April 2014

Florida is polishing its portfolio of venues

by Lisa Simundson

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Here’s a question Florida always has an answer for: What’s new? Between the new attractions, new and future adventures at theme parks, new dining options, expanded airlift and upgrades at major convention centers, it’s not an exaggeration to say the Sunshine State is in a constant state of flux when it comes to all things tourism-related.

“New product keeps us top-of-mind for meeting planners,” says Cheryl Hatcher, director of meetings and events for Visit Florida. “It seems as if there’s always something new being announced that will benefit our meetings and incentives markets.”

But nowhere is Florida’s forward trajectory more apparent than on its hotel scene, as new openings, reopenings and massive renovations continue to reshape the lodgings landscape. And more often than not, that new shape is taking the form of a more meetings-focused environment, a trend that many Florida tourism leaders find to be downright inspirational.

“Part of what meeting planners find inspiring about Florida is our diverse collection of hotels and resorts,” Hatcher says. “We’re offering more options than ever now and in the coming years. This allows planners to find exactly what fits the needs of their group, instead of having to compromise.”

Palm Beach Gardens’ PGA National Resort and Spa, for one, recently completed a $100 million renovation, upgrading rooms top to bottom, opening new specialty suites, adding a new golf course and just generally unveiling a more contemporary look.

“We evolved our products to be better for the meeting community,” says David Fine, the property’s senior vice president of sales, marketing and revenue, who adds that more than half of the resort’s business is group related.

Meanwhile, new hotels and resorts promise to be significant additions to Florida’s meetings and incentives portfolio. Among the highly anticipated openings is the Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach, slated to arrive in 2015 in a beachfront tower once occupied by a Trump property. It is an infusion of luxury gladly welcomed by the CVB.

“It will continue to elevate the upscale offerings on the beach,” notes Christine Tascione, vice president of convention and group sales for the Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB.

Also due in 2015 is an Aloft hotel in downtown Sarasota, while in 2016, look for the Hard Rock Daytona Beach and the Margaritaville Resort on Hollywood Beach, the latter offering 350 rooms and more than 30,000 square feet of meeting and convention space.

In the meantime, following is a roundup of some of the state’s other major hotel openings and renovations.

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