OBJ Gets Up Close and Personal with President & CEO George Aguel

George Aguel, president and CEO of Visit Orlando, recently sat down with the Orlando Business Journal to talk about goals, his best advice, lessons learned and more.

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Visit Orlando President & CEO George Aguel Promotes Destination in Successful Meetings magazine

George Aguel  

From a new convention center to new theme parks, Orlando is on the move, according to Successful Meetings magazine. Visit Orlando President & CEO George Aguel explains why Orlando's meetings, conventions, and events sector is off and running following a record year in 2017. Read more here.


From the President & CEO George Aguel: Register Today for Our Industry's Can't-Miss Event

Hot off the press, Visit Orlando's Celebrating Travel & Tourism Luncheon -- one of our industry's can't miss events -- is all set for May 10 at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. Make sure to get your tickets in advance, as seats always fill up fast, especially for this event.

This year, we have an exciting program lined up. Martin Stoll, founder and CEO of Sparkloft Media, kicks things off at our morning general session with a thorough analysis of what's trending in social media.

Then, our major keynote presentation will feature a conversation between Jonathan Tisch, chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels, and Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. Hosting these two iconic industry figures at one time is a first for us and will be an experience you will not want to miss.

To wrap things up, we'll unveil the big news everyone's been waiting for: the official number of visitors to Orlando in 2017.

This always-popular spring event -- one of Visit Orlando's three signature luncheons -- is your opportunity to network with hundreds of industry and community leaders while gaining competitive insights into the ever-evolving tourism landscape.

So sign up today, and I'll see you there!

-- George Aguel


Visit Orlando Updates: March 22

Celebrate Travel with Visit Orlando
Each May we gather to commemorate National Travel & Tourism Week at Visit Orlando's Celebrating Travel & Tourism Luncheon and honor those who make our industry great. This year, Visit Orlando welcomes to the stage two highly-regarded industry leaders: Jonathan Tisch (pictured), chairman & CEO of Loews Hotels, and Roger Dow, president & CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. The event will also include a pre-luncheon session featuring Martin Stoll, founder and CEO of Sparkloft Media, who will share his deep knowledge on how to leverage social media and the trends and changes you can expect in the next 18 months. Register today.

Visit Orlando Upgrades Orlando Travel Academy
Agents interested in becoming certified Orlando Travel Experts can now enjoy Visit Orlando's newly revamped online training academy. The training academy now provides information about what's new in the area for 2018, including not only new theme park openings and improvements but also information on attractions, dining, nightlife and other points of interest outside the parks. Read more in Travel Weekly.

PITTCON Brings 11K to Convention Center
Visit Orlando President & CEO George Aguel joined PITTCON President Adrian Michael Feb. 27 at the PITTCON Conference & Expo 2018 ribbon-cutting ceremony. Over the course of four days, more than 11,500 attendees participated in the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry & Applied Spectroscopy at the Orange County Convention Center.

Visitor Center Welcomes Spring Breakers
Have you been to Orlando's Official Visitor Center at the corner of I-Drive and Sand Lake Road? If so, you know it's a destination in its own right, inviting guests to explore all of the magical, thrilling and wondrous experiences that can only be enjoyed in Orlando. Visitors can get help navigating Orlando via our knowledgeable, multilingual Vacation Guides dedicated to promoting our members' businesses while providing guests with resources they can trust. Stop by to say "hi," and see just how hard our Vacation Guides are working for Orlando -- and for your business.

Landing the Travel Channel
Visit Orlando's public relations team secured coverage on TravelChannel.com, one of the nation's top travel outlets, for a piece that showcases how to eat an entire day of mickey-shaped food at Disney World.

Orlando's Hidden Gems Highlighted
Visit Orlando's public relations team secured an article in top-tier Canadian family magazine Reader's Digest Online. The article highlighted unique can't-miss activities outside the theme parks, including value attractions, outdoor adventures, cultural finds and more. The coverage was shared on the magazine's Twitter page, as well.

