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Orlando has just been named the #1 meetings destination in the United States. According to Cvent, a leading event management company which sources nearly $10 billion annually in events around the globe, Orlando has again achieved the highest ranked spot on the Top 50 Meeting Destinations in the United States list. This repeat honor is a testament to the investment we, and our members, make to market, sell and create assets that make Orlando the ideal location for meetings and conventions.
Of the more than 5,000 U.S. cities that were evaluated, the leaders consistently made investments in infrastructure, featured hotel renovations and were committed to economic factors to make the destination more appealing. Cvent claims that "all of these cities can learn from multi-year leader Orlando that the only way to remain on top is to continue investing and innovating to remain competitive year after year." Following behind Orlando on the U.S. list were Chicago and Las Vegas.
With more than 118,000 hotel rooms, a host of resorts and special event venues, a top ranking by Cvent gathers the attention of countless meeting planners who rely on the endorsement when booking their next events. With superior accommodations and meeting sites, easy, convenient air service and a gold standard of hospitality it's easy to see why these meeting professionals love Orlando and continue consider us again and again.
When Cvent released its annual list of the most popular meeting hotels in the nation, 12 were Visit Orlando members! With a dozen top performers, Orlando had more mentions on the prestigious list than any other city in the United States. Cvent, a supplier network for professional meetings, spent the past year researching thousands of properties to arrive at what it considered the most popular. Whether for business or weddings, event venues or corporate gatherings, these hotels represent the tried-and-true favorites among the sites for many meeting and event planners.
While Orlando is known as the vacation capital of the world, we are also among the top meeting destinations. We are frequently recognized for our creative, unique and immersive experiences, and culture of hospitality has long been a hallmark of our destination. Already this year, the destination has welcomed a record number of meetings and conventions - making this one of the best first quarter starts in recent history. These visitors mean more jobs, greater exposure and a huge economic impact for our community.
This week 43,000 golf enthusiasts will arrive in Orlando to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the PGA. The organization's annual convention, which has long been hosted in Orlando, is the first of many slated for the destination in 2016. In fact, together with the International Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigerating Expo, next week's attendees are estimated to be more than 100,000 - making this one of the best New Year's starts in recent history.
Recognized as the number one destination for meetings and events in the United States and second for major trade shows, Orlando is positioned to welcome a banner number of conventions in 2016. Some of the shows for the upcoming year include the National Association of Realtors, Microsoft and McDonald's Corporation. Citywide attendance from major conventions is already up 6 percent year over year, and business booked by Visit Orlando for future years has also increased by the same amount.
As we know, conventions equal big business for Orlando, but did you also know that face-to-face meetings result in long-term profit for corporations as well? In fact, nine out of 10 executives say meetings improve their ability to close deals and 97 percent claim they deliver a hefty return on the investment, which is why business leaders are making in-person conventions, trade shows and client events a financial priority for 2016.
The surge in convention and trade show business means more jobs, heightened exposure and nearly $7 billion in economic impact to our community. That's good news for those of us in the tourism industry and all who call Orlando home.
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.
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.
Next week, Orlando's tourism community prepares to host the 8th World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress, Sept. 27-30, at the Orange County Convention Center. And while our local convention industry is healthy and thriving, the arrival of the most comprehensive international healthcare conference and trade show in the industry may be just what the doctor ordered for continued growth.
Orlando's hospitals offer some of the best health care in the world. Combine these facilities and the experts that work in them with the second-largest convention center in the nation and everything else that makes Orlando the No. 1 meeting destination in the U.S., and it's no surprise that medical conventions represent an appealing growth segment for our destination.
As Visit Orlando continues to open new markets and grow overall visitation beyond the record-breaking 62 million visitors in 2014, medical conventions are a targeted approach to leveraging tourism for the economic prosperity and quality of life for our residents.
Bill McDermott-who is the CEO of business-software company SAP, a friend of the meetings industry and an important client of Visit Orlando's-penned an op-ed for CNBC.com last week that focused on the important role that in-person meetings and events play in our businesses and communities. It coincided with the first official North American Meeting Industry Day on April 16.
In his editorial, Bill mentions the upcoming Sapphire technology conference that will bring 25,000 SAP employees, their customers and partners to Orlando, May 5-7. It's a good reminder of how important clients like Bill, events like Sapphire and the meetings industry overall are to our destination. Our local meetings industry helps attract millions of business/convention visitors who come to Orlando each year. The Orange County Convention Center alone welcomes more than a million visitors annually. And its status as the second-largest convention center in the United States makes Orlando a major player in the conventions industry.
Meetings do mean business in Orlando. We're fortunate that our tourism and community leaders understand this, and we at Visit Orlando continue to leverage all of our destination's assets to book even more business for our community in the months and years ahead.
One week ago today we capped off NPE, the world's largest trade show for the plastics industry. As is typical with major conventions that choose to come to Orlando, NPE2015 experienced an increase in attendance, resulting in its largest show in its 69-year history. Unprecedented size and diversity translated into more than 65,000 delegates attending the event at the Orange County Convention Center and enjoying our area retail, dining and entertainment venues, while occupying many of our communities' hotels.
I'd like to congratulate the Visit Orlando Convention Sales team, the entire convention center staff and all of our 1,200 member companies and community partners for making this year's Plastics Showcase such an overwhelming success.
In fact, Orlando made such a great impression on the Society of the Plastics Industry that they announced here last week that they will be returning to Orlando in 2018. It's a powerful endorsement of our destination that other large trade shows and manufacturing industry executives will undoubtedly notice.
Earlier this week, we invited a special guest to Visit Orlando's Board of Directors meeting. Graphic Arts Show Company President Ralph Nappi came to tell our Board, which represents Orlando's tourism and community leadership, why his organization decided to move its Graph Expo Exhibition to Orlando for the first time ever in 2016.
Graph Expo is the nation's most innovative and comprehensive exhibition of all facets and segments of the printing industry. It's slated for the end of September 2016, when it will bring an incremental 25,000 visitors to our destination.
Ralph shared with us this week that he was impressed with the Orange County Convention Center and that our destination overall represented great facilities and value. But it was the spirit of partnership, collaboration and community that they found in Orlando's tourism leadership that convinced him to leave Chicago after 20 years and begin a new chapter in Orlando, versus the other cities they were considering. It was another proud moment for all of us.
Once again, Orlando is No. 1. This time it's a result of bookings made by the associates of ConferenceDirect, the full-service meeting solutions company specializing in site selection, conference management, housing and strategic meetings management.
In 2014, ConferenceDirect confirmed nearly half a million room nights for Orlando, representing an economic impact to our community of $252.4 million. Not only was this the fourth straight year that ConferenceDirect's Orlando business was higher than any other destination, but it also comes on the heels of ConferenceDirect naming Visit Orlando "CVB of the Year" in 2014. This is testament to how well our Convention Sales and Services team at Visit Orlando works with the associates at ConferenceDirect, who strongly influence what destination their clients will choose.
With our diverse cross-section of hotels, theme parks and other venues that offer imaginative settings for events and a growing dining and entertainment scene, we know that Orlando has a lot to offer these meeting professionals. We are grateful to the ConferenceDirect team for recognizing what a fantastic destination Orlando is and we look forward to working with them in 2015 to bring even more meetings here than anywhere else.