What's New

Everything about Orlando is off the charts: its mega-resorts, gargantuan theme parks, and skyrocketing growth. This is a city with 113,000 hotel rooms, 65 meeting hotels, a 2.1 million-square-foot convention center, 3 million square feet of hotel meeting space, 16,000 fine-dining seats, and 168 golf courses.

Yet Orlando prides itself on the ability to host both small and large groups. A constantly growing inventory of rooms and expansive convention space is attracting the bigger meetings, and that inventory will continue to grow over the next few years. Orlando and Orange County government leaders have announced plans to build a $385 million special events center that will serve as home to the NBA's Orlando Magic, as well as a $376 million performing arts center in downtown. Projected openings for both facilities are in 2010.

Accommodations in Orlando, meanwhile, are constantly being improved to upgrade amenities and to incorporate cutting-edge technology. During the second half of 2006, $103 million worth of renovations were completed at seven major Orlando hotel properties.

Pointe Orlando, an entertainment and shopping complex across the street from the Orange County Convention Center, is undergoing an extreme makeover, bringing several restaurants that are new to the Orlando marketplace. Among them, Tommy Bahama's Tropical Café & Emporium and Maggiano's Little Italy, recently opened.

Nearby, Canadian developer Intra-west, which has village-centered resorts such as Sandestin in Destin, Fla., and Whistler, British Columbia, is developing the Village of Imagine, a 30-acre project behind the Orange County Convention Center. Slated to open in the first phase in early 2008 is the 256-unit Westin Grand Imagine.

Another multi-use project making headlines is Veranda Park, a $500 million residential, retail, and entertainment complex in southwest Orlando. Opening in phases through 2009, the project will feature office space; specialty shops; restaurants; a high-tech, digital, 20-screen movie theater available for corporate events; and a 150-room luxury hotel.

Fifty miles northeast of Orlando in Daytona Beach, Ocean Walk Village, another multi-use project, is opening in phases through this year. It includes resorts, a convention center, and a retail complex. The Ocean Center convention complex will triple its size by the end of this year from 74,000 square feet to 244,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space.

On the west coast of Central Florida, downtown Tampa is energized by a new Embassy Suites hotel that opened next to the Tampa Convention Center. And talk about a mega-event: Tampa will be the site of the NFL's Super Bowl in 2009.

Facilities Update Orlando

  • The Sheraton Orlando Downtown Hotel has completed a $12.4 million renovation. Previously a Radisson, the 341-room hotel includes 20,000 square feet of refurbished meeting space. In addition, two floors of concierge rooms and a lounge have been added.

  • The 510-room Florida Hotel and Conference Center has completed a $23 million renovation of its conference center, including the addition of 20,000 square feet in three new ballrooms, bringing the property's total meeting space to more than 50,000 square feet.

  • The 1,334-room Rosen Centre has completed a renovation of its 106,000 square feet of meeting space, giving it a stylish, contemporary look. The hotel also debuted a renovated fitness center.

  • Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort has completed a $6.8 million renovation of all 650 guest rooms and suites, which now include 32-inch, flat-panel TVs and MP3 docking stations with connectivity to in-room stereo systems.

  • The 2,265-room Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin is scheduled to open Il Mulino New York Trattoria this year. Meeting facilities at the complex adjacent to Disney's Boardwalk have 329,000 square feet of meeting space, including 110,500 square feet of contiguous convention/exhibit space, 84 meeting rooms, two boardrooms, and several outdoor function areas.

  • A 504-unit, $300 million condo-hotel project operated by the Wyndham Hotel Group is planned for the Lake Buena Vista area. It is scheduled to break ground this month with an expected completion date of November 2009. It will include 30,000 square feet of meeting space and a 7,000-square-foot spa. The unnamed hotel will be in the Village of Midtown at Lake Ruby.

  • Scheduled for a summer 2009 opening is a 1,000-room Hilton hotel and a 500-room Waldorf-Astoria hotel (the first one besides the New York City original), to be built in a joint complex at Bonnet Creek, next to Walt Disney World Resort. The complex will include 145,000 square feet of meeting space, an 18-hole Rees Jones-designed golf course, and a 25,000-square-foot spa and fitness center.

  • Opened last September, the 1,500-room, 14-story Rosen Shingle Creek resort, two blocks from the Orange County Convention Center, features 445,000 square feet of dedicated, state-of-the-art meeting space; a full-service, 13,000-square-foot spa; four outdoor pools; and an 18-hole championship golf course.

  • Slated for completion in 2009, the Hilton Orlando Convention Center, an 18-story, 1,400-room hotel, will feature 130,000 square feet of meeting space, a spa and fitness center, and several restaurants. The hotel will offer direct access to the North Concourse of the Orange County Convention Center.

  • The 1,218-unit Caribe Royale Orlando's recent enhancement program included refurbishment of all its one-bedroom suites and its lobby, as well as the addition of a $30 million convention center with 150,000 square feet of space and a new high-tech, two-story fitness center.

  • Opened last summer, the 227-unit Lexington Hotel at Orlando CityPlace in downtown Orlando is a luxury property with studio and one-bedroom accommodations and 4,400 square feet of meeting space able to handle up to 250 attendees.

  • A 2009 opening is planned for a 1,260-room InterContinental hotel, Palazzo del Lago, to be built on Lake Bryan in Orlando, four miles from the Orange County Convention Center. The luxury hotel will be the largest InterContinental in the world, with 1,260 rooms, and the first in Orlando. It will offer a comprehensive conference facility, including 114,000 square feet of meeting space.

