In an effort to boost business during hurricane season, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau is offering free meeting rental space to groups booking in August and September in 2005 and 2006.

Meeting planners who book groups at the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center during that period will receive free rental of all floor space in the 600,000-square-foot convention center. Contracted hotels also will waive attrition fees. To qualify, planners must book a minimum of 600 peak-night hotel rooms.

"This is our way of saying thanks to loyal planners for making us one of the top meetings destinations," said Nicki Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB, in a press release.

The CVB has been actively working to resuscitate the area’s image following a stretch in August and September when the Sunshine State was hit by four hurricanes. In addition to the meeting planner incentive package, the CVB launched a $3 million advertising campaign in September to appeal to tourists.

The Fort Lauderdale area suffered minimal damage, say officials, but the effects of the storms still linger. A survey of travelers by Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell—an Orlando-based travel marketing, advertising, and public relations firm—found that about 20 percent of those potential visitors were less likely to visit Florida between July and September 2005. Group business comprises about 30 percent of South Florida’s visitors.