Black Meetings and Tourism

March / April 2015

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I N T H E N E W S B M & T ••• March/April 2015 ••• 8 ORLANDO BECOMES FIRST DESTINATION TO SURPASS 60 MILLION VISITORS, SETS NEW RECORD FOR U.S. TOURISM INDUSTRY Visit Orlando, the destination's official tourism association, recently announced that more than 62 million people visited Orlando in 2014, including 10 million who came for business and conventions. The announce- ment marks a new all-time record for the U.S. travel indus- try, solidifying Orlando's posi- tion as the most visited destina- tion in the nation. Visitation grew five percent from 2013 as visitors from around the world came to experience all that is new across the ever-expanding destination. "This historic milestone is the latest testament to Orlando's leadership in tourism," said Visit Orlando President and CEO George Aguel. "It's a tribute to the steadfast commitment and continued investment by our tourism community, the special brand of service that greets our visitors and the global market- ing and sales efforts of our Visit Orlando team and member companies." A record 32 million room nights were sold in Orlando in 2014, resulting in bed tax collections topping $200 million for the first time in Orange County, Fla., home to the Central Florida tourism district. "The impact of tourism on our community is remarkable, and in fact, the travel and tourism industry is the largest generator of jobs and economic impact for our region," said Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs. "In addition to delighting visitors and families from around the world, our travel and hospitality indus- try helps to support a great quality of life for Orlando's resi- dents, including our amazing new performing arts center and outstanding sports venues." To meet the needs of a growing number of visitors, Orange County has made investments in infrastructure, including invest- ing in an important expansion and renovation of the nationally recognized Orange County Convention Center. "Passing the 60 million annual visitors mark is a significant achievement for Orlando and the U.S. travel industry that gen- erates $2.1 trillion for the U.S. economy each year," said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. "Thanks to the close partnership among members of Orlando's tourism community and strong leadership by public officials and Visit Orlando, this popular destination known around the world is well positioned to continue setting records in tourism." In 2014, Walt Disney World Resort completed New Fantasyland, and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando Resort opened. Visitors to Orlando in 2015 will experience the first full year of these excit- ing expansions that opened in 2014 and be the first to see sever- al new attractions, including I-Drive 360, featuring a trio of new attractions from Merlin Entertainments, as well as a multi-year transformation of Downtown Disney into Disney Springs. In recent years, the Orlando experience has also become more diverse, attracting an increasingly wide range of visitors. Foodies find a surprisingly sophisticated culinary destination, recognized with more "Best of the South" chef nominations by the prestigious James Beard Foundation than any city in Florida for three straight years. Luxury travelers are drawn to the five- star service at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando that opened six months ago, as well as the Ritz-Carlton Orlando and Waldorf Astoria Orlando. Visitors are also discovering exciting new venues in which to enjoy the arts and professional sports, like the Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts and the Major League Soccer sta- dium coming to Downtown Orlando in 2016. The Florida African American Heritage Preservation Network is holding its 2015 Biennial Statewide Conference in Tallahassee, FL, May 18-20, 2015. This one-of-a-kind conference will bring together representatives from over 40 African- American historic sites and museums to provide learning opportunities for museum professionals and patrons to lead, manage, and collaborate more effectively, while experiencing the unique history and culture of the north Florida region. The theme for FAAHPN's 2015 Biennial Statewide Conference is Places of Empowerment: Redefining the Role of Cultural Institutions (Saving, Interpreting and Accessing Cultural Spaces). The symposium is designed to broaden the perspectives of those in attendance by cultivating an under- standing of cultural spaces as empowerment zones for preserva- tion beyond the built environment, to include the safeguarding and perpetuation of African-American culinary traditions and social norms. On Monday, May 18, there will be a free pre-conference ple- nary session, featuring Donovan Rypkema. Rypkema is princi- George Aguel

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