Orlando Weathers Federal Conference Cutbacks

With a cancellation of a major federal conference due to sequestration weighing on Central Florida, large conference hotels in the Orlando area are reconsidering their marketing approaches, something that could help them stay strong despite the negative press.

With sequestration taking multiple knocks out of Orlando’s meetings-heavy economy, the news hasn’t been all great for that Florida metro area lately.

Clearly these cancellations are detrimental to the local economy, and they did not have to happen.

But that doesn’t mean that the local hospitality industry has given up hope just yet. More details:

The back story: In recent months, the city of Orlando’s event industry, which attracts a number of federal and defense industry events, has struggled in the wake of sequestration and federal budget cuts, along with negative attention drawn from a 2011 Department of Veterans Affairs event there. While some conferences, such as the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation & Education Conference (I/ITSEC), still went on prior to sequestration (though attendance was down 3,500 attendees from the year before, the Orlando Sentinel┬áreports), the pressure started rising after the automatic cuts went into effect earlier this year, leading the General Services Administration to cancel its annual expo, set for this year in Orlando.

The effects: The cancellation of the GSA expo was a hit to the Central Florida economy: The event, which draws 7,000 people yearly, would have been an estimated $13 million economic boost. And with the Orange County Convention Center unable to book a replacement event due to the last-minute cancellation, a contract clause forced the GSA to pay a $262,755 penalty. Also, the National Training & Simulation Association, which puts on I/ITSEC each year, was forced to cancel a 300-person meeting in August, though the larger event will still take place later this year. Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL), whose district includes a large swath of the Orlando metro area, says that this was evidence that sequestration needs to be appealed. “Clearly these cancellations are detrimental to the local economy, and they did not have to happen,” Grayson told the newspaper. “Sequestration causes pain for hard-working Central Floridians and our tourism-driven economy. There is a simple way to solve the problem of sequestration: repeal it.”

An effort to adjust: As sequestration’s effects drag on and the competition from other cities heats up, two local hotels have banded together to adjust their marketing approach. The Peabody Hotel and the Hilton Orlando, both near the Orange County Convention Center, have launched a new campaign, “Orlando 3000,” to draw attention to their combined hotel room count of 3,058 rooms. (That’s nearly as many rooms as their largest single competitor in the region, Harris Rosen, which has 3,634 rooms spread out over three hotels.) Combined, the hotels also boast 475,000 square feet of meeting space.

Orlando's Orange County Conference Center (photo by Bladeflyer/Flickr)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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