The Sunshine State
hopes this image prevails
in planners’ minds.
Even as Florida takes stock of lost meetings
business due to this year’s crushing hurricane season, the state
has moved quickly to repair visitor confidence.
In October, following the Aug. 13 to Sept. 26 period in which
four hurricanes battered the state, the Greater Fort Lauderdale
Convention & Visitors Bureau launched a new incentive by
pledging complimentary use of the convention center to groups
booking 600 peak-night hotel rooms in August and September of 2005
To sweeten the deal, the bureau also is offering a hurricane
guarantee, which will waive attrition fees at contracted hotels if
attendance is disrupted by adverse weather.
“We are pulling every rabbit out of every hat to protect our
growth in the meetings market,” said Nicki Grossman, president of
the GFLCVB, who added that meetings constitute 30 percent of the
city’s tourism revenue.
In Tampa, Karen Brand, vice president of marketing at the Tampa
Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the city successfully
booked 11 meetings last August and September, all of them to be
held during future hurricane-season months. “Our job is to reassure
our meeting planners,” said Brand.
Tracy Dunaway, director of sales for Tallahassee-based Visit
Florida, the state’s official tourism bureau, led focus groups
around the country this past fall to gauge the feelings of
planners from across the industry. The overwhelming feedback, she
said, was that Florida provides value and groups still want to be
there. (For M&C’s own poll of planner reactions to the storms,
see Research on page 24.)
Meanwhile, Washington, D.C.-based Associated Luxury Hotels,
which represents 12 properties in Florida, stepped up efforts at
its nine regional offices to reassure planners that the Sunshine
State promises significant value during the summer months.
“We are answering planners’ questions and concerns, so they in
turn can answer those of their boards,” said David G. Gabri,
president and CEO of ALH.
Of ALH’s hotels, which comprise 7,200 rooms, only the South
Seas Resort on Captiva Island was forced to close due to hurricane
activity. That property is being fully renovated for a spring 2005