Between sharing leads, scouting new venues, hosting site visits, providing collateral and more, Visit Orlando helps destination management companies (DMCs) bring their business home (IPW Chairman’s Circle Honors Event at IPW 2022 in Orlando pictured).
As meetings, conventions and events return to a thriving Orlando, destination management companies (DMCs) welcome Visit Orlando’s helping hand in putting together unforgettable events for business groups. See how we can do the same for your organization — both now and in the future.
Visit Orlando & DMCs: A Perfect Partnership
In 2021, the Elm Grove, Wisconsin-based Specialty Tools & Fasteners Distributors Association (STAFDA) needed to change their show’s location at the last minute. They called Visit Orlando, which used its expertise and contacts to find a free spot within the Orange County Convention Center’s calendar and host hotels to accommodate the group. What’s more, it was completed inside of two weeks thanks in large part to tireless work on the part of Visit Orlando National Accounts Director Hayat Pronovost.
“Orlando had bid on our group in 2024, so they had all our group information,” said Georgia H. Foley, CEO of STAFDA, adding: “It was a beautiful happening. We have never pulled together something this fast.”
Not that there weren’t some challenges to overcome. “We are known for our opening party,” said Foley. “In 2012, we did Universal CityWalk. Our group is mostly men, 40 to 60 years old, so we have to keep that demographic in mind. We also don’t like to bus attendees. We wanted to find some place walkable.”
That’s when e2 Destination & Event Management, a Hosts Global Member in Winter Park came up with exceptional venues to produce a welcome party to set their attendees’ selfie sticks on fire.
“We looked at the theme parks, but the client really liked the idea of doing something closer to the convention center, so we came up with a party idea that had never been done before,” said Kristin Perpich, e2’s senior account services manager.
“We suggested hosting a block party at Topgolf and Andretti Indoor Karting & Games, which are so close they share a parking lot,” said Perpich. “Even with the large numbers we were looking at, we knew using both spaces would be a no-brainer.”
According to Perpich, the client saw several different venues the day she and her team toured with them, but they liked the block party idea at the two venues the best. “We were excited to execute this event because it gave e2 the distinction of being the first company to host a block party at these two venues since both attractions opened in 2017,” said Perpich.
“The Andretti and Topgolf package was another blessing,” added Foley. “We did buyouts in both venues and worked with e2 in bringing in a DJ on a mobile platform, stilt walkers who greeted the group, a caricaturist, and other entertainment.”
Half of the group started at Topgolf and half at Andretti, and switched locations during the night. “All golf bays were full, and we had surprise guest [pro golfer] Annika Sörenstam walking from bay to bay greeting guests, taking photos with the group and offering golf pointers,” said Foley. “Guests at Andretti loved the arcade games and go-karts and became very competitive. It was an absolutely terrific party.”
Leadership in Safe Meetings
The pandemic hit the hospitality industry harder than most, but its effects are now largely in the rearview mirror for Orlando, where one in three jobs are tied directly to travel and tourism. Hotel occupancy is up, and meetings and conventions have roared back to life stronger than ever. Not every DMC that works with Visit Orlando is back up to full speed, though — making them all the more grateful that the latter exists.
“Some of our [corporate and association] clients might have had a department of 25 meeting planners pre-COVID, but during the pandemic, employees were let go, or planners left the industry altogether because no one knew when meetings would return,” said Trevor Hanks, DMCP, managing partner of 360 Destination Group. His destination and event management company has 17 offices around the country, including Orlando.
“Now that business is so robust and has come back fast and furious, we’re all trying to ramp up, but some hotels are still short staffed,” Hanks added. “No one is back to full strength, so this is the time we count on Visit Orlando for the extra help in the planning stages.”
Determined to stay in close contact with clients while business was flat, Perpich was delighted to discover Visit Orlando answered her call, producing newsletters, blogs and videos to highlight the latest and greatest news of the city.
“We wanted to stay top of mind for our clients, so we kept them up to date on what was current in the region, as well as news on how COVID was affecting travel and tourism here,” said Perpich, who remains grateful for information on new hotels under construction and encouraging videos from Casandra Matej, president & CEO of Visit Orlando.
STAFDA reported similar positive experiences. “[Visit Orlando Destination Experience Senior Manager] Heidi Baez assisted us with promotional-type material for our members and help with the microsite,” said Foley. “We also got constant COVID updates.”
Collaboration Is Key
While some destination marketing organizations (DMOs) and convention & visitors bureaus (CVBs) are more competitive with DMCs, the end goal should be making it easier for a client — something Visit Orlando excels at. “Visit Orlando is one of the better DMOs we work with; it’s more of a collaboration,” said Hanks.
“If [a group wants] one dinner, they’re probably not going to use a DMC, and that’s where the DMO can refer a client directly to a venue. But if a client wants a dine-around with transportation, they do need a DMC; that’s where we come in. We’re known as the quarterback; a one-stop shop.”
Visit Orlando distributes leads to all member DMCs. Hanks is quick to say we do a good job of communicating at the beginning of the solicitation process, as well as when garnering feedback from clients at the end.
Perpich said communication is key between a DMC and Visit Orlando. “It’s a partnership. We have a good relationship with Visit Orlando … and have calls where we talk about a program and shoot off some ideas. We want it to be very interactive and fortunately, these days, we are so busy and feel lucky that Visit Orlando fields so many of our requests.”
Visit Orlando helps DMCs feel like a cohesive team, said Cheri Secue, vice president of business development, CSI, Orlando, focusing less about getting the business and more about selling the destination.
