A continuous stream of new developments, picture-perfect weather and a prolific amount of convention space and meetings hotels make Florida one of the most popular places to congregate in the world.

From January through August 2018 alone, 86 hotels were added to the state’s existing inventory, adding 10,693 guest rooms and 148,347 square feet of meeting space, according to stats from VISIT Florida.

Yet, despite the add-ons from last year, new hotel inventory continues to grow at a frantic clip. Florida’s 122 new hotels currently under construction will add 18,586 rooms and 191,033 square feet of meeting space, and news of additions and upgrades to convention centers, entertainment venues and restaurants continues to be revealed at a consistent pace.

Top New & Renovated Florida Meeting Facilities

In Orlando, the Orange County Convention Center’s most critical new enhancement is a $605 million earmark for the North-South Building Improvement & Expansion Project. Also, the Orlando International Airport will introduce a new high-speed Automated People Mover and a refurbished North Terminal ticket lobby. Work on the South Terminal will finish in 2020 and include 16 new gates.

In December, Orlando’s Mango’s Tropical Cafe opened a $30 million, 140-foot Art Deco entertainment complex with nearly 900 parking spaces and prime retail space. Adjacent to Hollywood Plaza, with a breathtaking rooftop restaurant and 25-foot vaulted ceilings, International Drive’s newest dining, entertainment and dance club features live entertainment nightly. Considered the largest restaurant, banquet facility and nightclub destination in the Southeast, and conveniently located near the Orange County Convention Center, Mango’s accommodates up to 2,000 guests. Attendees will swoon and sashay with entertainment options that include salsa lessons, a thrilling Michael Jackson tribute show, continuous live bands and dance performances.  

Old Town Kissimmee
Old Town Kissimmee

With more than 60,000 and 150,000 square feet of meeting and event space, respectively, Rosen Plaza and Rosen Centre are connected directly to the Orange County Convention Center via pedestrian skybridges. Rosen Shingle Creek on Universal Boulevard offers more than 524,000 square feet of innovative meeting and event space. Recent guest room and suite refurbishments and upgrades include contemporary new furnishings and trendy decor; guests always enjoy complimentary in-room Wi-Fi and no resort fees.

Fresh from a $140 million renovation, the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort recently announced a 14-story tower expansion with a completion date of fall 2021. This towering expansion will add more than 22,000 square feet of meeting space, including two ballrooms, 12 meeting rooms, a rooftop reception space, a 16,800-square-foot elevated deck, guest rooms, dining options and other amenities.

Margaritaville Resort Orlando, a unique resort property with world-class amenities spread out over 300 lush acres, and yet close to the theme parks, just opened. With 186 casually luxurious guest rooms and 40,000 square feet of technology-forward meeting space, this venue is perfect for meetings, conventions and corporate retreats.

In Kissimmee, historic Old Town reopens after two years of renovations and expansions. For more than 30 years, Old Town has charmed visitors with its collection of shops, themed restaurants, rides and attractions. With the multimillion-dollar renovation and expansion, Old Town is bigger and better while offering a more-authentic, all-American ambience.

About an hour from Orlando, The Rocket Garden at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Titusville is getting a new addition: United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Delta II rocket. After the final launch of the Delta II rocket in September 2018, ULA CEO Tory Bruno announced that the last remaining backup rocket will make the visitor complex its new home. And, after nearly seven years, a new era of space exploration begins in which astronauts will once again launch into space. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is producing the next generation of American spacecraft to launch astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) from Kennedy Space Center.

After a $620 million expansion and renovation, the Miami Convention Center now has a new 60,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom, almost 500,000 square feet of exhibit space, up to 84 breakout rooms and an enlarged Grand Lobby and prefunction area. While Miami waits for approval on a 1,700-room Marriott Marquis Miami World Center, another cause for celebration includes the recent approval of a privately funded 800-room headquarters hotel connected to the convention center along with the proposed David Beckham Major League Soccer Stadium in Freedom Park.

The Tampa Convention Center is undergoing a $20 million revitalization to improve attendees’ experience. The key convention property, the landmark Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina, began a $40 million refurbishment; a new 519-room JW Marriott convention hotel with 150,000 square feet of meeting space is slated to open in 2020; Tampa’s first five-star property, Tampa EDITION, will open in 2021 as part of the Water Street Tampa project.  

New hotels in Sarasota have appeared on the scene: Art Ovation Hotel, Marriott Autograph Collection; Embassy Suites by Hilton Sarasota; The Sarasota Modern, A Tribute Portfolio Hotel; and Carlisle Inn. The new properties bring rooftop venues, bay-front views and retro-modern elegance. New nonstop flights from Dallas and multiple Midwestern and East Coast cities have made it easier for groups arriving at the convenient Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. The Sarasota Museum of Art, a new and contemporary art museum, will open in December 2019 and feature a full slate of exhibitions and educational events, and house a bistro, retail space and sculpture garden.

Scheduled to open summer in 2019, the Panama City Beach Sports Complex in Panama City Beach will offer visitors multiple athletic options, including soccer, lacrosse, rugby, football, flag foot ball, baseball and softball. This new $37 million world-class sports complex will include dedicated tournament buildings, two stadium championship fields with seating for 1,500 and a 13-field complex made up of nine turf and four grass fields.

