zaru; Photo credit: Fernando Delgado - EightySix Media.

MICHELIN Guide Bib Gourmands Announcement – Orlando Restaurants

Two Orlando restaurants, Sushi Saint and Zaru, were awarded The MICHELIN Guide's Bib Gourmand designation—restaurants offering a good quality meal at a good value. Currently, Michelin features 51 restaurants in Orlando, offering a wide range of cuisines such as Japanese, Vietnamese, Cuban, Ethiopian, American and more. Next week in Tampa, Michelin will hold an official ceremony to unveil new Michelin star restaurants. Read more.

Deadline Approaching: Nonprofit Applications for Visit Orlando's Magical Dining

Eligible nonprofits are encouraged to apply online for Visit Orlando's Magical Dining program by Friday, April 19. Last year, we donated $269,272 to organizations that provide services and resources to survivors of abuse in Central Florida. This year, donated funds will focus on organizations that offer impactful approaches to creating thriving and sustainable communities.

Data & Trends

Metro Orlando's hotel occupancy rate for the week ending April 6, 2024, was 75.8% which was down from 80.2% the prior week and down -2.4% from the same week last year. The average daily rate for the week was $215.10, down from the prior week's $230 and down -5.4% from the same week last year. Room night demand trailed prior year by -1.6%.

Among the top 25 markets, Orlando ranked 6th for occupancy rate this past week despite the drop from last week and last year. This week's report is the start of our comparisons against last year's Spring Break period surrounding Easter which was likely a factor for the year-over-year declines.

Across the Industry

Visit Orlando Leadership Update: Mike Waterman, Visit Orlando's chief sales officer, will embark on a new career journey on April 29 assuming the role as President and CEO of Visit Anaheim. Mike has dedicated service to Visit Orlando and the Orange County community over the past four years and has been instrumental in leading several big initiatives, along with bringing several major impactful citywide events to our destination such as Vision Expo and HIMSS. While we kick off a nationwide search for our next chief sales officer, Mario Bass, Visit Orlando's chief operating officer, will also assume the role of interim chief sales officer, taking over day-to-day responsibilities for leading these teams. Mario previously served as the Chief Sales Officer for Visit San Antonio prior to joining Visit Orlando. By bringing his sales experience and deep understanding of the industry teamed up with a strong team already in place, our goal is to create as seamless as possible of a transition for the organization.

Brand USA's Fred Dixon: Brand USA's board of directors has chosen Fred Dixon as the company's President & CEO, starting on July 15, 2024. With over three decades of experience, Dixon brings a robust leadership background in the travel industry, serving as the President and CEO of NYC Tourism + Conventions, the official destination marketing organization for New York City. Read more.

CVB of the Year: Visit Orlando was presented with the ConferenceDirect CVB of the Year (Major Market) Award this week at ConferenceDirect's Annual Partner Meeting. This is the 9th time in the past 10 years Visit Orlando achieved this honor. This award recognizes convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs) that demonstrate exceptional performance in servicing the meetings and conventions industry. The award is presented by Conference Direct, a leading provider of event management services, and is based on feedback from meeting planners who have worked with the CVB in the past year.

Around the Destination

Destination Tourism Master Plan Town Halls: Visit Orlando is developing a 10-Year Destination Tourism Master Plan to help shape the future of the community, boost the visitor economy and maintain the well-being of the destination and residents. A pivotal aspect of this initiative lies in valuable insights from Orange County residents. Next week, we'll be holding town hall meetings in each of Orange County's six commission districts. We hope you consider attending and sharing with your network. The details include:

  • District 1: Monday, April 15th at Gotha Middle School Cafeteria
  • District 2: Wednesday, April 17th at Apopka High School Media Center
  • District 3: Thursday, April 18th at Taft Community Center
  • District 4: Tuesday, April 16th at Timber Creek High Media Center
  • District 5: Wednesday, April 17th at Florida Technical College, Orlando Campus Auditorium
  • District 6: Tuesday, April 16th at Barnett Park, Dolphin Room

Board of County Commissioners: Earlier this week, Orange County made the decision to postpone its transportation sales tax efforts until 2026. Despite this decision, Orange County remains a great place for residents and global visitors. It's vital we continue to work together for the greater good of our destination to accomplish similar goals now, and in the future.

