Hospitality Hive

Updates, opinions, and news for anyone working in Orlando's Hospitality community

Hotel Rooms of the Future?

Anybody out there curious about what will await us when we check into a hotel room of the future?’

I am, which is why that headline caught my eye from a recent industry read.  Sure enough, some trends are fairly easy to predict because we’re already dealing with some of these projected changes (remote check in via a mobile app and/or self service kiosks, keyless room entry, etc.).  But others might surprise you. . .

For instance, did you know there are already some really cool robots hard at work in select hotels around the world?  Check out this video and see what you think:

My opinion?  Kinda creepy (except that the robot was delivering Jack Daniels, a very fine whiskey selection if I do say so myself. . .), but full disclosure. . . I’m not entirely comfortable talking to Siri or Alexa or R2D2 for that matter.

But before you roll your eyes pondering my age, ahem, think about this possibility in your hotel room of the future:  various in-room interactions via VCD (voice command device).  Pause while wondering what will happen when I say, “Siri – for the tenth time, close those damn curtains, will you?”.  And some hotels have already taken minor steps in this direction by having room temperature and lighting controls connected via inputting your room key into a master control at the entrance which I know first hand can be extremely frustrating, especially when there has been a failure to communicate that to the guest at check in.  Sayin.  And even when you use it the system requires some getting used to (“dang, where is that darn key now?”) and, as mentioned above, if we’re moving to keyless entries then some hotels will bypass this tech step altogether leaving us all talking to the walls when we want a light turned on or snapping our fingers, clapping our hands, or possibly even jumping up and down to get the air turned off.  Sigh.  Most talk of these ‘smart rooms’ also refer to a new term we need to get familiar with, ‘Internet of Things’  or simply, IoT, which means the interconnection via the internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects.  Major hotel chains are already experimenting with this and more, so get ready.

And how do you feel about facial recognition/digital image for hotel check in including your room access?  This is already gained acceptance in China and has been assisted by Apple iPhone X which contains that capability.

But, what about beds?  How can hotels improve upon the single most important and prominent feature of any hotel room?  Especially when we are all so used to those upgraded Heavenly Beds (thank you, Westin Hotels!).  Will we be in hammocks that give us a gentle rock now and again to lull us to sleep?  Water pods? Or possibly total levitation dependent on our body consciousness?  All possibilities that might come sooner than you think. Oh. My.

Want to sleep in this floating casket?

Want to sleep overnight in this floating casket?

Some hotels are already moving towards personalized gym experiences in each hotel room.  (After all, it does take quite an effort to march your body all the way down to the fitness center, doesn’t it??)  With advance planning you are already able to pre-order that a treadmill, workout bike, and other gym accessories are at the ready in your room, and just like at home, you can have the equipment programmed for exercise experiences such as taking a jog through NYC’s Central Park or a walkabout around the Sydney Harbour.  Heck, if you’ve got the money, you can even get yourself a personal trainer to work with as soon as you check in to room #748.  After all, who needs to rest when you’ve just spent the better part of your day in that increasingly stressful travel experience to get to said destination?

And finally, I do believe I’ve saved the best for last in sharing this headline that was received in my inbox recently:  First Ever Hotel in Space Now Taking Reservations! Not.  Kidding.  Talk about an out-of-this-world hotel experience (pun intended)! And by earthly my calculations, 2022 is only 4 (light?) years away from us.  What’s that, you’re asking?  Where do I sign up?  Well, first you have to commit to an abbreviated three month training program, down from the normal astronaut training of, um, a lifetime devoted to getting up there? And then there’s that little matter of the price tag, currently estimated at $9.5 million per personOn the plus side I do believe that price estimate will include all resort fees, taxes, and (fingers crossed) unlimited-not-to-mention-pretty-damn-awesome WiFi service 24/7!  On the other hand, with four years to go in project development, don’t count on it.  Especially and in particular if national hotel branding buys into this.  (Yes, I’m lookin’ at you, Mr. Marriott and/or Mr. Hilton.)

