Among the many reasons Central Florida is such an in-demand spot for meetings, conventions and incentives is the seemingly endless variety of venues and attractions available. One of the newest draws for groups is the Orlando Eye (above), which debuted last month.
A record 62 million visitors headed to Orlando In 2014, according to Visit Orlando, the city's destination marketing organization. Of that number, 10 million came for meetings or business travel. It all resulted in a record-breaking 32 million room nights in 2014, and more than $200 million in bed taxes.
The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel is undergoing a multi-phase, multiyear, $125 million redesign (and remaining open throughout). Included in the renovation are the Swan Hotel's 758 guest rooms (slated for completion this year) and the Dolphin's 1,509 guest rooms (which will be finished in 2017). The resort's public areas and meeting spaces also will be upgraded as part of the project.
On With the Show
The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts opened in Orlando in late 2014. The complex includes the 2,700-seat Walt Disney Theater and the 300-seat Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater. drphillipscenter.org
• The Orlando Eye, a 400-foot-tall Ferris wheel at the I-Drive 360 entertainment complex, is up and spinning. The ride features enclosed, air-conditioned capsules -- each accommodates 15 guests -- that offer expansive views of Orlando's theme parks and downtown.
• The 1,000-room Loews Royal Pacific Resort Deluxe Hotel is expanding its 85,000 square feet of meeting space by more than 56,000 square feet. New gathering venues, including the Pacifica Ballroom and the open-air Wantilan Pavilion, will open this fall.
• The Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando will debut in the summer of 2016. The Caribbean- themed 1,000-room property will have 131,000 square feet of meeting space and will connect via an air-conditioned covered bridge to the Loews Royal Pacific Resort.
• The Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando has completed a revamp of its 650 guest rooms, including the addition of music-related artwork. The hotel has 6,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, with 140,000 square feet of function space nearby at the Hard Rock Cafe and Hard Rock Live venues at Universal CityWalk.
• The 151-room Element Orlando is set to open in mid-2016. The eco-friendly property, less than a mile from Universal Studios Orlando, will feature a 750-square-foot meeting room, a fitness center, free Wi-Fi and complimentary breakfast.
• Disney's Polynesian Village Resort is in the midst of an expansion. Once work is completed, the property will have 360 deluxe studio villas and 20 two-bedroom, over-water bungalows, in addition to its 484 guest rooms.
• Downtown Disney is getting a new look and name. The entertainment/retail/dining complex, which will be called Disney Springs, will double its size. When completed in 2016, it will feature four interconnected "neighborhoods" -- The Landing, Marketplace, West Side and Town Center.
Meeting Hotels: Downtown properties include the 247-room Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando and 118-room Aloft Orlando Downtown.
Along International Drive and near the Orange County Convention Center are the 1,641-room Hyatt Regency Orlando, 1,417-room Hilton Orlando, 1,362-room Rosen Shingle Creek and 1,334-room Rosen Centre Hotel.
For a full listing of area properties, as well as to find and compare hotels and send RFPs, visit mcvenues.com.
Convention Center: Orange County Convention Center; exhibit space, 2.1 million square feet; number of meeting rooms, 74; (407) 685-9800 or (800) 345-9845; occc.net
Airport Transit: Orlando International Airport, about 13 miles southeast of downtown Orlando and 14 miles east of the Orange County Convention Center/International Drive. Transfer cost by taxi, $35 to downtown, $33-$39 to the convention center/International Drive; by shuttle, $19 to downtown, $20 to the convention center/International Drive
Taxes: Orlando/Orange County: room tax, 6%; sales tax, 6.50%; total taxes on hotel rooms, 12.5%
Walt Disney World Resort hotels in Orange County: room tax, 6%; sales tax, 6.5%; total tax on hotel rooms, 12.5%
Disney properties in Osceola County: room tax, 6%; sales tax, 7%; total tax on hotel rooms, 13%
Group Venue: The Boathouse, a nautical-themed eatery on the waterfront, has debuted at The Landing, the first of four planned neighborhoods of Disney Springs (the former Downtown Disney). The place is decked out in nautical artwork, including antique mahogany boats from the 1930s, '40s and '50s. Groups of up to 100 people can chow down on dishes such as Hoisin-Glazed Florida Wahoo or Baked Crab-Stuffed Lobster, followed by the decadent S'mores Baked Alaska. (407) 939-2628; theboathouseorlando.com
Contact: Visit Orlando; (800) 643-0482; orlandomeeting.comDaytona Beach
What's new: The Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach is expected to debut in 2017. The resort will have 250 guest rooms and a Hard Rock Café.
The Shores Resort & Spa in Daytona Beach Shores has completed a renovation of its 212 guest rooms, public spaces and 20,000 square feet of meeting space.
Convention Center: Ocean Center Convention & Entertainment Complex; exhibit space, 149,326 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 32; (800) 858-6444; oceancenter.com
Airport info: Daytona Beach International Airport, four miles west of downtown. Transfer cost by taxi, $12
Taxes: Room tax, 6%; sales tax, 6.5%; total tax on hotel rooms, 12.5%
Contact: Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau; (386) 255-0415; fax: (386) 255-5478; daytonabeach.com