Meetings (Still) Mean Business

George Aguel, CEO of Visit Orlando, was one of the founders who formed the Meetings Mean Business Coalition in 2009. It was founded soon after the financial crisis impacted our industry like never before, to showcase the value that business meetings, travel and events bring to the U.S. economy. We can never forget those years and how important it is that our local tourism community in Orlando doesn't rest on its laurels when it comes to spreading the good word that, like the travel industry, the meetings industry supports millions of U.S. jobs and generates billions of dollars in annual economic impact. Our own destination is a major recipient of this business, having achieved the status of being recognized as the No. 1 destination for meetings and No. 2 for major trade shows. This segment of our tourism business represents nearly $7 billion in economic impact to our community.

Those of us in tourism recognize and appreciate that these conferences and events serve as platforms for professional development and training, as well as for networking and the strengthening of sustainable business relationships, ever so important in today's highly competitive marketplace. But that's not the case for everyone. During the height of the recession seven years ago, many companies made across-the-board cuts, including canceling meetings and restricting travel for their employees. Ironically, according to Oxford Economics, companies that invested more in business travel during the economic downturn grew the fastest.

So, despite the fact that we're closing in on what appears to be another year of record-setting growth for tourism in Orlando, we want to encourage all of the leaders in our community to be champions for the value of conferences, trade shows and client events.


Tapping Emotions of Meeting Professionals

Even senior executives in control of significant annual convention budgets have emotional moments. That's why we knew we were on the right track when this week Visit Orlando decided to unveil new brand creative for the meetings and conventions market at IMEX America, the leading tradeshow in the meeting and convention industry.

Titled "Share Orlando," the campaign taps into the emotions of meeting and event professionals. It showcases stories inspired by authentic social media posts through the eyes of the convention attendee or meeting planner. And it reflects that there is simply no other destination where extraordinary experiences occur in such creative and innovative backdrops the way they do in Orlando, named 2015's No. 1 meetings destination.

IMEX America was the ideal forum for Visit Orlando to roll out this new initiative. The show attracted a record 3,000 buyers from 54 countries. Our Convention Sales team incorporated the new brand positioning in one-on-one meetings and presentations, exciting and inspiring meeting professionals to imagine themselves in Orlando experiencing unforgettable group events that will live on in the memories of attendees long after the conference is over. This was just the beginning of how we will be leveraging this new meeting and convention brand across many marketing and sales platforms to reinforce our leading position in this industry.


Can't Help But Share

The results are in and consumers are saying that Visit Orlando's new brand campaign is doing exactly what it was designed to do. An independent, third-party firm recently evaluated the effectiveness of our new television commercial against proven industry benchmarks.

Members of our target audience residing in cities such as New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Miami said that they felt Visit Orlando's new ad broke through the clutter of other advertising. It also portrayed Orlando as a place for families and created a desire to visit, they added.

Maybe best of all in this age of an endless number of barriers to quality time with family and a propensity for people to influence others through social media, consumers are saying that Visit Orlando's new ad does a great job of building a sense of togetherness, communicating the importance of making memories and reminding so many of our millions of visitors that they have unforgettable, heartwarming stories they can't help but share.


"Bem-vindo" to Our Brazilian Visitors

Last week, Visit Orlando representatives spent time in Brazil, Orlando's No. 1 overseas market, visiting with the principals and executives of several of our most important tour operators, travel agents and airline partners. As you might expect, there continues to be concerns about the current political climate and its effects on the Brazilian economy, but there was also optimism about the prospects for an improving economy before too long. Most important of all, there was a high level of excitement for the desire the Brazilian people have to visit Orlando, even if more may need to place a greater emphasis on value during their time in our destination.

We should be proud of the fact that Orlando is an iconic destination to Brazilians. Our Brazilian friends understand that, in comparison to other U.S. destinations, Orlando represents a great value for the experience they are provided. They remain very interested in all of the new development underway throughout our tourism community that will enhance our visitors' time with us and the overall diversity of options available for their enjoyment.

Visit Orlando, along with its members and partners, remains committed to the importance of the Brazil market to our destination. Together we will continue to dedicate the necessary resources to ensure we demonstrate that commitment, beginning right now with the launch of our new and exciting brand campaign. Visit Orlando's marketing efforts are designed to reinforce the priceless value of the cherished memories made across our destination, and aimed at strengthening our leading position in Brazil. Brazilian visitors have historically stayed longer and spent more money in Orlando than the average visitor and will long remain a very attractive segment for our destination. So, remember, when you run into one of our Brazilian tourists, be sure to greet them with "Bem-vindo" or "Welcome" in Portuguese.


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