Anyway, that’s a very brief glimpse at what’s up ahead or, in some cases already waiting, for those of us brave enough to continue to travel.  After all, life’s a journey, right?

 

 

 

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Conference ‘What Ifs’?

What if there was an active shooter in a convention zone?

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We all now know IT can happen anywhere, and every time it does the very first person interviewed says “Gosh, we just never thought it would happen to us ‘here [fill in the blank].”

And yet it does, and the reality is it will continue.  I’m not saying we should get used to it.  I’m just saying we should no longer believe that anyplace, ANYPLACE/NOPLACE, is a safe haven from active shooter instances, and that includes the meetings and events that are the lifeblood of the hospitality industry in which I work.

How clear this is becoming was recently brought home to me during a pre-conference education session hosted by my client in which they brought in a security expert to talk to the staff about the ‘what ifs.’

Did you copy that pre-conference reference?  

Yeah.  It’s no longer enough for us to include risk management issues (think tripping over microphone wires in a meeting room or conducting a program with standing room only spaces filled to the max causing blocked exits), comprehensive and expensive insurance riders (ever seen a CEO jump on a mechanical bull while perhaps drinking a tad too much?) along with special training/lectures on sexuality issues in the workplace, providing a list of hurricane or weather related evacuation procedures, and special instructions on using/not using your ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign once in your hotel room. Oh, and I’ve already written in this blog about the ever-lengthening list of all the food issues with regards to allergies, special diets and meal requests.

But now it’s come to the point that meeting planners need to include some kind of nod to the potential of having an active shooter show up at our meeting or event and start the dialogue about how to react, as if people can actually be trained in advance for the sheer terror that would bring. . .

Anyway, during that recent session my client provided about what to do if an active shooter were to show up, the only note I actually wrote was quoted as follows:  “Anything can be used as a weapon in the fight for personal protection.” As the security expert spoke I glanced down at the clipboard in my lap – viewed as a standard job tool by most meeting planners – that I was now viewing as a potential means of meager personal protection “in case of. . .”

And then I just shook my head and shut it down.

That’s not to say I’m turning a blind eye to any of this because I do make my living as a planner, and successful planners have to consider all kinds of ‘what ifs.’ In the past, those usually reflected slightly more frivolous activities such as What if we’ve misspelled some names on the badges?  What if it rains?  What if the chauffeur doesn’t locate our VIP in the airport?  What if we run out of meatballs?  What if the speaker goes longer and our ice cream break is all melted?

You see where I’m going with this ‘important’ planner checklist of what ifs?

I’m not exactly sure where to insert ‘what if a shooter breaks into the ballroom while our meeting is in session’  in my checklist.

Sigh.

That kind of trumps the importance of all else, but apparently this is where we’re headed.  And already in my industry there are many webinars, training sessions, articles being published about dealing with the ‘what ifs’ that could be up ahead for us all.  The below is just one example of how to start the necessary and inevitable dialogue.

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Hey Pi People!

Listen up PI lovers.  Today is your day!  Woot-woot!

Yes, March 14 is the day when mathematicians around the world celebrate that Greek letter  pi day symbol

which is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant – the ratio of a circumference of a circle to its’ diameter –  which is approximately 3.14159. (Or, as their website refers to it as “both a number and a cultural phenomenon”.  Um, okay?)   And yes full disclosure, I did have to copy and paste that explanation so as to be accurate because gee whiz, no one has ever referred to me a mathematician.

On the other hand, I am somewhat of an expert about PIES.  And I’m pretty sure the fan club for that group is a lot bigger than the one for pi.  Just sayin’.

If you can't find a pie you love here, then you must be a cake lover!

If you can’t find a pie you love here, then you must be a cake lover!

Anyway, in honor of ‘PI’ day I’m twisting it into a more noble topic and writing this post specifically for lovers of PIES, so this is where my loyal readers need to pay attention.  I happen to have an in with the American Pie Council (yes, there is one, and yes, I’m bragging about my proud affiliation with same) as I hold a ‘seat at the table’ with them.  Next month I will be returning to their annual competition for my second chance at judging pies of all shapes, sizes, and flavors, and please don’t judge me but I’m already getting excited about it again!

