Resilient Florida continues to enhance its appeal to groups, large and small.

Despite the sluggish economy, a cursory glance at construction in Florida reveals a new special-events center in Orlando, a massive multi-use business/hotel complex in Miami, and a new international airport in Panama City. Here are some of the highlights:

The area near the Orange County Convention Center last year saw the opening of the 315-room Westin Imagine Orlando. Meanwhile, Pointe Orlando, a shopping, dining, entertainment complex a block from the OCC, continues to expand. In downtown Orlando, the $480 million, 875,000-square-foot, 20,000-seat Orlando Events Center is slated to open in October 2010, replacing Amway Arena.

Daytona Beach’s newly expanded Ocean Center—with 200,000 square feet of meeting space, a 12,000-square-foot banquet hall, and 36 breakout rooms—is across the street from Ocean Walk Village, with hotels, restaurants, and shops.

Miami’s luxury appeal got a huge boost this year with the rebirth of two of its legendary beach properties—Eden Roc, A Renaissance Beach Resort & Spa; and Fontainebleau Miami Beach.

In Tampa, the new Safari Lodge at Lowry Park Zoo features an 11,000-square-foot grand hall and the Reilly Reserve, a 3,000-square-foot elevated annex with views of the park.

In Jacksonville, the first phase of Kings Avenue Station, a multi-use project including 221 recently opened hotel rooms, has been completed.

Panama City Beach is poised to attract more groups with more upscale accommodations and increased accessibility.



  • The 16-story, 255-room Westin Tampa Bay Rocky Point, with 6,500 square feet of meeting space, opened in July.
  • Slated to open in late 2010 is the 18-story, 225-room Waldorf Astoria Sarasota, the centerpiece for The Proscenium, a mixed-use project. The new hotel will feature 38,000 square feet of meeting space, and direct access from the hotel’s ballroom to the Nederland Performing Arts Center.
  • Opened earlier this year in Punta Gorda, the 43,500-square-foot Charlotte Harbor Event & Conference Center features a 20,000-square-foot meeting and exhibit hall and an 18,000-
    square-foot waterfront Great Lawn.
  • Opened in November, the 19-story, 184-room Resort at Marina Village in Cape Coral offers 10,000 square feet of meeting space.
  • Opened this year in Fort Myers are the 148-room Hyatt Place Fort Myers, with 2,100 square feet of meeting space; the 164-room Hilton Garden Inn Fort Myers, with 1,300 square feet of meeting space; and the 169-room Holiday Inn Fort Myers Airport, with 6,800 square feet of meeting space.


  • At Disney, the 15-story Bay Lake Tower opened in August with 295 two-bedroom villas. The tower compliments the adjacent Contemporary Resort’s 656 rooms and suites and 115,000-square-foot convention center.
  • Set to open in 2010 along the northeast border of Disney property is a 900-acre resort complex with a centerpiece 445-room Four Seasons Hotel and 18-hole golf course.
  • Opened in September, the 1,400-room Hilton Orlando Hotel at Orange County Convention Center features 175,000 square feet of meeting space (including a 50,000-square-foot and a 30,000-square-foot ballroom, 21 meeting rooms, and a walkway to the North/South Building of the convention center.
  • Opened in November following a $25 million propertywide makeover, the 323-room Holiday Inn in the Walt Disney World Resort has more than 11,000 square feet of meeting space.
  • In October, the 482-acre Bonnet Creek Resort opened on a site surrounded on three sides by Walt Disney World Resort. The 1,000-room Hilton Bonnet Creek offers 114,000 square feet of meeting space. The 498-room Waldorf Astoria Orlando has 28,000 square feet of meeting space, including its own man-made island, designed for special events. Guests at both properties have access to a 24,000-square-foot spa and on-site 18-hole championship golf course.
  • Scheduled for completion in November 2010 is a massive $450 million expansion and renovation project at the Peabody Orlando that will result in 1,641 guest rooms and 250,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space.
  • The 155-room Venturella Resort & Spa in Lake Buena Vista, with 6,500 square feet of meeting space, opened in summer 2009.
  • Opened in November, the 263-room Westin Lake Mary, Orlando North, features 14,000 square feet of meeting space.
  • Planned for an early 2010 debut is the 400-room Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Hotel & Spa Bonnet Creek Resort, adjacent to the Walt Disney World Resort, which will feature 20,000 square feet of meeting space.
  • The 2,265-room Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort, in partnership with Florida State University, has developed an application for Apple’s iPhone and iTouch, which allows users to access in-depth resort information from the handheld devices.
  • Rosen Hotels & Resorts and the Orange County Convention Center have partnered in a program that electronically links both entities, providing check-in, registrations, badge printing, and other services through check-in desks at their three hotels, Rosen Plaza, Rosen Centre, and Rosen Shingle Creek. Meanwhile, the Rosen Centre recently debuted the Banshoo Sushi Bar.