Top-Rated Network Showcases Orlando
As a result of a destination orientation, Viagens ao Redor do Mundo filmed two, one-hour episodes featuring Orlando that aired on Band TV, one of Brazil's highest-rated television networks. The program showcased some of the destination's most delicious dining, distinctive entertainment, unique shopping and noteworthy attractions. The show's host was joined by influencer Felps, with a 4.8 million reach across social media, who shared his Orlando experience with his followers during filming.

16K Expected at ASA Convention in 2019
The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) convention planning team was in Orlando this week conducting site visits, which included a special dolphin experience at SeaWorld. More than 16,000 attendees are expected at ASA's national convention in October 2019.


From President & CEO George Aguel: Positive Outlook for Brazilian Visitation

As Orlando's third-largest international market, Brazil plays an important role in our local tourism industry. That's why it's such welcome news that, after years of economic hardships, Brazilians appear ready to come back to Orlando in a big way.

Visit Orlando is hard at work in São Paolo, Rio de Janeiro and other major Brazilian cities to keep our destination top of mind. We just launched a national marketing campaign to coincide with a key booking period in Brazil, and our research shows that Orlando remains the No. 1 choice for an overseas vacation among our target audience.

As you'll read in this issue of Tourism Matters, the scheduled number of nonstop seats from Brazil to Orlando International Airport in 2018 just reached 486,000, smashing the previous high of 361,000. And because Brazilians spend more money, per person, in our destination than visitors from any other core market, their presence translates to even greater economic impact across our entire community.

While it's still too early to say if 2018 will be a record year for Brazilian visitation overall, the recent news out of OIA, coupled with Visit Orlando's marketing and research efforts, reinforces our outlook that Brazil is bouncing back in a very strong way.

On a related note, it speaks to the strength of our industry that Orange County's January collection of tourist development tax came in at a whopping $23.7 million, nearly 15 percent higher than the same month a year ago. Yet more proof that 2018 is looking good!

 -- George Aguel 


Visit Orlando Updates: March 8

FYI Philly Showcases What's New in Orlando
Visit Orlando's consumer marketing team secured Orlando being featured on the hit TV weekend show "FYI Philly" throughout February. Host and meteorologist Melissa Magee showed viewers what makes Orlando unique, with segments including "What's New at the Theme Parks," "Orlando's Endless Adventures" and "Orlando's Ever-growing Dining Scene."

USA Today Features Visit Orlando Contest
Visit Orlando's public relations team secured coverage in USA Today online with the article "Here are the top five travel contests you can enter." The piece features Visit Orlando's Uniquely Orlando contest, running now through
March 11.

Marketing Campaign Launches in Brazil
This month, Visit Orlando's consumer marketing team launched a Brazilian marketing campaign that incorporates TV, print, online videos, digital display, social media advertising, content amplification and search engine marketing. The campaign is designed to connect with consumers during their prime planning and booking timeframes. The first phase will run until mid-June and generate about 200 million impressions.

Recognizing Impact of Meeting Planners
Visit Orlando networked with more than 200 meeting planners and industry partners at an awards ceremony Feb. 22 hosted by the Greater Midwest chapter of the Professional Convention Management Association. These networking opportunities help keep our destination top of mind for future business.

The Globe and Mail Highlights Orlando
Visit Orlando's public relations team secured coverage in Canada's The Globe and Mail after a destination orientation with travel journalist Heather Greenwood-Davis. The article showcased LEGOLAND Florida Resort in print and online. Davis also featured Orlando in her latest March Break article, highlighting popular attractions like I-Drive 360, Kennedy Space Center and Andretti Indoor Karting & Games.

Brazilian Media Share New Orlando Attractions
As a result of Visit Orlando's media outreach, several online outlets published articles highlighting new and upcoming Orlando attractions, dining experiences and accommodations. Notable publications include Catraca Livre, Vírgula, R7 Viagens, MSN and Qual Viagem.

Canada's CHCH Features Orlando's Hidden Gems
Visit Orlando's public relations team generated a five-minute segment on Canada's CHCH Morning Live. Travel writer Kathy Buckworth spoke on her experience visiting the destination, highlighting places like Walt Disney World, The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum, Sheraton Vistana Villages Resort, Orlando Balloon Rides and more.

