Conventions, seminars, and meetings are not typically the first words that people associate with Orlando’s tourism industry. In addition, it may be surprising to learn that 57 percent of business travelers come primarily for those three objectives, according to D.K. Shifflet, the leading travel and tourism research company. Just last year, the Orlando convention industry generated $4.8 billion, and as the economy continues to climb upward, these numbers are expected to rise even more.
A Booming Business
With the second largest convention center in the United States and more than 450 hotels with 118,000 hotel rooms, Orlando provides meeting planners with numerous options for accommodations, meeting space and affordability. The Orlando International Airport’s connectivity also makes it simple for attendees to travel to and from the destination, and couple all of this with theme parks, entertainment, dining and nightlife, and you can see why Orlando has everything a planner would need.
The Orange County Convention Center hosts, on average, an estimated one million attendees per year, and as Orlando continues to grow its convention business, the size and amount of attendees will grow tremendously as well. It’s important to note that this number doesn’t include other convention facilities, such as hotels in the area, which are adding hundreds of thousands of square feet in meeting and convention space to Orlando as well.
The most popular conventions that draw in the most attendees include Premier Beauty (approx. 52,000), PGA Merchandise Show (approx. 43,000) and Megacon (approx. 40,000). Shows that are on rotation and meet in Orlando on select years include the NPE International Plastics Showcase (approx. 65,000) and the International Builders Show (approx. 55,000).
Many restaurants and accommodations partners rely heavily on the convention industry to drive dining and entertainment dollars and occupancy at hotels and resorts. Restaurant buyouts are common during large conventions, with special events for company teams and their clients providing additional revenue for entertainment venues and dining establishments.
Manufacturing at the Helm
One of the industries that dominates the convention world is manufacturing — from rides and attraction design to training and simulation. The NPE International Plastics Showcase, the largest international plastics show in the world, encapsulates a broad range of manufacturing sectors, including appliances, automotive, consumer products, building/construction, medical and packaging.
The Showcase brought an estimated 65,000 attendees to Orlando in 2012, and utilized almost the entire 2.1 million-sq. ft. space at the Orange County Convention Center. In fact, it took almost a month to move in all the equipment in preparation. In 2015, the Showcase will return to Orlando.
Other top manufacturing shows include the Annual Coverings Show (approx. 22,000), the International Association of Amusement Park and Attractions (IAAPA) (approx. 25,000) and the National Training and Simulation Association’s ITSEC show (approx. 20,000).
Several of the top shows are part of two of Orlando’s biggest industries; the IAAPA showcases the latest rides, games and attractions to the amusement park industry, and ITSEC is the training and simulation industry’s biggest show. Having these two markets is obvious, but bringing other shows to the area also showcases Orlando’s great amenities, and perhaps entices them enough so that they put Orlando in their consideration set when they are looking to expand.
Orlando is known the world over as the theme park capital of the world. Lesser known, however, is our leadership position in the meetings industry. In fact, every year, we run a very competitive three-way race with Chicago and Las Vegas to claim the top spot in this industry. While Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center slightly edges out our Orange County Convention Center in total square footage and Las Vegas is effectively home to three convention centers within close proximity to each other, Orlando stands well positioned and strongly differentiated from its competitors.
In the last 18 months, Orlando was named the No. 1 destination in the United States for meetings. This was according to the meeting and event booking activity in the national Cvent supplier network, one of the world’s largest, most accurate databases of detailed venue information. Plus, Cvent featured nine of our local Orlando hotels in its second annual list of the year’s 100-most-popular U.S. meeting hotels among Cvent planners.
As an original member of a coalition of industry leaders that was founded in 2009 to address the importance of the meeting and convention industry, it’s particularly important to me that we showcase the value resulting from meetings, conferences, conventions, incentive travel, trade shows and exhibitions and the pivotal role they play in creating jobs, generating economic value and driving business success on a major scale. Not only so it is understood, but also to ensure that it remains top-of-mind among our industry’s customers, policymakers and other important stakeholders.
– George Aguel, president & CEO of Visit Orlando