Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: March/April 2018
MEETING IN ‘THE SUNSHINE STATE’ JUST GOT BRIGHTER WITH NEW RENOVATIONS AND UPGRADES
By: Solomon J. Herbert II

According to a recent research study surveying both corporate and association meeting planners across the country, Florida is ranked the highest state for affordable travel, accessibility and value. Add to this the state's beautiful weather and diverse hotel and venue opportunities, and Florida is the perfect meetings, conventions, and incentive travel destination. Hosting your next meeting will definitely BRIGHTEN your attendance and agenda.

Florida has zoos, children's museums and some of the most beautiful beaches in the state. Its cities - Pensacola, Fort Walton Beach, Panama City Beach, among them - are perfect for making memories. Northeast Florida has natural wonders, history and some big-city attractions - in Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Daytona Beach and others - to entertain your delegates and their family members traveling with them.

Central Florida was practically built with attendee free time in mind, starting with Orlando and theme park fun. And none of its cities - Tampa, St. Petersburg, Cocoa Beach and others - is far from the shoreline. South Florida, with balmy temperatures and warm turquoise water, is where delegates and their families can make every second count. Miami, Fort Lauderdale, the Palm Beaches, and the Keys are wonderful locales for vacations they will never outgrow.

FORT LAUDERDALE

Fort Lauderdale is one of Florida's most beautiful destinations, offering meeting planners plenty of options for a meeting or gathering of just about any size. From large 1,000+ delegate conferences to weddings and family reunions this beach city has got you covered.

With the 600,000 sq. ft. Gold LEED Certified Broward County Convention Center, you'll enjoy high-tech meeting and exhibit space as well as five-star food service, an Internet café and elegant banquet rooms.

The highly anticipated $750 million Convention Center expansion project is continuing to move forward, with the architects beginning work on drawings necessary for the site plan application.

The project will add more than 500,000 sq. ft. of meeting, ballroom and exhibition space, and a plaza along the water with space for three restaurants, an amphitheater and generous outdoor programming space.  The project also includes an upscale 800-room headquarters hotel operated by Omni Hotels and Resorts, which will be interconnected with the Convention Center.

Greater Fort Lauderdale / Broward County is emerging as the most diverse area in the country and it's the gathering place of choice for large professional organizations, including some of the country's most influential African-American groups.

The Urban League, the Newspaper Publishers Association, and 100 Black Men of America have all made return visits to plan their national social justice agendas. Members of Delta Sigma Theta and Omega Psi Phi made history leading the famed Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade and the Alpha Kappa Alphas will convene here this year.

Broward County's next big cultural and heritage tourism attraction - a multimillion-dollar tennis training facility and museum that will draw amateur players and enthusiasts of the sport from around the U.S. and the Caribbean to the Greater Fort Lauderdale area - is in development.  The American Tennis Association (ATA) will move its headquarters from Maryland to Miramar, and the ATA Black Tennis Museum and Training Facility will create a major hub for tourism in western Broward County, beyond the beaches.

Family reunions are drawn to Broward County for the experiences in suburban cities that offer affordable lodging and intergenerational activities.

Group or vacation traveler - the area offers a myriad of opportunities to celebrate the spirit of diversity in a friendly resort setting, or beyond the beach.

Enjoy the flavors - Caribbean-style and Latin fusion cuisine and some of the South's best soul food and BBQ.  Visit the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center. Discover the heritage of the Seminole Indians. Explore some of the gems of diversity the country offers - places with their own unique cultural ambiance.

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) opened Concourse A in Terminal 1 in July 2017 and added five new international gates. Terminal 4 East opened in December 2017 with six new international gates, which will replace the international gates in Concourse H. Both projects are part of a $3.2 billion airport expansion and modernization program.

For more information contact the Ft. Lauderdale CVB at(800) 22-SUNNY, (954) 765-4466 or www.sunny.org.

MIAMI

Miami is a vibrant cultural hub that is home to amazing attractions, pristine beaches, top restaurants, exciting nightlife, world-class arts and cultural venues, historic and heritage neighborhoods, and two national parks - Biscayne National Park and Everglades National Park.

This Florida jewel boasts three Convention Centers totaling nearly 1 million sq. ft., and 74 Specialized Meeting Venues. Miami is equipped with many stunningly unique art galleries, attractions, museums, nightclubs, private clubs and theatres that create memorable environments for receptions, breakout sessions and other events. More than 50,000 hotel rooms are available, from intimate boutique hotels to convention properties to luxury resorts. Up to 10,000 rooms are available for group blocks. Another 8,500 rooms will be available by 2019.

From not-to-miss events and a burgeoning art scene to adventurous attractions and historical landmarks, Miami offers a range of experiences for every type of traveler whether for business or pleasure. Explore the talents of artists living, working and visiting Miami in mediums of dance, theater, music and the visual arts.

Miami International Airport: Offers 97 international and 53 domestic, and non-stop flights daily from more than 100 airlines. It is located in the center of the city and is just 12 miles from the Miami Beach Convention Center.

