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.

FACILITIES UPDATE

THE WEST COAST

  • 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.

CENTRAL FLORIDA

  • 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.

SOUTH FLORIDA & THE KEYS

  • 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.

SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

  • 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.

NORTHERN FLORIDA

  • 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. disneyworld.disney.go.com
  • 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. www.berlinercars.com; (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. www.pittsburgh.pirates.mlb.com; (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. www.wolfsonian.org; (305) 531-1001


TRIP TIPS

  • 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. www.grandelakes.com
  • 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. www.marriottbaypoint.com
  • 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. www.biltmore.com

ASK THE CVB
Daytona Beach Area
Convention & Visitors Bureau
(800) 544-0414
www.daytonabeachcvb.org

Florida Keys
& Key West CVB
(800) Ask-Keys
www.fla-keys.com

Greater Fort
Lauderdale CVB
(954) 765-4466
www.sunny.org

Visit Jacksonville
(800) 733-2668
www.visitjacksonville.com

Kissimmee CVB
(407) 847-5000
www.floridakiss.com

Greater Miami CVB
(800) 933-8448
www.MiamiandBeaches.com

Orlando/Orange
County CVB
(407) 363-5872
www.orlandoinfo.com/meetings

Palm Beach County CVB
(561) 233-3000
www.palmbeachfl.com

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

Beaches of South Walton
(800) 822-6877
www.beachesofsouthwalton.com

Tampa Bay & Company
(813) 223-1111
www.visittampabay.com