VISITFLORIDA, www.VISITFLORIDA.com, Florida’s Super Powered tourism marketing agency, in December 2016 produced it’s Florida Encounter for the benefit of 100 plus group tourism meeting planner/producer professionals, including travel journalist. @VISITFLORIDA hosted business tourism enablers with the potential to compel tourist groups and individuals to partake of Florida’s engaging hospitality, captivating experiences, perpetual warmth and wondrous wonders.
Because of these attributes the state of Florida’s tourism stakeholders, employ the nation’s highest percentage of the total workforce of any state in the USA. Additionally, the thriving and diverse statewide tourism industry provides viable opportunities to small and mediums sized enterprise and entrepreneurs; not just the big brands.
Florida Encounter, #MeetFL, annually, is a fantastic showcase of Florida’s compelling Meeting assets. Those assets Include tropical to mild weather destinations, pristine full featured resorts, expansive hi tech conference centers and meeting hotels as well as seductive and unique boutique properties. Also showcased were exciting attractions, top entertainment and an array of great global cuisine dining options. Not to be overlooked were many of the, can’t do without, providers event and meeting support, transportation and total logistics services.
Highlights of Florida Encounter included an opening night reception hosted by the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate; which was also the conference venue host. The reception which featured great hot live entertainment, sumptuous, fresh cooked Latin American and Seafood stations and, of course, a generous open bar. The ‘Party’ was on an outside setting reminiscent of an all too cool South Beach hotel lobby. This lavish affair was set on the Omni Orlando Experience Kissimmee Golf Course Commons. Did I mention the Omni Orlando at ChampionsGate has a big and expanding water park with a Lazy River. “I love a Lazy River.”
Participants enjoyed a second night of Big Fun, on the town in the Disney Experience, which has morphed, from the original Downtown Disney themed restaurant and bar stroll, into an exhilarating something for everyone to enjoy dining, shopping and attractions; day and night time destination. Speaking of nighttime they put on a nightly One Hundred multicolored Light Drone Show. It is an amazing display of high tech precision programming. Because of the season, we witnessed the drone show’s climax of the formation of a decorated Christmas Tree. I gotta say, look out pyrotechnic guys, drones are the next big thing in night sky light shows; without the blown off hands or worse. Disney Experience surely has changed, in a Really Great Big Way. The second night conference event, in Disney Experience was enjoyed at Raglans Irish Pub, with great libations and really good bar food, to encourage mingling with new professional friends, hosted by the Daytona Beach Area CVB.
On Thursday and Wednesday, the business of Florida Encounter was presented in a trade show setting, in which all of the Florida destinations, hospitality facilities and entertainment attractions showcased their offerings in exhibit booths. The hosted participants were obliged to visit most of them by pre-scheduled appointments. It was like a speed dating extravaganza with, dates set at 15 minute intervals and each date bearing 1st date gifts; which took care of all of my holiday gift giving intentions. There seemed to be no pattern to the traffic flow, across the exhibition floor; which actually encouraged more networking and was most likely the plan.
I was particularly impressed by getting deeper dive insight into some of Florida’s hidden or at least not so popular treasures; often overlooked and always overshadowed by their globally popular southeastern Atlantic coastal neighbors Miami and the Beaches, Ft. Lauderdale, Hollywood Beach, Palm Beach, Daytona and of course our hosts Orlando and Kissimmee. I now am seeking to enable my clients and readers to also discover the wonders, serenity and world class meeting destinations of Florida’s West, Northeast and Panhandle Coasts; as well as the Keys.
Did you know the USA has a Paradise Coast? It is the most southern west coastal area which includes, Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades. If you want to enjoy, total upscale and luxe hospitality facilities, amenities, shopping, services and indulgences Florida’s Paradise Coast is the destination for you. Check it out on FB: TheParadiseCoast and Twitter at @ParadiseMeeting. Thanks Naples, Marco Island, Everglades CVB for the Great Networking Luncheon.
We Journalist were given an exclusive face time networking reception with some key emerging destination. Among the host were Orlando North, Seminole County, www.donorthorlando.com, which in my opinion will emerge of one of Florida’s and the USA, great Eco-Tourism destinations, with great new hospitality facilities coming online! Also hosting was the Florida Keys, http://www.fla-keys.com/! Songs have been sung about some of them! Movies have been shot in them! How many times have you seen one of the bridges linking the Keys blown up? Some of the Keys are, going from the mainland to Southwest are, Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Boca Chica and the most famous Key West. I’m not sure if Key West’s fame is more from its exciting and often risque celebrations or the nationally famous Key Lime Pie. The Florida Keys are on my 2017 Bucket List. Another great host of the media networking event was new to me, Punta Gorda, Englewood Beach, of the Charlotte Harbor Gulf Island Coast, www.pureflorida.com. I really like the name, Punta Gorda! Did I mention there are beaches, an Island and a Gulf; that I really like! Thanks for the invitation Kenneth, PR Guy of @VISITFLORIDA.
Big surprises were three presentations during various key events which helped to make the Florida Encounter itinerary so very exciting, engaging, informative and entertaining; as is the state of Florida. Following the 1st Time Attendee Orientation there was a social media talk by @VISITFLORIDA’s social media agency, @LilBirdTM. There was something intriguing information presented, even for a self proclaimed Social Media Pro, like me! Thanks @APlaxen. The Opening Breakfast had us being jolted awake, post night before welcome party, by Second City Alum Robert Kulhan, www.businessimprov.com, who had us out of our seats, physically and verbally enabling our, much needed, pre-business meetings attitude adjustments for positive and productive client interactions and outcomes. Thanks www.FortMyers-Sanibel.com, for the wholesome breakfast.
The luncheon on Friday, had us in awe of an amazing interpretation of who we are a tourism industry professionals, in the most rhythmic, dynamic, in your face lyrical flow of the Slam Poetry Mastery of Poetic Voice @Sekou, www.sekouandrews.com. Sekou was followed by Florida’s own Host/Producer/EP of the engrossing, captivating, adventure TV Show “How To Do Florida”, www.howtodoflorida.com. All of these wonderful performances were presented by @VISITFLORIDA’s own bubbly and comedically skilled Miss Lily.
The Closing Night event was an indulgence in Southern Cuisine, Drinks, Entertainment and Ambiance provided by Chef Art Smith’s Home Coming Kitchen, in the Disney Experience. The Florida Encounter’s Party was set up on the Home Coming Kitchen’s outdoor front and side yard, not to be confused with a patio. Appropriately the side yard overlooks the Disney Springs river. After a savory Fried Chicken and Collard Greens dinner, I relaxed with a Moonshine cocktail and grooved to a classic folk and rock duo, belting out some of my favorites, which took me and everybody else to a great place. Yes there was dancing. Miss Lily and Miss Kellie have got the moves! Chef Art Smith has an association with Oprah, for those wondering; http://www.homecomingkitchen.com/.
Thanks for enabling me to Up My Global Tourism Professional Game and the really great time Miss Lily, Summer, Kenneth, the one and only Miss Kellie and the entire @VISITFLORIDA team!!!
For more insight into Florida’s great, warm, welcoming destination, accommodations, facilities, attractions, amenities and support services, so you can plan and have a great Florida meeting, Go To: #MeetFL, www.VISITFLORIDA.org.