Tallahassee is home to the new Tallahassee Capital City Amphitheater at Cascades Park, a place where groups can hear beautiful concerts in a spectacular outdoor venue. It features more than 1,500 permanent seats. Located less than a quarter of a mile from Florida’s Capitol, the park features an entertainment venue, fitness trails and tributes to its history that spans four centuries. The adjacent Cascade Fountain commemorates the selection of Florida’s capitol in October 1823.

Downtown Jacksonville will add more than 1,000 additional hotel rooms to its existing inventory in the next 12 to 24 months, with five new properties already under construction. The project to convert three historic buildings (The Laura Street Trio) into a 131-room hotel is underway. This $90 million adaptive reuse program incorporates three of Florida’s earliest skyscrapers: The Florida Life Building, The Bisbee Building and the Old Florida National Bank. Another exciting project, The District, will include a 200-room hotel, a 125-slip marina and 200,000 square feet of retail space.

Panama City Beach
Panama City Beach

The Drive Shack’s West Palm Beach venue will be the golf-entertainment attraction’s second U.S. location. Utilizing the latest in technology, virtual courses allow players to tee off around the world and state-of-the-art golf equipment enables enthusiasts to up their game. An all-in-one golf and entertainment destination, the 60,000-square-foot, three-story complex will feature 96 expansive climate-controlled bays with lounge seating and a signature restaurant and bar.

In February, West Palm Beach’s Norton Museum of Art debuted its $100 million expansion with an enhanced 6.3-acre campus, 12,000 square feet of additional gallery space for exhibitions, a 220-seat state-of-the-art Stiller Family Foundation Auditorium, the Leonard and Evelyn Lauder Restaurant (which includes a garden terrace), an adjoining 9,000-square-foot sculpture garden and a 4,000-square-foot Great Hall. 

Zoom In: Q&A with Dana Young // President and CEO // VISIT FLORIDA

Q: How will your time as an attorney, senator and member of the USTA translate in your new role with VISIT FLORIDA?I am honored Governor DeSantis and the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors selected me to serve in this capacity. People come to Florida to enjoy our pristine beaches and beautiful outdoors, and as a sixth-generation Floridian and environmental attorney, I am glad Governor DeSantis is focused on protecting our state’s natural resources. I bring a strong set of leadership skills to the position and am dedicated to strengthening our industry as we attract more visitors to Florida, bolster our state’s economy and create more jobs for hardworking Floridians.

Q: What do you want people in the meetings industry to know about you and what you plan to bring to your new role as president?
Having grown up in Florida, I have a deep, personal love for this state and understand the vast experiences found here. Easy traveling, invigorating sunshine and an abundant array of activities make Florida the perfect place to hold a convention or business meeting. Each region offers its own gems to entice meeting attendees, and the state’s numerous hotels and transportation infrastructure position Florida to help visitors commute from across the globe. As the state’s official source for travel planning, it is VISIT FLORIDA’s job to provide meetings professionals with the tools to understand Florida’s offerings as we continue to market our state as a warm, welcoming and diverse destination that is always open for visitors.

Q: You’re from Tallahassee...so what is your favorite weekend getaway in the state and favorite activities?
In my free time I enjoy exploring natural Florida by boat and tarpon fishing with my husband and two daughters.

Q: What areas will you concentrate on since Florida has record visitation and is a favorite with meeting professionals. How do you keep the momentum going?
In 2018, Florida welcomed all-time record 126.1 million visitors. In 2017, Florida welcomed 118.8 million visitors with nearly 9 million traveling to the state for business events such as tradeshows, meetings or conferences. According to the latest economic data, in 2016 business travelers spent $17.3 billion, representing 15.5 percent of all visitor spending in the state. To continue this momentum and establish Florida as the number-one global destination, VISIT FLORIDA and the tourism industry will continue to showcase our state’s diversity and share the endless experiences that Florida has to offer visitors of all ages and backgrounds.

Q: What are you looking forward to most coming to VISIT FLORIDA?
I look forward to serving our state’s most important industry, and sharing my love for Florida around the globe. When people across the world think of Florida, they think of world class vacations and friendly people. I am committed to continuing to get that message out.

By The Numbers

  • The number of Florida hotels with meeting space: 1,852
  • As of February 2019, Florida boasted more than 12.4 million square feet of dedicated meeting space.
  • In 2018, Florida welcomed 126.1 million visitors, up from 118.8 in 2017.
  • In 2018, nine million visitors came to the Sunshine State for business and leisure meeting purposes.
  • In 2018, 86 hotels opened, representing to 10,693 guest rooms and 148,347 square feet of meeting space across the state.
  • There are 122 new hotels under construction, providing 18,586 rooms and 191,033 square feet of meeting space.
  • 148 hotels are in the final planning stages, meaning they will begin construction within the next 12 months. These projects in the pipeline will bring an additional 20,847 rooms and more than 256,720 square feet of meeting space to Florida’s existing hotel inventory.
  • There are 205 hotels, accounting for more than 29,000 rooms, in various stages of planning throughout the state.

Source: VISIT FLORIDA