Canadian Travel Press
Issue Date: Jan 28, 2019

A one-stop shop for meeting professionals


Flanked by palm trees, the largest resort poolscape in South Florida with an international airport only a spit ball distance away, VISIT FLORIDA held its annual Florida Encounter event at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa in Bonita Springs, Florida.

Around for over three decades, the trade show which has been dubbed, “The Official Meetings Show of Florida,” is one of VISIT FLORIDA’s signature events. As one senior executive explained, this meetings event provides a one-stop-shop solution for qualified meeting professionals to meet individually with many of Florida’s premier meetings suppliers, including CVBs, resorts, hotels, convention centres, DMCs, and other service companies.

“One of the other aspects of the show that most of our supplier partners want is to see new people every year, so having the same attendee from the planner perspective every year can be good if there is real quality business to bring to Florida, but we also want to get planners who may not know so much about Encounter,” says Susan Armstrong, corporate meetings manager for VISIT FLORIDA, on the importance of attracting new qualified MICE attendees.

Superhero leadership
During the three-day event, delegates attended daily sessions with the keynote speaker filmmaker Brett Culp delivering a presentation titled, “Superhero Leadership: How Everyday People Can Have an Extraordinary Impact,” while invited media toured various meetings facilities in the region.

The Florida coastal vibe filtered into the evening soirees that brought together the more than 175 conference registrants. The opening evening reception was staged at the host resort’s Cypress Courtyard, giving attendees a chance to mix and mingle under the stars over drinks and the plentiful food stations as well as by the popular fire pit for s’mores and more drinks.

Another goal of the event, Armstrong explained is to provide prospective MICE planners with creative ideas in staging their own events in Florida. “It is to see what they can see for their own groups,” she told Canadian Travel Press on the value in using unique venues like the Shangri-La Springs, home to the actual bonita spring, “so they can present those ideas to the powers that be.”

The historic venue in Bonita Springs was all aglitter strewn in lights that draped passed Florida’s largest Mysore Fig Tree illuminating the diners below at the closing reception. The coastal vibe shone as guests had a chance to experience an interactive evening in one of the most tranquil places in Florida.

Inner artist
Some guests channelled their inner artist as they drew on paper with pastels, while others watched a local artist add pastel strokes of copper and indigo to an unfinished tiger mural. By another station, the sense of smell was heightened at the essential oil-making station, as local creators blended various oils like frankincense and fruity citrus. Another popular event activity evident by the continuous lineups was the mini-spa treatments. Massage therapists used portable massage chairs and worked their magic.

As one attendee observed the inter-active activities at Florida Encounter’s closing evening helped serve as conduits for aspiration. “Do you remember the whole experiential idea? Now event planners want to go beyond the experiential. Now it’s aspirational,” adds Armstrong on the growing trend that allows MICE professionals unique opportunities in thinking outside the box.

According to one VISIT FLORIDA representative, Florida is uniquely positioned to offer aspirational-style event space due to the destination’s diversity.

Kate Chunka, director of industry relations and sales at VISIT FLORIDA explained how Florida is not just home to traditional meeting spaces. “Our charge is to make sure event planners are aware of all the new attractions and all the new hotel properties,” she said.

Watch for aspirational event ideas available in Florida and more Florida Encounter FAM coverage in future issues.

Florida Encounter 2019 will be held from Nov. 20-22, at the Sheraton Bay Point Resort in Panama City Beach, Florida.

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