There is a great quote by Helen Keller, "optimism is the faith that leads to achievement."
If there’s one lesson we have learned from the past year is that leaders need their faith and their optimism. This time last year, one of the largest conventions in the world, cancelled their show mid-move in at the Orange County Convention Center. The reasoning was a new virus called, COVID-19 – the Coronavirus. Almost one year ago, a once-in-a-century pandemic arrived in the United States and in Orlando. That will shake anyone to their core. All of us remember those early times of the pandemic. Here we are – still standing strong today.
While many other centers shut down and laid off their staff, we persevered. Our team knew that we would not be defined by this moment. We would be defined by what we do because of it. After all, we are the Center of Hospitality – in Orlando. One of the most beloved and trusted destinations in world.
With the forward-thinking leadership of our Mayor Jerry L. Demings, whose philosophy includes creating a community of innovation, collaboration and inclusiveness, we persevered together as a community. Here in Orange County, we want to lead, and leadership means going first with boldness. We lead with partnerships and developing relationships with stakeholders and clients. And we lead by growing this community through economic development and Tourist Development Tax (hotel tax) revenues.
Since the onset of the pandemic, we have hosted more than 60 events, including the first national business to business conventions like the Surf Expo in January and MAGIC Pop-Up Orlando, OFFPRICE Orlando Market, and WWIN Orlando Showcase in February. These trade shows demonstrate our commitment to the health and safety of attendees and exhibitors and have signaled to the world that Center is Meeting Safely Today for a Stronger Tomorrow.
No other venue has hosted that many live events, safely and without incident. We did not do it alone – this was a team effort with the amazing employees at the OCCC, support from Orange County Government and through our partners, stakeholders and clients’ confidence in our strategies.
Last month, we were able to host several simultaneous events. In fact, the Sunshine Volleyball Classic, which lasted two weekends, the AAU Volleyball Classic and the All Star Challenge, a cheer and dance competition, produced more than $56 million in economic impact through almost 38,000 room nights for nearly 44,000 players, coaches, family members and other attendees. That is in addition to hosting the Orlando Boat Show, a consumer show with 5,000 attendees, and space for vaccine distribution with the Florida Department of Health and testing at our remote parking garage.
As I mentioned in the Tourist Development Council meeting on March 26, we also have about 15 new conventions and trade shows that have relocated their 2021 events from other destinations to Orlando and the OCCC. That will result about 60,000 room nights and an economic impact of $124 million in new business for Orlando. We hope to maintain those relationships so that they consider Orlando again in the future and tremendously value their trust they have in us to safely host their important events.
Our ability to serve our community and successfully host events continues to get noticed. We have received numerous calls from industry colleagues asking how we have managed our comeback. It is through partnerships, collaboration, and perseverance. After all, that’s the Orange County spirit. We have persevered. In fact, our fall and winter months are jam packed, and we are looking at a very strong calendar in 2022.
We are so proud of where we are today and of the support we have received from our clients, stakeholders, employees and our community.
We look forward to great times ahead.