Record Attendance at Annual Member Event
On Wednesday night, Visit Orlando hosted a record-breaking number of attendees at our 12th annual Party at Pointe Orlando. In addition to making valuable business connections with more than 800 travel and tourism professionals, attendees connected with key Visit Orlando departments. Throughout the night, guests enjoyed food and beverage from eight Pointe Orlando venues, as well as entertainment sponsored by Imprint Events.


From President & CEO George Aguel: Top Spring Break Destination

For years, Orlando has been the nation's top choice for spring travel. With so many exciting new reasons to visit our destination -- and your team at Visit Orlando pushing to make sure that message is well-known -- all signs point to that trend continuing in 2018.

Once again, based on hotel bookings at AAA.com, Orlando will be America's most popular spring travel destination. A study by travel insurance provider Allianz Global Assistance produced a similar result when analyzing the spring break season.

According to Allianz's review of trips planned between Feb. 23 and April 16, Orlando will receive a whopping 9.5 percent market share of U.S. travelers -- nearly double that of second-place Phoenix. As for the nation's busiest flight day for spring break travel, that's expected to occur Saturday, March 10. So get to the airport early if you're catching a flight!

As always, this edition of Tourism Matters contains a wealth of insights and updates. Two of my favorite stories touch on the role of tourism in our community: Dr. Abe Pizam's enduring legacy as dean of UCF's Rosen College of Hospitality Management, and the opportunity for local nonprofits to benefit from Visit Orlando's Magical Dining Month program.

Stories like these show how our region's leading industry, and those who contribute to its success, have great power to bring about positive change.


-- George Aguel 


Visit Orlando Updates: Feb. 22

Branding Orlando in Toronto's Busiest Hub
Millions of Canadians will see Orlando's branding message as they commute to and from Toronto's bustling financial, cultural and corporate centers, thanks to additional signage in Brookfield Place near Union Station, Toronto's busiest transportation hub. These out-of-home initiatives are part of our first-ever fully integrated, first-quarter advertising campaign aimed at encouraging travel during March and into the summer.

Visit Orlando Honors UCF's Dr. Abe Pizam
In August, Dr. Abe Pizam will retire as dean of UCF's Rosen College of Hospitality Management, leaving a tremendous legacy that spans more than three decades. During a recent meeting of the Visit Orlando Board of Directors, Chairman Don Engfer recognized Dr. Pizam for being a longtime partner of our organization. We appreciate all he has done to advocate for the work of Visit Orlando, and to champion the local tourism industry.

Visit Orlando Hosts Brazilian Influencers
Visit Orlando's public relations team worked with five Brazilian influencers -- with a combined reach of more than 7.5 million -- to showcase the destination through daily posts to their loyal followers across social media. During their stay, the influencers featured attractions such as Universal Orlando Resort, Walt Disney World, Main Event, iFLY Orlando and others. Influencers included Lucas Rangel, Valentina Schulz, Ivana Coelho, Maria Suconic and actor Andre Bankoff.

Promoting Orlando at Media Marketplace
Visit Orlando attended the annual TravMedia International Media Marketplace in New York City Jan. 25, meeting with more than 30 media outlets, including CBS News, Parents Magazine, Delish, and Travel + Leisure. Topics ranged from what's new in Orlando to lesser-known attractions to dining and arts and culture.

Grainger Brings 13,000 Attendees
Last week, Grainger held its 2018 show at the Orange County Convention Center for the sixth consecutive year. Boasting more than 13,000 attendees -- an increase over the year prior -- Grainger is booked at the Orange County Convention Center through 2026.

Event Highlights Benefits of Working with CVBs
Visit Orlando's convention sales team attended the Destination Showcase in Washington, D.C., last week. The event focused on how to work with convention and visitor bureaus to achieve successful meetings, and it enabled Visit Orlando to meet with key association, corporate and government meeting professionals.

