Thanks to constant improvements throughout the destination, Orlando continues to be the No. 1 meetings destination in the U.S.
Orlando’s ability to host world-class meetings has been bolstered in recent years by explosive growth and constant upgrades at the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC), Orlando International Airport (MCO) and meetings hotels throughout the destination — but Cvent’s No. 1 meetings destination in the U.S. isn’t ready to rest on its laurels yet! Here’s your guide to the expansions and improvements we have planned for 2019 and beyond, designed to ensure that Orlando will continue to be the best choice for meetings and events of any size for years to come.
Orange County Convention Center
Orange County Convention Center in Orlando
Already one of the best in the U.S., the Orange County Convention Center is moving forward with a $605 million improvement project that will bring expansions, including new meeting and exhibition space, to the North and South concourses. These plans will add to the OCCC’s existing 7 million square feet of function space.
Included in the expansion is the Convention Way Grand Concourse, which provides an enclosed connection between the North and South concourses. It also boasts additional meeting space and an 80,000-square-foot ballroom with a grand entrance to the North-South building along Convention Way.
The upcoming, 200,000-square foot Multipurpose Venue is a flexible, divisible, column-free space with a combination of retractable and floor seating to accommodate between 18,000-20,000 guests. This project will also incorporate connectivity between the North and South concourses.
Trade Show at the Orange County Convention Center
“As a leading meeting and convention destination, Orlando is known for continually investing in the region’s growth, and this next phase of the Orange County Convention Center is another testament to our commitment to this industry,” says George Aguel, president & CEO, Visit Orlando. “The expansion at the center will create a wealth of new opportunities for groups of all sizes, and will serve as a catalyst for additional development throughout our convention district, including new hotels, restaurants and entertainment options.”
These upcoming improvements will build on five years of constant growth at the center, with previous projects enhancing walkability and connectivity between the OCCC and the surrounding convention and tourism district. Currently, attendees have access to more than 75 restaurants and attractions within 2 miles of the center, and an additional $1 billion in high-profile development is planned through 2020, including a massive expansion to the ICON Orlando 360 entertainment hub.
Orlando International Airport
Orlando International Airport
Orlando International Airport is Florida’s busiest travel hub — but as evidenced by its ranking as J.D. Power & Associates’ No. 1 mega airport in the U.S. in terms of customer satisfaction for two straight years, it’s also the nation’s most pleasurable for travelers. And there’s still more to come in the airport’s ongoing enhancement program.
For example, Airside 3’s existing Airport People Mover (APM) system, which was installed in the 1970s, is being replaced with a high-tech new train. And 119,000 square feet at Airside 4 will get renovated in the coming year, increasing the facility’s throughput by 25 percent.
What’s more, a $3 billion South Terminal is being constructed next to the airport’s new Intermodal Facility, resulting in more gates for domestic and international air service, expanded customs and check-in areas, and future rail transportation.
The latter’s options will include high-speed rail, light rail and commuter rail. Meanwhile, preparations continue for Brightline — a high-speed rail service to West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami that’s expected to begin service in 2020.
Orlando Meetings Hotels & Resorts
Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando
Just as the Orange County Convention Center and Orlando International Airport continue to improve, so do Orlando’s meeting hotels, creating even more room and meeting-space inventory for event planners. In 2018 alone, the convention district’s Avanti Palms Resort & Conference Center (learn more) and DoubleTree by Hilton Orlando at SeaWorld (learn more) both completed major renovations that included increased event space, while Universal Orlando Resort opened a new option for groups seeking accommodations only at Universal’s Aventura Hotel (learn more).
Other recent and upcoming expansions at meeting hotels in Orlando include:
Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resort
Walt Disney World Resort has completed an expansion of the convention center at this gorgeous property, which also received renovated guestrooms. Having added an additional 28,000 square feet, the convention center now offers more than 100,000 square feet of flexible meeting and event space.
The expansion includes a new pre-function area and the 16,000-square-foot Newport Ballroom, which is perfect for exhibits, ceremonies, networking events and general sessions. “You’ll find upgrades throughout the rest of our convention center to match the look and feel of the new ballroom, plus great amenities and state-of-the-art technology that we’ve built into our meeting spaces,” says Maryann Smith, vice president of sales, services and events, Walt Disney World Resort.
Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld
In February 2019, this convention district resort will debut 41,000 square feet of new meeting space. The expansion’s centerpiece will be the configurable, 16,224-square-foot Peninsula Ballroom and its ancillary halls and rooms.
Once the expansion is complete, Renaissance Orlando will have more than 200,000 square feet of event space, all within walking distance of the Orange County Convention Center and SeaWorld Orlando.
Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
Featuring 1,910 recently renovated guestrooms and suites, this Walt Disney World property is adding a tower built with meeting and business travelers in mind. Set to open in summer 2019, the tower will include a new boardroom, three multi-purpose rooms and pre-function space, adding to the resort’s existing 220,000 square feet of meeting and event space.
The tower will also feature an additional 545 guestrooms and suites, a club lounge, and a rooftop restaurant and lounge offering panoramic views and private group space. Furthermore, a two-story grand lobby will feature a coffee bar by day and a lounge at night, as well as multiple seating areas and device-charging stations.
Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress
Located 1 mile from Walt Disney World, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress has broken ground on a 25,000-square-foot ballroom that will add an additional 32,000 square feet of pre-function and event space. Once the expansion is complete in fall 2019, this luxurious resort will have 102,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, including two ballrooms, exhibit space, pre-function space, 45 meetings rooms, and outdoor venues for groups of 10 to 1,000.
The new ballroom will include customizable, LED lighting functions, while the pre-function space will provide panoramic views of the resort’s landscaping and ease-of-access to outdoor areas. A formal event lawn will be connected to the new ballroom, as well.
“Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress features innovative design within a welcoming resort atmosphere,” says the property’s general manager, Paul Joseph. “We will soon have the space to create even more spectacular events to meet the needs of meeting planners, conference attendees and social event guests.”
Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort
Fresh off a $150 million, multiyear renovation of all 2,267 guestrooms, new dining options, and a contemporary, Italian-style piazza, this iconic property has announced plans for a tower expansion that will break ground this fall with an expected completion date of fall 2020.
Standing 14 stories tall, the new tower will feature more than 22,000 square feet of meeting space, including two ballrooms, 12 meeting rooms and a rooftop reception space with views of Walt Disney World’s nightly fireworks. It will also include 349 guestrooms and suites, a 90-seat restaurant and 50-seat lounge, and a landscaped, 16,800-square-foot elevated deck with a fire pit and pool, as well as other amenities.
“This new resort is designed to allow us to better meet the needs of meetings and groups,” says Gino Marasco, director of sales and marketing, Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. “Its unique, new features will complement our location, recent renovation and service to give planners even more options to enjoy.”
Once the tower is complete, the Swan and Dolphin will offer 2,600 total guestrooms and suites, as well as 350,000 square feet of meeting space. The tower will be open for group bookings starting Mar. 1, 2021.
Ready to start planning your next meeting or event in Orlando? Submit your RFP today.
Cover image courtesy of the Orange County Convention Center.