            For more information contact the Greater Miami CVB at (800) 933-8448 or www.miamiandbeaches.com.

JACKSONVILLE

Looking for an unforgettable event destination? Jacksonville, Florida is the perfect setting for your next meeting or convention. In addition to world-class conference facilities. visitors love the riverfront downtown, vibrant local culture, miles of white sand beaches, access to nature and wildlife, and world-class golf, shopping, and dining.

As Florida's youngest city - and one of the hippest - Jacksonville is the getaway that leaves you feeling refreshed yet accomplished. You won't need a vacation from this vacation!

Here, you can experience a different side of Florida, combining both relaxation and adventure, and allowing you to choose just how active you want to be. Enjoy Jacksonville's 22 miles of beaches, extensive park system, world-class fishing, historic neighborhoods, vibrant street arts scene, creative coastal cuisine, delicious craft beer, vibrant nightlife and so much more!

Located in downtown Jacksonville, the Prime Osborn Convention Center offers 275,000 gross sq. ft. of flexible meeting space plus 78,500 sq. ft. of contiguous exhibit space all with wireless capability, making it the perfect setting for conventions, tradeshows, meetings, and banquets. Just minutes from the Jacksonville International Airport and less than a mile from over 2,300 hotel rooms, the Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center is a sophisticated setting for your next event.

The Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts offers stunning river views, a convenient downtown location, and state of the art audio and visual capabilities. The center boasts three theaters with fixed seating for up to 3,000 guests and an additional 20,000 sq. ft. of lobby space for events and receptions. The center's downtown location is convenient to nearby hotels and within walking distance of 5,000 parking spaces.

Jacksonville has grown into a world-class arts and culture destination. The local art and music scenes are alive with festivals and events. From the historic Florida Theatre, to Veterans Memorial Arena, to the Robert E. Jacoby Symphony Hall, your delegates' musical options range from classical, to country, rock-and-roll, and everything in between.

From the arrival of the very first European explorers back in the 1500s, people of African descent have had a significant role in the making of Jacksonville. Today, the region's African-American Heritage Trail rounds up the most significant sites for a wonderfully wide-ranging look at Jacksonville's past.

Jacksonville International Airport provides non-stop flights to more than 30 major U.S. cities and is only 15 minutes from downtown. The airport offers 100 daily arrivals and departures on all major domestic air carriers and a network of regional carriers.

            For more information contact Visit Jacksonville at(800) 733-2668 or www.visitjacksonville.com.

ORLANDO

 As the number one meetings and convention destination in the country, Orlando offers a world of possibilities for unique one-of-a-kind meetings and events. From a top-rated convention center, low-cost accessibility and wide variety of hotels to world-class entertainment and unforgettable experiences, Orlando is an exciting gateway city for meetings of all sizes.

The city is constantly reinventing itself to provide fresh excitement to its guests. One of the newest developments, I-Drive 360, is just minutes from the convention center. It will be home to the 425-ft.-tall Orlando Eye observation wheel as well as more than 75 shops, restaurants and new attractions..

Whether an intimate group of 20 or a large convention of thousands, Orlando has the space to meet your needs. With one of the largest convention centers in the country and more than 118,000 rooms across the destination, Orlando has your group covered.

The Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) is one of the top convention centers in the country; it's also the second largest.  OCCC provides 2.1 million sq. ft. of exhibition space and 480,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space as well. Plus, its convenient location - just 11 miles from Orlando International Airport - with walkability to area hotels and entertainment, make it an enticing option.

At the end of the day, meeting attendees want to relax, recharge and be entertained. And Orlando serves up the excitement. Options include fine dining. Thriving cultural and entertainment scenes. National and indie music acts. Engaging shows. And amazing evening events at parks like Walt Disney World® Resort, Universal Orlando® Resort and SeaWorld® Orlando. The city's world-class golf courses, top-ranked instructors and luxurious resorts cater to the most discerning golf enthusiasts.

Bronze Kingdom is an impressive 8,000-sq. ft. gallery-museum located near the Orlando International Airport featuring the largest collection of rare African bronze sculpture in the world.

Collector, philanthropist, and entrepreneur, Mr. Rawlvan R. Bennett acquired this work over 35 years directly from African leaders through cultivated relationships and respectful negotiations, building schools, hospitals, and bridges for West African communities.

With over 2,000 pieces, Bronze Kingdom represents an important spectrum of African bronze, beaded, and wood sculptures from all over the continent including Nigeria, Cameroon, Mali, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Senegal, and The Democratic Republic of The Congo.

Few destinations are as traveler-friendly as Orlando. Orlando International Airport provides nonstop service from more than 100 cities around the world.

For more information contact Visit Orlandoat (800) 643-0482 or www.visitorlando.com.

Florida seems to have everything covered when it comes to providing Meeting Planners with the most BANG for their BUCK without compromising top level hospitality and convention services. Thanks to the state's beautiful beaches and world-famous weather, exceptional year 'round value and a plethora of unlimited activities from boating, dining, golf, spas, ecotourism to theme parks 'The Sunshine State' truly holds the title of being NUMBER 1 in tourism!!

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