Orlando Highlighted on ABC in Philadelphia
Visit Orlando worked with ABC Philadelphia to showcase what makes Orlando unique and dynamic. The crew filmed a series of vignettes with TV host and meteorologist Melissa Magee, spotlighting all that is new and exciting in Orlando, including our ever-growing dining scene and endless outdoor adventures. The segments will air on the weekend show "FYI Philly" throughout the month of February.

UK Newspapers Tab Orlando as Top Value
The public relations team generated coverage in the UK's Daily Star (circ. 421K), highlighting Orlando as a top winter sun getaway following the destination being named "Best Value Long-Haul Break" in the Post Office Travel Money's annual Best Bargains report. The Daily Mirror also included Orlando in a roundup on best inexpensive places to travel in March.

Theme Parks Featured in Lifestyle Magazine
Visit Orlando's public relations team secured coverage in New York Lifestyles Magazine, profiling the theme parks and Disney Springs. The article, released in print and online, generated more than 251,000 impressions.

Networking with Key Clients at RCMA
Visit Orlando and participating members networked and conducted one-on-one meetings with clients at the Religious Conference Management Association (RCMA) tradeshow in Omaha Jan. 30-Feb. 1. In addition, Visit Orlando and its members hosted a private event for 20 key clients, showcasing everything our destination has to offer.

CMO Hollander Shares Insight on CMO Panel
More than 90 industry professionals attended the American Marketing Association of Orlando's special CMO panel featuring Danielle Hollander, Visit Orlando's chief marketing officer. The panel focused on what to look for in advertising agencies and the future of agencies working alongside brands.

Accepting Applications from Local Nonprofits
Visit Orlando is now accepting applications from local nonprofits for its annual Magical Dining Month program in September. Last year, Magical Dining raised a record $208,620 for two charities. Nonprofits are encouraged to apply online no later than Feb. 28. Questions can be directed to Kristin Rothbauer at kristin.rothbauer@visitorlando.com.


Now Accepting Applications from Local Nonprofits that Benefit Children

Magical Dining Charity

Visit Orlando is now accepting applications from local nonprofits for its annual Magical Dining Month program in September.

As part of the initiative, Visit Orlando brings together the entire tourism community to support local charities that help children and families. Last year, Visit Orlando's Magical Dining Month raised a record $208,620 for two local charities.

We invite local nonprofit organizations to apply for consideration as our charitable partner. In order to be eligible for support, a nonprofit must:

• Benefit children and families.
• Be based in Central Florida.
• Allocate the majority of its services and funding to directly benefit the Central Florida community.
• Have no political or religious affiliation.

All applications must be submitted no later than Wednesday, Feb. 28. Applications received after 5 p.m. (EST) will not be considered. Contact Kristin Rothbauer, communications manager, at kristin.rothbauer@visitorlando.com, should you have any questions.


From the President & CEO George Aguel: Central Florida Lodging Sector Turns In Exceptional 2017

Now that we've closed the books on 2017, it's official that Orlando continued to break records across a number of key tourism indicators.

As you'll read below, one of our industry's strongest-performing sectors was in lodging, where we established all-time highs for average daily rate, revenue per available room and room nights sold. Another important metric, annual occupancy rate, was the second highest since our data set began in 1979, just under the peak of 80.1 percent in 1996.

But speaking of 1996, we must take into account that our destination has added 40 percent more hotel rooms since then, which makes our occupancy figure even more impressive. Today, room inventory stands at 121,005 - and with so many large-scale hotel projects in the works, that number is expected to soar in the coming years.

Keeping with the record-breaking theme, total attendance at the Orange County Convention Center hit 1.53 million in 2017, up 5 percent on the year. We also expect to see record passenger traffic at Orlando International Airport, as well as record collections of Orange County's Tourist Development Tax, when those numbers are finalized in the coming weeks.

As America's most visited destination, Orlando continues to lead the way. And at Visit Orlando, we're proud to provide the research, business insights and destination marketing support to keep our region's entire tourism industry running strong.

-George Aguel


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