“We’re in this together, and Visit Orlando is more like a family than any other CVB,” said Secue. “We lean on them, they lean on us, and guests are happy when they come to Orlando. I’ve won business over and over again, and I attribute that to Visit Orlando.”
Benefiting From Superior Sales Missions
Visit Orlando stages sales missions with planners, hotels and other venues across the country, a service greatly appreciated by DMCs. Many members of Visit Orlando’s convention sales team have longevity with the organization, thereby connecting and affirming invaluable relationships made throughout the years.
“I’ve done the sales missions in New Jersey, where Susan Zeiri [national sales director, Visit Orlando] is based,” said Hanks, “and when Susan holds an event, people come because they know it’s going to be top-notch, from the invitations to the theme of the event.”
Zeiri has been with Visit Orlando for more than 20 years and invites meeting professionals — particularly from the pharmaceutical and medical sectors — to events that reveal all that’s new in Orlando while welcoming salespeople from local hotels and theme parks.
“Sales missions are a huge benefit to us,” said Secue, adding that Chicago’s mission attracted 60 to 80 meeting professionals and other members of Orlando’s hospitality industry. “I saw more Orlando people in Chicago than I see in Orlando! It’s great to have those connections with the hoteliers and theme parks. I also love having the connection with the Visit Orlando team. Clients see, ‘We’re all in this together.’”
Secue also values Visit Orlando’s Destination Experience team members Carolyn Martin and Dorothy Kelley for their vast industry experience, as well as Courtenay Love, senior planner, trade show and events for Visit Orlando, who sometimes calls CSI for help on Visit Orlando site visits.
“Anytime we can jazz up sites with Visit Orlando, where it makes sense, we do,” said Secue. In fact, in Chicago, CSI stepped up to assist Visit Orlando with an after-hours cocktail party at an Under Armour store, where displays of shoes were replaced by tempting appetizer displays.
For a recent Visit Orlando site visit for a potential Orlando client, e2 created an event at the Vue on the 15th floor of Walt Disney World Swan Reserve, a new tower at Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. Freshly mixed craft cocktails were served during the visit, and clients were able to experience how their guests would view the spectacular nightly fireworks from three Walt Disney World® Resort theme parks during their event.
“We presented the group with glasses etched with fireworks on one side and the company’s logo on the other as a gift at the end of the site visit,” said Perpich. “Our goal is to provide ‘surprise and delight moments.’ We asked ourselves, ‘What can we do that’s fun and different?’ And we hope the client recognized the attention to detail.
“We want them to come to Orlando first and foremost, and then we’ll compete against the other DMCs to get the business later,” Perpich added with a laugh.
Visit Orlando presents sales missions in major destinations such as New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. These events have proven to be a reliable way for DMCs to network with potential corporate and association clients to discuss their services, said Perpich. “We all have the same mission: to get groups excited about coming to Orlando.”
“Visit Orlando wants the business, and they’re going to do what it takes to bring in groups, whether they come in one year, two years or five years,” said Hanks. “We had a year and a half of struggle, but Orlando still stayed strong. Now that the floodgates have opened, we are busy 24/7.”
Working with Visit Orlando is a partnership, said Perpich. She believes that the more the DMC is involved at the outset and can show a potential client their worth, the more they’ll call you. “Sometimes clients don’t realize what a DMC does, so if we can start at the beginning of the process to let clients know we are all inclusive — soup-to nuts — we can really help Visit Orlando while offering clients the best service.”
Perpich is delighted that Orlando has so much repeat business but admits that when clients come back to town, she must show the destination in a different way. “That’s why it’s great Visit Orlando is always up on what’s new in the destination.”
Sponsored lunches and other events are yet another way Visit Orlando keeps its members and non-members current. For example, Visit Orlando offers monthly Power Hour lunches, which are listed in the organization’s Member Insider eNewsletter.
“When there’s a great speaker at a new venue, we win two ways,” Perpich said. In June, the Power Hour lunch was at Ruth’s Chris Steak House. The event included networking with fellow members and a talk from Visit Orlando Chief Marketing Officer Danielle Hollander, who introduced the newly launched brand campaign “Unbelievably Real” and what it means to members.
“It’s another way they show their value to the member venue and people who are in attendance,” Perpich said.
Secue also enthuses about Visit Orlando’s member luncheons. “It’s an opportunity for us to see all the venues and vendors in one place.”
Hear From a New Visit Orlando Member
Kristine Iverson, president and founder of CROW Practice LLC, a wellness event-planning company, is a new Visit Orlando member and immediately saw the value of joining the organization. Specializing in executing unique, entertaining and compelling wellness-themed events, CROW Practice has already received a host of RFPs through Visit Orlando from companies interested in CROW’s services, including aromatherapy craft builds and fitness sessions.
“When I first started the company, I honestly was not aware of the value Visit Orlando could bring,” said Iverson. “But since I’ve joined, it’s been phenomenal. We recently had our largest event ever with different wellness stations including Zen Dens, sound healing, posture and stretching classes, nutrition speakers, and continuous meditation sessions. This was a huge program for our new growing team and our client couldn’t be happier.”
CROW Practice also supplied gift bags to Maritz, one of the largest incentive companies in the country. Their “Box in the City” included an informational card along with an essential oil.
The subject of wellness was on the rise pre-COVID and today, more and more people want to talk about wellness as well as mental health, said Iverson. “I know joining Visit Orlando will give CROW Practice more visibility and a way to expand our business, and that will enable us to fulfil our mission to share wellness and self-care techniques with all who are searching for it.”