Gary C. Sain, President/CEO, Orlando CVB
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What if there was not a meeting of the founding fathers to write the constitution of the United States? What if IBM and Microsoft never had the meeting where IBM gave control of the operating systems to Bill Gates and Microsoft? What if Ray Kroc never met face to face with Dick and Mac McDonald? What if no one came to President Obama’s inauguration or no one heard Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech live?
It’s hard to imagine a world without face to face meetings and interactions. Meetings are about connections. Face to face human interaction is the spark that motivates all of us to build, renew and nurture business relationships. Meetings bring people together and bring out the best in creative thinking, innovation and imagination. Ideas are what move businesses, shape nations and create compelling new products and services. Ideas are the cornerstone of what meetings are all about. Without ideas, we are not inspired. At the
Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc. we like to say meetings,
conventions and tradeshows generate not only a return on investment but a Return on
In this current economic crisis, we tend to focus more on cost cutting opportunities rather
than revenue enhancements. We cannot cost cut our way to future success and prosperity.
We must build top line revenue. Meetings, conventions and tradeshows are critical for
businesses and individuals to grow their sales and marketing opportunities, enhance their
individual performances and identify new ways of conducting business. Meetings are
economic drivers. They foster strong and long term personal business relationships which
cannot be duplicated by teleconference calls, webinars, or email. Technology can
enhance meetings but cannot substitute the power of face to face interaction.
The increased media sensationalism on meetings is one-sided. We agree that taxpayer
dollars should be spent wisely. However, the political rhetoric has created an
environment where corporate CEO’s are cancelling meetings due to the possibility they
may be vilified by the media. In fact, Las Vegas has been hit especially hard. The Las
Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority states in the last 90 days, the market has lost 340
meeting groups representing $131M in lost revenue.
A recent study by Meetings & Conventions Magazine (91% of all respondents worked
for companies that were not receiving federal bailout funds) found that 20% of meeting
planners had cancelled their meeting solely due to the negative media pressure and
political rhetoric. In addition, 52% said the “mass-media backlash against meetings” had
been “extremely” or “moderately” influential.
Business travel creates 2.4M jobs in the United States. Meetings and events are directly
responsible for 1.0M jobs in this country. Business travel accounts for $240B in spending
and $39B in tax revenue at the federal, state, and local levels. Here in Orlando, total
travel (leisure and business) is a $31B per year industry, directly or indirectly employing
1 in 4 Central Floridians.
Orlando is not immune to outside negative influences affecting the overall meetings
industry. We are the second largest meetings destination in the county, serving 10M
business travelers and generating over 5,000 meetings, conventions and tradeshows per
year. We are booking conventions and tradeshows into 2029 to secure economic stimulus
just as we have for the past 25 years of the Orlando/Orange County CVB’s existence. We
have more than $16B on the books in future business at the Orange County Convention
We have seen cancellations within our own destination, especially, in the financial sector.
However, our investment in meetings infrastructure will continue because we believe in
the future of meetings. Hilton Hotels Corporation and its owners alone are making close
to a $1.0B investment with 3,000 new hotel rooms at the convention center and Bonnet
Creek. The Peabody Hotel is investing more than $400M. These investments create new
jobs, generate incremental revenue and expand our offerings. Not to mention our current
inventory of 112,000 guest rooms of which many are focused on ten meetings market.
The US Travel Association has created a campaign Meetings Mean Business designed to:
• Urge the Department of the Treasury to swiftly enact clear and sensible meetings
and events guidelines for companies receiving taxpayer assistance
• Defeat punitive legislation designed to unreasonably restrict corporate meetings
• Encourage members of Congress to tone down their criticism of meetings and
events and embrace travel as a solution to America’s economic woes
• Inform the media about the benefits of meetings and events and the unintended
victims of sensational and uninformed criticism.
The Orlando/Orange County CVB is in full support of these initiatives. For more
information, please visit www.meetingsmeanbusiness.com.
Orlando Meetings Mean Business. Orlando Meetings Mean Jobs. And Orlando
Meetings Mean Economic Development. Meetings, conventions and tradeshows are
essential to our economic growth and overall economic health. As importantly, they
provide a compelling platform for connecting people to opportunities. And don’t we all
need more opportunities and new ideas in business.
If you should require additional information about the meetings industry and how you
can support our overall efforts please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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