Meeting News - June 22, 2009 - (Page 24)

South Regional By Rowland Stiteler Orlando Hotels Discounting, Waiving Mtg. Attrition Penalties Just as it is in every other meeting and convention destination in America these days, there are worries in Orlando—more intense than in some other locations, as with around 120,000 hotel rooms to fill, Orlando’s problem becomes significantly larger than in smaller cities. However, the sense of doom that hotels and other suppliers may feel could spell instant opportunity for groups in search of a good value destination, and those opportunities may extend beyond hotel bargains, according to planners familiar with Orlando. “The hotel situation is the most obvious,” said Jim Rye, president of Orlando-based siteselection firm Rymark International. “What makes Orlando stand out is that it has a huge number of hotel rooms to fill—and in a broad price range—and you get the simple economic effect of lots of supply met with decreasing demand. The hoteliers in Orlando know that this is a buyer’s market in a big way. They are embracing that reality, and they are getting very aggressive in the deals they are making.” Rye said he is seeing more hotel price flexibility in Orlando than in many other markets he researches for clients. That is only part of the equation in Orlando, according to Rye and others familiar with the market. The other major factor is the plethora of air service options that remain at Orlando International Airport. “Cheap rooms mean nothing if your attendees can’t get to them,” Rye said. “The beauty of Orlando is that we have not had the kinds of airlift cuts you’ve seen virtually everywhere else, in part because this is such a big, reliable leisure market. You can still find good flight options at relatively good prices.” Al Gesimar, director of conferences and corporate training for St. Louis-based Enterprise Rent-A-Car, who has been holding 750attendee conferences in Orlando for more than a decade, sees the airlift situation as something that makes the city very attractive in this economic environment. 24 MeetingNews June 22, 2009 “You can’t overestimate the value of having nonstop flights from lots of destinations into Orlando, at least for our needs,” Gesimar said. “Our employees are not productive when they are waiting in an airport somewhere for their “We basically told our meeting planner customers, ‘We’ll share the risk with you on attrition,’ ” Kuska said. “We ask them to stay on top of the room-block pick-up prospects going toward the meeting date, and we cut down the The Orange County Convention Center’s occupancy level still reflects demand. next flight. We need them into the conference destination as soon as possible and then back to work as soon as possible, and that becomes even more important in a tight economy.” Hoteliers in Orlando are articulating a variety of strategies these days for their dealings with meeting groups, with the word used most frequently being “value.” Rosen Hotels president and COO Harris Rosen, whose company owns about 6,300 hotel rooms in close proximity to the Orange County Convention Center, said to a certain extent, it’s business as usual for him. “We feel that this business is about meeting your customers’ needs,” Rosen said. “That is pure and simple.” Several months ago, the 500-room Florida Hotel & Conference Center adopted a no-attrition-fee policy for groups, said director of sales Simone Kuska. As a result, she said, business has gone up at the hotel, where groups and meetings comprise half of all business. room block if its warranted, but we don’t make them pay attrition fees under that plan. And group business is doing better than our projections.” One planner reporting better-than-expected results in Orlando right now is Steve Lewis, producer of the annual Performance Racing Industry trade show, which is the world’s largest auto racing industry trade show. PRI has been held in Orlando in for the past four Decembers and is booked there through 2016. Lewis said he expects about 1,450 exhibitors and 45,000 attendees from 50 countries, using about 800,000 square feet of the convention center for the Dec. 10-12 show, virtually the same size as last year. “Because there are so many choices in Orlando in terms of lodging and dining and airlift, it’s a destination that is really right for us,” Lewis said. r

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Meeting News - June 22, 2009

Meeting News - June 22, 2009
Collier County Insert
Meetings Spotlight
MeetingNews Research
Association Watch
Construction Cites
Meeting People
Event Profile
Travel Dashboard
Dateline: Bermuda
Dateline: New York
South Regional
Las Vegas Insert

Meeting News - June 22, 2009