by Tom Isler | May 01, 2006

Universal Studios Orlando

  The sky’s the limit: Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios Orlando

Creating exciting, unique experiences is the business of theme parks, which have the resources and creativity to help corporate clients customize events or meetings, whether the group comprises 20 people or thousands.
    With increasing emphasis placed on the branding of meetings and events, theme parks have become more attractive destinations because of their built-in assets and their ability to work with groups to produce large-scale happenings, says Beth Robertson, vice president of communications for the Alexandria, Va.-based International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. Moreover, several park directors say the fact that attendees are encouraged to bring their partners or kids along for the trip helps boost attendance.
    “At theme parks, events are designed for the entire family -- not necessarily the same activities at the same time, but in one facility everyone has something to do,” Robertson says.
    The following are examples of how far some theme parks will go to satisfy corporate clients.

Busch Gardens & Adventure Island
Tampa Bay, Fla.
(888) 800-5447, option 3

An African landscape it is not, but Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, with more than 2,000 live animals of 320 different species, typically acts as a proxy for the continent.
    “A lot of time people ask us to do an event with an African theme,” says Brenda Waldron, national convention sales manager for Busch Gardens and Adventure Island, Tampa Bay.
    Groups can set up in the Crown Colony House, which accommodates up to 300 people and overlooks the park’s Serengeti Plain; in the Desert Grill, a Moroccan restaurant for up to 750 people; or in the Moroccan Palace, a performance venue suitable for breakfast or lunch receptions. The park can provide entertainment -- bands or other live performances -- with African themes.
    Additionally, the park customizes “safaris” for groups, during which participants can feed giraffes alongside the park’s trainers.
    For mealtime events, the park can cook up anything from hamburgers and hot dogs to a black-tie dinner.
    Groups can buy out the park in part or whole for exclusive use a half hour after doors close to the public. And while the park doesn’t have overnight accommodations, transportation from downtown hotels or beachfront properties can be worked into the contract.