In January, Surf Expo 2021 became the latest in-person convention to enjoy a safe and productive edition in Orlando, and the best is yet to come — including your group’s next event.


Orlando continues to raise the bar for safe, in-person events, including more than 50 that have taken place at the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) since July 2020. Our streak continued in the first week of 2021, when Surf Expo kicked off its annual meeting on schedule — and the convention’s organizers wouldn’t have it any other way. As Surf Expo Show Director Roy Turner explained, “A face-to-face event is important for our industry.”

Learn more: No. 1 Destination for Healthy Meetings

While Surf Expo is a watersports and beach lifestyle marketplace, in-person contact is also the key to success for other sectors. It’s the reason why Orlando has also hosted such large-scale, notable events as the American Kennel Club National Championship Presented by Royal Canin and the 2021 Central Florida International Auto Show in December 2020, the Amateur Athletic Union Junior National Volleyball Championships in July, and many others. See how we made Surf Expo happen — plus get a sneak peek at another major show coming soon — and learn how we can do the same for your organization when you’re ready to return to live events!

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

Surf — and Safety — Are Up in Orlando

Surf Expo’s raison d'etre is connecting thousands of buyers and sellers not just from the continental United States, but also the Caribbean and Central and South America. Yet no matter where they came from, attendees arrived safely — and stayed healthy while they were here.

2021 Surf Expo
Surf Expo 2021 in Orlando

“We knew that the exhibitors wanted a marketplace to show their products,” said Jody Mosley, Surf Expo operations director, “and we knew that the buyers wanted to come and see it physically. We have the opportunity, the demand, and so here we are today.”

“It’s very important for people to feel the [merchandise],” added Juliana Barbere of Sajú, a Colombian brand.

With a growing number of exhibitors for Surf Expo and other events traveling to Orlando, the destination and the OCCC are showing the world that conventions and trade shows can meet safely today for a stronger tomorrow. “First impressions being here for our first Surf Expo is, it’s great,” said Mallory Fuhs of Parks Marina. “It’s very organized overall.”

The OCCC also worked closely with Surf Expo to develop its health and safety guidelines, which include extra precautions such as a no-contact policy, prescheduled vendor visits and transparent barriers at all registration counters. Furthermore, the convention center and overall destination continue to uphold all nationally recommended precautions, including social distancing and mandatory mask policies. Per Brenton Schulz of 4ocean, “Everybody’s social distancing [and] everybody’s wearing a mask.”

Your meeting attendees can also rest assured knowing that Orlando’s restaurants, resorts, theme parks, attractions and other reasons to visit have similar guidelines in place. “We went to [Universal’s Islands of Adventure] and everything was very clean,” said Barbere, with Don Dyer of J-SEA adding, “I felt extremely safe.”

What’s more, the Orange County Convention Center is part of a first-of-its-kind collaboration between Visit Orlando and Orlando Health, which provides convention groups with personalized medical planning and support. Our convention center was also one of the first in the nation to receive the Global Biorisk Advisory Council’s Star Accreditation — recognized as the gold standard of safe venues. Several other Orlando venues have since received the same honor, including Orlando International Airport, its onsite Hyatt Regency Orlando, downtown Orlando’s Amway Center and more.

“[The OCCC] has been a great partner for us,” said Turner. “We’ve been here 35 years, and I can’t say enough about the staff and the understanding that comes out of the convention center with the safety concerns that we have in holding an event during the COVID period.”

More Large-Scale, In-Person Events Coming Soon

Photo of the Together Again Expo held at the OCCC in July 2020.
No Destination Does Healthy In-Person Events Like Orlando

With these precautions in place and an unbroken string of successful, COVID-era shows to its credit, Orlando and the Orange County Convention Center are looking forward to welcoming new and returning shows as the destination continues leading the way for safe events. Next on our slate? MAGIC Pop Up Orlando, Womenswear in Nevada (WWIN) Orlando Showcase and OFFPRICE, which will exemplify Orlando’s “stronger together” approach by hosting three side-by-side events at the OCCC on Feb. 9-11, 2021!

A special Florida edition of Las Vegas’ long-running MAGIC fashion show, and produced by Informa Markets Fashion, MAGIC Pop UP Orlando will spotlight women’s and men’s apparel, accessories, and footwear. To answer the industry’s demand for a comprehensive, physical buying event in the first half of 2021, MAGIC is teaming with U.S.-based fashion tradeshows WWIN Orlando Showcase, which focuses on womenswear fashion and accessories, and OFFPRICE, serving the affordable apparel, accessories and footwear sector.

All three events will feature considerate layouts, appointment-driven networking, no-contact registrations, and early open hours for at-risk guests. Using safety as their cornerstone, organizers approached the planning process with rigorous implementation of protocols across all shows to ensure the highest levels of safety and hygiene.

“Connecting face-to-face and tactile experiences are key components to how the fashion industry does business,” says Kelly Helfman, commercial president of Informa Markets Fashion. “It’s more important than ever for key events players to unite and work together to deliver on the needs of our brands and buyers in the safest, most thoughtful, and effective manner.”

Stay tuned to our blog to see how organizers and the OCCC turn this one-of-a-kind show into a successful outing, and start making plans now for your organization’s return to healthy, in-person meetings in Orlando!

Ready to learn more about hosting healthy meetings in Orlando? Submit your RFP, and subscribe to our newsletter for updates from Cvent’s No. 1 meeting destination in the country.