What will the future bring to the various regions of Florida and what are some of the trends regarding meetings in those areas? We spoke with the presidents, CEOs and directors of sales of Florida’s CVBs and DMOs to find out, and here is what they said.

Barry Moskowitz, Vice President of Sales, Miami CVB

There are some great opportunities for meeting planners to get some great values here. We are also excited about opening our new Miami Beach Convention Center in September 2018. We are doing a half-a-billion-dollar renovation with all the bells and whistles; it is going to be a showcase. It will have an additional ballroom and unique areas where people can meet. It’s what our customers are looking for.

We are still seeing a lot of short-term requests for meetings, which always keeps hotels on their feet. One trend we are seeing is that technology continues to be on the fast track. Social media is becoming an integral part of the destination and meetings. Once in the meeting, there is a lot more interaction.

Planners are looking for new and unique experiences for their attendees. They don’t want to see the typical tourist attraction. They want something more authentic, more real. Our neighborhoods are developing into tourist destinations. Little Havana has authentic Cuban restaurants and you can get a cafe con leche at the corner store. They are seeing the real deal. There is also the Wynwood Arts District where the artists paint on the sides of buildings. Combine a tour with some of the mom-and-pop restaurants and you’re absorbing some incredible culture. That is our new direction; hopefully we will be leaders in this trend.

Fred Shea, Senior Vice President, Sales and Services, Visit Orlando

Because the economy is better, we have seen larger conventions booking further out. Meeting professionals know that dates become less available when times are good. They want to secure the dates they need. We are still seeing shorter lead times for corporate planners, but they are far more flexible on rates.  

We are finding that planners are looking for experiences. They are asking for unique, local venues for their attendees, and Orlando is a great place for that, which is great for meeting planners who are pre-promoting the conference to excite people to come to the destination.

We were not sure that Millennials would want to attend meetings. But the good news is they are attending the meetings, they are engaged and they want to experience the destination. They love the theme parks, but they also like other activities. They want to know what the locals do. They love going to bars with music and going to Topgolf and escape rooms for teambuilding. Teambuilding used to be set up in ballrooms…not anymore.

Stacy Ritter, CEO, Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB

Greater Fort Lauderdale has had a strong start to 2017 with more total group rooms sold in the month of January 2017 than the year previously. Pre-sell for the remainder of the year for conventions and groups is ahead of pace with various short-term opportunities.

With the continued addition of new flight routes, both domestic and international, to the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Greater Fort Lauderdale is fortunate to have new market areas from which to draw visitors.

Though we have anticipated the competition to continue to grow this year and into the next from new supply, the majority of our hotels are well poised after spending more than $900 million in reinvestment and product transformations in the summer and fall of 2016. That will give meeting planners and guests new reasons to come back and visit Greater Fort Lauderdale.

Santiago Corrada, President & CEO, Tampa CVB

We have had three straight years of growth with average room rates up 27 percent, occupancy up 22 percent and room revenue up 33 percent. We have been up at the convention center four years in a row and we have booked 480,000 room nights into the future. We have started to watch our booking window grow. We have groups booked as close as June 2017 and as far out as November 2023.

We had a record-setting past year with huge citywides, and in the coming year we’ll see the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the Department of Energy and Educational Testing Service. We are also seeing tremendous growth with seven new boutique hotels in development in the downtown area and great renovations to downtown Ybor City. All over the state, this means job creation in the tourism industry, for plumbers for electricians. It’s a boon to local economies.

Monica Smith, Vice President of Sales and Services, Visit Jacksonville

Jacksonville is already having a busy 2017.We are beginning to see a shift from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market, and as this happens, the market is getting more and more competitive. Another big trend is the increase in short-term bookings for groups and the need for more off-site dining options as attendees have more free time during conventions.

Both these trends have our entire hospitality community working together in a more efficient way so we can better attract the groups that best fit our destination and provide a level of local experiences and services that exceeds the expectations of both the planners and their attendees.

Suzanne Scully, CDME, Director of Meetings and Conventions, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater

Meeting planners are looking for something unique, whether it’s an off-site teambuilding event or networking activity like an escape room or a trip on the St. Pete Craft Beer Trail. They want to get out and about, and they want camaraderie.

We do off-site dinners in some of our breweries; we have wonderful events in the unique venues like the Dali Museum or the Chihuly Collection at the Morean Arts Center (St. Pete). These events get people excited about the conference.

When meeting planners reach out to the CVB, we can offer suggestions according to the demographic of the group.