  • The 1,100-room Sheraton World Orlando Resort, with 70,000 square feet of meeting space, was recently purchased by the Buena Vista Hospitality Group and is undergoing a $30 million renovation. Located on 28 acres adjacent to SeaWorld, the property will be renamed the International Plaza Resort & Spa.

  • Sonesta Orlando Tierra del Sol Resort, a Mediterranean-inspired vacation resort community, is scheduled to open this year offering 972 luxury town homes and condominiums. Bella Citta, a village complex offering amenities such as a multi-screen movie theater, a shopping and entertainment center, a convention center, and a luxury spa, will open in 2008.

  • Slated for completion in early 2009, the 400-room Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Hotel and Spa Bonnet Creek Resort will be adjacent to the Walt Disney World Resort. It will have a two-level, 14,000-square-foot spa, meeting and conference space, and a full-service restaurant.

  • The 146-unit Villas of Grand Cypress Golf Resort has added a 3,280-square-foot enclosed pavilion to supplement its 7,200 square feet of meeting space.

Kissimmee

  • The 348-room Landmark Sun and Spa Resort, at the northeast corner of Interstate 4 and U.S. Highway 192, will begin construction toward the end of this year. Plans for the hotel include a 160,000-square-foot conference center and a three-story waterfall. Part of the development are five high-rise condo-hotel buildings, with a lagoon running through the site.
  • In April, the Reunion Resort & Club will debut the 11-story, 82-unit Reunion Grande Resort, with 12,000 square feet of meeting space and two spacious event lawns, as well as the 5,400 square-foot Annika Sorenstam Golf Academy.

  • The first phase of the Villas at ChampionsGate opened late last year featuring 59 one- and two-bedroom units in a condo hotel. A second phase, with an additional 224 units, recently began construction.

  • Slated for a September opening is the Mona Lisa Celebration, a 240-unit luxury condo-hotel with 5,000 square feet of meeting space in the village of Celebration.

Tampa Area

  • The $100 million, 360-suite Embassy Suites Hotel Tampa-Downtown, which features 9,000 square feet of meeting space, opened in November and is connected by skybridge to the Tampa Convention Center.

  • The 227-room Hilton St. Pete of Carillon Park, with 20,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 9,200-square-foot ballroom, concierge level, and presidential suite, opened late last year.

  • Recently opened is the 253-room Sandpearl Resort Clearwater Beach, formerly the Clearwater Beach Hotel, a beachfront property with 20,000 square feet of meeting space.

Ask the CVB

Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
(800) 544-0415
www.daytonabeachcvb.org
Total Hotel Tax: 11.5%

Orlando/Orange County CVB
(407) 363-5872
www.orlandoinfo.com/meetings
Total Hotel Tax: 11.5%

Kissimmee-St. Cloud CVB
(407) 847-5000
www.floridakiss.com
Total Hotel Tax: 12%

St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area CVB
(877) 352-3224
(727) 464-7200
www.floridasbeach.com
Total Hotel Tax: 11%

Tampa Bay CVB
(813) 223-1111
www.visittampabay.com
Total Hotel Tax: 12%

Phantom Planner

  • The Orlando Watersports Complex, 15 minutes from the Orange County Convention Center, offers programs in waterskiing, wakeboarding, or kneeboarding behind a boat or a cable pulley system that are ideal for beginners.

  • One of the best museum deals anywhere is the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of Art in Winter Park. It houses the world's most comprehensive collection of the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany, including an entire chapel. For groups of 10 or more, admission is only $2.50 per person.

  • Bay Hill, one of Orlando's most famous golf courses and site of the PGA Tour's Arnold Palmer Invitational, is private and exclusive. But guests staying at the 70-room Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club & Lodge are afforded playing privileges. Attendees might even meet Arnie on property.

  • If you need a translator or interpreter in Orlando, The Language Bank provides services in more than 300 languages and dialects and offers simultaneous interpretation and equipment for conferences.

  • For a fine-dining experience for groups, downtown Orlando has several upscale options often overlooked by visitors: Hue, Manuel's on the 28th, Harvey's Bistro, and The Boheme at the Westin Grand Bohemian.

Special Venues

  • Zero-G Experience is the only FAA-approved weightless flight experience for the general public. Passengers board a Boeing 727-200 jetliner specially modified for parabolic flight maneuvers. Maximum seating capacity is 27 passengers. Flights depart from the Kennedy Space Center near Titusville. (800) 937-6480; www.GoZeroG.com

  • Discovery Cove, adjacent to SeaWorld Orlando, offers interactions with dolphins and other marine life in a lush setting that includes white-sand beaches accented with thatched huts and cabanas, tropical flowers, and waterfalls. Themed events such as a tropical luau can accommodate groups of up to 400. (877) 4-DISCOVERY; www.discoverycove.com

  • Attendees can immerse themselves in NASCAR nirvana at Daytona USA at the Daytona International Speedway. Private buyouts are available, and the facility can accommodate up to 800 guests for a reception. (386) 947-6800; www.daytonausa.com

  • An art deco facility housing more than 40 rare and vintage aircraft, Fantasy of Flight, in Polk City, 30 minutes west of downtown Orlando, features 100,000 square feet of meeting and function space to accommodate up to 5,000 attendees. (863) 984-3500; www.Fantasyofflight.com

  • At Universal Orlando Resort, Blue Man Group will take up permanent residence in June. (407) 224-6222; www.universalevents.com