The AKC National Championship Presented by Royal Canin and 2021 Model Year Central Florida International Auto Show are the latest in-person events to highlight Orlando’s focus on attendee safety.


Since July 2020, Orlando has hosted numerous live, in-person events at the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) and meeting hotels throughout the destination. More importantly, they have all enjoyed healthy, successful events — including the American Kennel Club (AKC) National Championship Presented by Royal Canin and the 2021 Model Year Central Florida International Auto Show, which both came to the OCCC in December, with Surf Expo and others right behind them.

Learn more: Orlando Set to Become No. 1 Destination for Healthy Meetings

Read on to see how Visit Orlando and the OCCC helped create safe, rewarding outings for these multifaceted events. We’re eager to provide the same level of assistance when your group is ready to return to in-person meetings!

Please note: Depending on the timing of your visit, some experiences may be temporarily modified or closed. Learn more about healthy business travel and safety information in Orlando, and check with your favorite businesses for their current status.

AKC National Championship Presented by Royal Canin

Showcasing more than 5,000 top national and international canine athletes, the AKC National Championship Presented by Royal Canin is recognized as one of the world’s premier dog events and the United States’ largest dog show. Running from Dec. 14-15, 2020, the main event was held in conjunction with several related competitions, including the AKC Agility Invitational, the AKC Obedience Classic, the AKC National Owner-Handled Series Finals, and Juniors competition in Conformation, Agility, Obedience and Rally®.

The show hosted nearly 6,000 attendees across nearly 1 million square feet of exhibit space in the OCCC’s North-South Building. Given the ongoing pandemic, the event’s footprint and activities gave showrunners the opportunity to develop fresh ways of doing things — and OCCC staff were happy to help the AKC figure out a new path forward.

“We come here every year,” said Brandi Hunter, vice president of communication for the AKC. “The convention center has always been amazing to us. … They’ve adjusted, they’ve helped us with reworking some of the events, taking some things out, expanding grooming spaces — they’ve been helpful, completely.”

Like other events that take place at the OCCC, the AKC National Championship benefited from the venue’s exceptional safety features, such as the Global Biorisk Advisory Council’s (GBAC) Star Accreditation — the gold standard of safe facilities. Professional dog handler and breeder Michelle Jones also noted that attendees were temperature-checked on the way in and that masks were worn all day long. And that’s on top of the entire Orlando destination’s commitment to going above national health guidelines to safeguard visitors, including Orlando International Airport (MCO), hotels, restaurants, theme parks, attractions and more.

“Health was the number-one priority,” said Hunter. “That’s the only way we could pull this off here.”

2021 Model Year Central Florida International Auto Show (Dec. 18-20, 2020)

For more than 35 years, the Central Florida International Auto Show has celebrated the latest and greatest in automotive achievement by filling the Orange County Convention Center with hundreds of new cars, trucks, SUVs and more. Open to the public, the event also offers test drives to licensed drivers (including an interactive, off-road test track!), pet adoptions and other reasons to attend, creating unique logistical complications in even the best of years.

The 2021 Model Year edition, which took place Dec. 18-20, 2020, was no exception. But as always, Visit Orlando and the OCCC were up to the test, helping it become the first auto show to be safely hosted in the U.S. since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

“They’ve made sure that we have a safe infrastructure by which to do these kinds of events,” said Evelyn Cardenas, president of the Central Florida Auto Dealers Association. Accordingly, show-runners were confident that consumers could attend and have a good time while staying safe.

In addition to the OCCC’s robust safety features, event organizers took further steps to help ensure a healthy outing, such as controlling how many people were allowed on the show floor, enforcing social distancing and directing foot traffic. “You can have a good, positive experience and you’re still safe,” said Cardenas.

“The convention center is doing their part and maintaining social distancing, making sure people have their masks on, so you feel safe,” said Kaitlin Nevels, Dodge Ram driver. “It’s been a good experience.”

The Best Is Yet to Come

The AKC National Championship Presented by Royal Canin and the 2021 Model Year Central Florida International Auto Show are the latest large-scale, in-person events to enjoy healthy, successful outings in Orlando — and they won’t be the last. In fact, the Surf Expo just completed its latest edition on Jan. 6-8, 2021, with bigger and better shows coming soon. We can’t wait to host yours next!

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