  • Opened earlier this year, the 411-room Epic Hotel in Miami on Biscayne Boulevard Way can accommodate up to 300 people with its 11,000 square feet of meeting space.
  • Slated to debut mid-2010 is the 357-room JW Marriott Marquis Hotel in downtown Miami, part of a $1 billion multiuse project that will encompass retail shops and a spa. The hotel will offer 80,000 square feet of meeting space.
  • Opened earlier this year, the 249-room Sonesta Sole Miami on Collins Avenue has 5,000 square feet of meeting space.
  • The 312-room W South Beach in Miami Beach opened in July with 10,000 square feet of meeting space.
  • Opened earlier this year, the $205 million, 486-room W Fort Lauderdale has 19,000 square feet of meeting space.
    YEarlier this year, Key West International Airport unveiled a 30,000-square-foot terminal as part of a $31.6 million multiphase project.


  • Opened in November, The 184-unit Resort at Marina Village in Cape Coral has 8,000 square feet of meeting space, including two 2,700-square-foot ballrooms.


  • Slated to open in spring 2010 in Pensacola is the 162-room Hotel Indigo, a boutique luxury hotel with 3,000 square feet of meeting space and a rooftop swimming pool.
  • The 60-room Watercolor Inn in Santa Rosa Beach, with 4,000-square-feet of meeting space and several outdoor venues overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, is a boutique hotel with a spa, dining on-site, championship golf nearby, and outdoor activities such as fly-fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and hiking.
  • Scheduled to debut May 2010 is the new $318 million Panama City–Bay County International Airport on Highway 388, which will feature two runways and a 124,000-square-foot, seven-gate terminal building on a 4,000-acre site.

Special Venues

  • At Walt Disney World, Chef Cat Cora, a star on the Food Network, opened Kouzzina by Cat Cora (pictured here), a Mediterranean-style restaurant at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort, in September. Also opened this summer, Paradiso 37 at Downtown Disney is a waterfront dining spot. The recently opened 70,0000-square-foot Jostens Center at Disney’s Wide World of Sports can host teambuilding activities as well as receptions for groups of up to 2,000 participants.
  • Berliner Classic Motorcars Inc. in Dania, near Fort Lauderdale, offers a 13,000-square-foot showroom packed with vintage cars that can host up to 180 for a sit-down function.; (954) 923-7271
  • The Pirate City complex in Bradenton, the spring training home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, is available to groups and offers 83 hotel-style dormitory rooms and four meeting spaces, a conference room for up to 100 people, and a boardroom.; (941) 747-3031
  • The Wolfsonian-FIU, in Miami Beach’s Art Deco District, with its high vaulted ceilings, ornamental appointments, and art deco fountain, can accommodate 125 for a reception, 40 for a seated event, and 20 in a conference room.; (305) 531-1001


  • Grande Lakes Orlando (Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott) opened the Grande Lakes Adventure Course, a multilevel structure ideal for teambuilding, with 25 traversing and climbing elements. Also on site: two 600-foot zip lines and a 40-foot giant swing.
  • Bay Point Marriott Golf Resort & Spa in Panama City has introduced complimentary transportation aboard a 60-passenger boat to Shell Island, a nearby 7-mile-long undeveloped and uninhabited island. Its waters are home to one of the world’s largest concentrations of bottle-nosed dolphins.
  • The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables has opened the Biltmore Culinary Academy, a cooking school taught by the hotel’s chefs. The three-hour Signature Hands-On Class accommodates up to eight students.

Daytona Beach Area
Convention & Visitors Bureau
(800) 544-0414

Florida Keys
& Key West CVB
(800) Ask-Keys

Greater Fort
Lauderdale CVB
(954) 765-4466

Visit Jacksonville
(800) 733-2668

Kissimmee CVB
(407) 847-5000

Greater Miami CVB
(800) 933-8448

County CVB
(407) 363-5872

Palm Beach County CVB
(561) 233-3000

St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area CVB
(877) 352-3224

Beaches of South Walton
(800) 822-6877

Tampa Bay & Company
(813) 223-1111