Why Orlando for Your Next Event?
Get details on meeting venues and hotels, new attractions, travel essentials and more here
Orlando continues to be a top-tier meetings destination, complete with the nation's second largest convention center as well as plenty of theme parks and attractions — many of which are open and ready to welcome back meeting attendees safely while following Florida's current restrictions for gatherings.
The Orange County Convention Center was one of the first in the nation to become GBAC Star certified in coronavirus cleaning and prevention. Since March, the venue has hosted 54 events, including the Together Again Expo, which drew an in-person attendance of 1,400 people. This weekend, the convention center will host the Central Florida International Auto Show, which is expected to attract 13,000 people over three days. All attendees will undergo a temperate check, must complete a health declaration form and must wear a mask.
"We are one of the only convention centers nationwide that is hosting large-scale conventions — safely and without incident. We have a stellar reputation for customer service, flexibility and doing the right thing," said Mark Tester, executive director of the OCCC. "We are open, safe and ready for business. We are focused on the future and ready for our community to make its comeback."
Following are details on open venues and attractions, Covid-19 restrictions and the safety protocols that have been implemented to keep guests safe while visiting Orlando.
Florida entered phase three of reopening on Sept. 25. Bars and restaurants are allowed to operate at full capacity when following social-distancing protocols. While there are no restrictions on gathering sizes, event organizers are encouraged to follow guidelines from the state's health department.
An executive order from Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings requires everyone over the age of two to wear a face mask in public. Local updates on Covid-19 cases and restrictions can be found here.
Walt Disney World
Disney World began welcoming guests back on July 11. New safety protocols have been implemented to keep guests safe, including a mask mandate for anyone over the age of 2. Face coverings are only to be removed when actively eating or drinking, and guests should be stationary and properly distanced when doing so. Masks must fully cover the nose and mouth, and should be made with at least two layers of breathable material. Bandanas and face coverings with valves, mesh or holes will not be accepted.
Touchless thermometer screenings are required for entry to some Walt Disney World Resort locations, including theme parks, the Disney Springs area and table-service restaurants at Disney Resort hotels. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or above will be directed to take a second screening. If their temperature is still high, they will not be allowed in and the rest of their party will be turned away, as well.
Disney World has also enhanced its cleaning procedures, giving extra attention to high-traffic areas, such as elevators, handrails, benches, tables, handles and restrooms. Signage, ground markings and physical barriers have been added to enforce social distancing. To reduce contact with guests, housekeeping services at resort hotels have been modified and cashless payment options have been added wherever possible.
Open Attractions and Hotels
Following in Disney's footsteps, a number of other attractions have reopened, as well, including: ICON Park, the Orlando Science Center, the Sea Life Orlando Aquarium and Topgolf Orlando.
Most local hotels have revamped their safety practices and are hosting guests, including the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate, Hilton Orlando, JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes and more. Hilton, for example, has rolled out its CleanStay With Lysol Protection and EventReady programs to ensure the highest levels of safety, from check-in to check-out. Food-and-beverage services have been readjusted at Hilton properties, electrostatic sprayers have been added to the disinfecting process, and all guest rooms and event spaces are now sealed after cleaning.
Meanwhile, new hotels continue to open. Among the most recent debuts is the 2,050-room Universal's Endless Summer Resort – Dockside Inn and Suites, which welcomed its first guests on Dec. 15. New properties coming in 2021 include the 106-room Cambria Hotel Orlando International Airport, which is accepting bookings beginning in April. Also in the spring, Drury Plaza Hotel Orlando Lake Buena Vista will open its doors. The property will offer 604 rooms and more than 12,000 square feet of meetings space.
A full list of all theme parks, attractions, accommodations, restaurants and other facilities that have reopened can be found here. Additional details on what's new and upcoming in the city can be found in our Orlando Destination Guide.
Back to Business
The Orange County Convention Center, which was recognized as a 2020 Stella Award winner for best convention center in the Southeast, released its Recovery and Resiliency Plan in early June, outlining new safety protocols for meetings rooms, food-and-beverage service, A/V and more. The guidelines were created in partnership with local health-care network Orlando Health. The following month, the OCCC received GBAC Star accreditation from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council for its coronavirus cleaning and prevention efforts, and began hosting events again.
According to executive director Tester, the OCCC currently has 103 events booked for the 2021 fiscal year, with hopes to grow that number by another 25-40 gatherings. Venue-safety precautions include an increased number of hand-sanitizer stations, staggered-attendance suggestions, specific entries and exits for traffic flow, wider aisles with directional signage, floor stickers, temperature checks and enhanced cleaning.
"Events at the Orange County Convention Center are implementing multiple health and safety measures to ensure attendees, exhibitors and employees are safe," said Tester, citing the American Kennel Club's National Championships as a prime example. "I saw firsthand how the staggered attendance, proper social distancing through signage, floor stickers and safety protocols were implemented to create a safe and controlled gathering."
The six-day event, held Dec. 8-13, brought together nearly 6,000 people. Attendance was limited to exhibitors, handlers, handler assistants and owners. To allow for proper social distancing, no spectators were allowed. The estimated economic impact from the event is $15 million.
The convention center is also preparing for a hybrid future, having added a digital broadcast studio in November. The OCCC Executive Studio features a stage and classroom-style seating that can accommodate a physically distanced crowd. The space, which will be available for bookings in early 2021, also is outfitted with all of the lighting, A/V equipment and technology necessary for recorded sessions or live broadcasts.