Orlando has more to offer as a convention site than being home to the world’s best-known entertainment complexes.
Those offerings are why the world’s top conventions return year after year, including SAP, Microsoft Ignite, InfoComm International, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the Association of Financial Professionals.
For businesses or conventions that haven’t recently met in the most-visited destination in the U.S., here are five reasons Orlando is an ideal place for you next convention.
1. A center of innovation and research
Orlando has a spirit of innovation. Its business community has developed a reputation in industries including simulation, advanced manufacturing, life sciences, health care and innovative technologies. Firms including Lockheed Martin, Tupperware Brands and Darden Restaurants have their headquarters in the city.
Orlando is home to The National Center for Simulation. The center serves as the link among the defense industry, government and academia on behalf of the entire modeling, simulation and training community.
BRIDG, formerly known as the International Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing Research, also calls Orlando home. It is the world’s first industry-led consortium for manufacturing smart sensors to connect the internet of things.
In the health care sector, Lake Nona Medical City is known as a center of innovation for biotechnology and life sciences, with a collaborative community of the nation's leading hospitals, universities, research institutions and health and life-sciences companies.
While tourism remains Orlando’s top industry, the tech sector is gaining steam, especially through the development of a creative village in downtown that will be home to high-tech and digital media firms. Add in strong existing companies like Siemens Energy, EA Sports and Verizon, as well as a pipeline of talent from University of Central of Florida, and you see why Inc.com reported last year that the city might be the next hot spot for people leaving Silicon Valley.
2. Medical meetings
The medical community is choosing Orlando as a top meeting destination because of the emergence of Lake Nona Medical City and the AdventHealth Nicholson Center.
Lake Nona is an innovator in the biotechnology and life sciences fields with a collection of state-of-the-art health care, research and medical training centers. The 650-acre health and life sciences park is anchored by UCF Health Sciences Campus and includes the VA Medical Center, Nemours Children’s Hospital and the University of Florida Academic and Research Center.
The AdventHealth Nicholson Center, one of the largest and most experienced medical learning and simulation incubation centers in the country, offers training on leading-edge clinical and surgical techniques to more than 50,000 physicians from around the globe. The facility offers medical groups hands-on training with 50 surgical and clinical skills stations, mock operating room setups, six Da Vinci robots and 26 tele-mentoring video cameras. There’s also access to a 500-seat conference center auditorium.
The business climate makes Orlando attractive to meeting and convention planners, but the city wouldn’t be an ideal destination without a slew of amenities to make the visit productive and enjoyable.
The Orange County Convention Center is the second-largest convention center in the U.S. and has 7 million square feet of total space, including 2.1 million square feet of exhibition space. There are 5,200 connected hotel rooms among four convention hotels and 122,000 total hotel rooms among 450 hotels in the area. Orlando also boasts more than 150 total meeting hotels and 38 convention hotels, one of the largest clusters in the eastern U.S.
Orlando International Airport is only 11 miles from the convention center and features 91 domestic and 62 international nonstop daily flights. More than 49 million passengers pass through the airport, which ranked “highest in customer satisfaction for mega airports” by J.D. Power in 2017 and 2018.
Orlando has both a large number and large variety of entertainment and dining options. The city is home to more than 200 unique venues and experiences, including Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Orlando. There also are lounges, night clubs, live local music and other world-class performances.
There are more than 5,000 restaurants to please every palate, including a chic Spanish restaurant that sits atop of the Four Seasons Resort and an industrial steampunk restaurant that dishes out gastropub classics. The variety led Wallethub.com to rank Orlando as one of the “best foodie cities in America.”
4. Memorable experiences
Because Orlando has so many unique experiences, meeting planners can create memorable events for attendees. Through a partnership with Universal Orlando, for example, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort can have popular characters incorporated into meetings. Experiential meetings at SeaWorld Orlando enable groups to go behind the scenes with customized educational programming, such as allowing attendees to watch veterinarians nurse rescued sea cows back to health in the Manatee Rehabilitation Area. Planners can arrange unique access tours at Walt Disney World, where guests can take private VIP tours, get up close with rhinos or experience backstage magic.
Meeting and convention planners who choose Orlando can count on a savvy planning partner in Visit Orlando’s destination services team. They are Orlando experts with more than 120 years of collective experience in the meeting industry, with many designated as Certified Meeting Professionals (CMP).
The team assists planners with everything from site inspections to audience building and can share insider tips to make the event memorable. A dedicated destination services manager collaborates with planners to understand a group’s specific needs and serves as a central point of contact for questions about enhancing the meeting.
With one in three jobs supported by the hospitality industry, the city’s workforce has been lauded by meeting planners as one of the most courteous in the country, says Visit Orlando.
To learn more, visit www.OrlandoMeeting.com and sign up for the What’s New Webinar.