Additionally, changes to the county's Tourist Development Plan, which were approved unanimously by the Tourist Development Council last week, were passed by the Board of County Commissioners in a 5-2 vote. These changes will allow Orange County to move forward with agreements to fund the community projects and venues previously approved by the board in January. We appreciate the support of Mayor Demings and will continue to work with Orange County in negotiating an addendum to our funding agreement with the final details tentatively to be presented before the BCC before the end of May.

We encourage you to watch the meeting here (Section 27, Tourist Development Plan on the right-hand sidebar) as discussions around the usage of Tourist Development Tax funds continue to be a hot topic and we must showcase the value of our industry and Visit Orlando.

Visit Orlando's Casandra Matej, with Chris Matej, celebrate 407 Day at a UCF baseball game.

407 Day: The Orlando Magic, Orlando City SC, Orlando Pride, Ripley's Believe It or Not!, iFLY Orlando and WonderWorks, among several other Orlando organizations, joined in on the destination-wide celebration of 407 Day. Inspired by the destination's longtime area code, 407 Day began as a rallying point to support local restaurants impacted by the pandemic. Since then, 407 Day has evolved to encourage residents to support their favorite restaurants, bars, shops, boutiques, services and other local businesses by sharing posts and photos on their social media channels with the #407day hashtag. Thank you to the University of Central Florida Athletics Department for inviting me to represent Visit Orlando as part of their 407 Day celebration. During the winning game against Kansas State, Visit Orlando was recognized as one of the organizations that make Orlando special.

Visit Orlando Engaged!

L to R: Visit Orlando's Christopher Selley, Ronda Schoeneberg and Shannon Parker; Maria Triscari, I-Drive Chamber; Chris Mueller, Hilton Orlando; and Visit Orlando's Danielle Hollander, Kristin Westover, Kathy Brown, Jasmin Hough, Adeta Gayah and Stan Rubins.

I-Drive Chamber Luncheon: The International Drive Resort Area Chamber of Commerce held its April luncheon.  Danielle Hollander, Visitor Orlando's chief marketing officer, presented an update on the organization's marketing efforts and key initiatives for 2024 to business owners and tourism industry professionals. Danielle also shared insights about consumer and meeting planner trends shaping travel behavior and how Visit Orlando closely monitors these trends to regularly adapt marketing strategies.

Visit Orlando's Dipika Hernandez joins destination representatives and the Miami Marlins' Skip Schumaker during a VISIT FLORIDA media mission.

VISIT FLORIDA Media Mission: Visit Orlando's Sr. Public Relations Manager Dipika Hernandez attended a media mission hosted by VISIT FLORIDA in New York City. The event included a media brunch and baseball game night between the Marlins vs. Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Along with seven other Florida destinations, she connected with nearly two dozen travel writers, editors, freelancers and content creators to pitch what's new in the destination, along with story angles focused on dining, outdoor activities, sports and Orlando neighborhoods.

L to R: Visit Orlando's Gabby Wion, Emily Clancy, Stephanie Naegele and Brandon Dodrill

SimpleView Panel: Visit Orlando team members joined several other industry colleagues at SimpleView Summit in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. SimpleView Summit is an annual summit that provides a platform for industry professionals to gather, learn and share insights. It focuses on thought leadership, best practices, and practical strategies related to tourism marketing and sales. Brandon Dodrill, Visit Orlando's manager of membership, spoke on a panel titled "CRM Marketplace Promotions: Ideas & Inspo for Promoting Partners" providing insights on how to create and leverage marketplace promotions to collect information from businesses for promotional events and membership campaigns.

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