STRICTER VISA regulations, terrorism threats, and other crises, have been making it more difficult for overseas healthcare professionals to attend U.S. medical meetings. But the American Academy of Family Physicians has a powerful ally in its bid to attract thousands of overseas physicians to the U.S. for its October 2004 meeting in Orlando: the local CVB. In conjunction with its annual Scientific Assembly, AAFP is hosting the triennial World Conference of Family Doctors, known more familiarly as Wonca 2004. Wonca is expected to attract at least 4,000 physicians and their guests.

β€œIt's hard to promote overseas, and it's expensive,” says convention management division director Sondra Biggs. The target attendance for the tandem conferences, plus a trade show likely to have more than 500 booths, is 20,000 to 25,000. The CVB eagerly offered its resources, including marketing muscle in seven international offices.

To target prospective attendees, AAFP and the Orlando CVB have been traveling to and exhibiting at regional Wonca conferences. AAFP promotes the meeting; the CVB talks up the destination. The two organizations also have visited London and Melbourne, Australia, and plan to exhibit at regional meetings this year in Slovenia, Spain, and China.

Orlando's CVB also offers other help. It can build a customized Web site in six languages β€” English, French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, and Japanese. Groups can also link their site with Orlando's.