Oh, and by the way, you can read about my first pie judging assignment here.

But if you’re already turning key lime green shades of jealousy, here’s the part where you can get involved and join in on the fun.  My friends at the Pie Council are looking for volunteers to work the upcoming 2018 National Pie Championship.  The event dates are April 6-7, and this year it’s happening at the Rosen Centre Hotel on International Drive.  Positions range from pie display set up, pie check in desk, pie cutter, working in the pie learning center, table captains, servers, and the list goes on.  There’s sure to be a pie spot to ‘fit’ every pie lover, so choose for yourself when you visit the website at American Pie Council. 

Plus, all volunteers receive a tee shirt and a pie – what more joy could you want in one day?!

So whether or not you’re a PI lover, why not celebrate 3/14 with a tasty slice of actual PIE? When you’re done licking that fork full of goodness, then move on over to the Pie Council website and sign up to be a volunteer at the upcoming APC National Pie Championship.  It will feature both amateur and professional pie makers from around the globe as they compete for top honors including sweet creams, fruits, chicken pot pies and this year there is even a gluten free category because we can’t deprive GF people of pie goodness!  Pies are crafted on site and judged based on appearance, taste, consistency, crust and overall product.  So yes, my job is heavy with both responsibility and calories but hey, someone’s got to take a hit for the team, right?

As another tasty aside, I’ve also learned that Publix is celebrating National Pi Day with free samples of key lime pi(e) in their bakeries from 4-7PM on March 14.

Life just gets sweeter and sweeter here in the Hive. . .

 

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This is My Orlando – What’s Yours?

Working in the world of meetings and conventions where exciting things are always happening, I tend to take some things for granted.  Perfect example was when I recently explained to an out of towner that all of the four groups I had just managed here in Orlando had chosen to have evening events at one of ‘the Big Three’.

“Huh?” was the reply from the puzzled friend.

“You know, Walt Disney World, Sea World, and Universal Orlando.  Each client had a special event at one of them.”

“Wow!  You can host private parties at those places?”

“Oh yes you can” was my guarded response while trying to explain – in simple, abbreviated terms – what it’s like to be able to plan and execute different special events at one or more of what most people know only as awesome tourist attractions.

So that’s what got me to thinking that there is a whole other side to Orlando that tourists and non-industry people don’t even know about which is the side that those of us involved in meetings, events, and conventions know better than our own neighborhoods.  My Orlando is filled with hotel ballrooms that we set for meetings and quickly reset for meals, many times involving thousands of chairs, tables, along with the staff to make it all happen.  My Orlando has tons of special venues that we turn into dream events full of unusual themed props and extraordinary food and beverage displays.  In my Orlando I seek out private rooms in public restaurants that we convert into meeting space for presentations while attendees get wined and dined.  A large part of what I see in Orlando is onstage and backstage areas that we regularly share with celebrities, speakers, and all kinds of entertainment.  My view of Orlando also includes luxurious hotel suites we use to entertain VIPs or to launch sales initiatives.  The list of exactly where meeting planners go to work and what we do each day is varied and endless.  Quite frankly, to be an active participant in this career path means that everywhere you go there’s a bubble in your head saying, “wow, this would make a great spot to host….”

Hotel ballroom getting ready for meeting set

Hotel ballroom getting ready for meeting set

And then it quickly turns into something like this

And then it quickly turns into something like this

And then in the blink of an eye, and after very careful coordination of very large teams of set up crews, it can be turned into this

And then in the blink of an eye, and after very careful coordination of very large teams of set up crews, it can be turned into this

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And backstage can get pretty interesting, too.  This is what a typical backstage set looks like behind the scenes in order to accommodate multiple microphones and screens, standard audio/visual requirements, sound boards, mixers, video playbacks, confidence monitors, and all the rest.  It takes a huge effort to coordinate all these electronics, and needless to say, if the client decides to skimp on necessary components in this area, well, the result is usually predictable.  Ever been in a meeting when the mic didn’t work, videos didn’t play, and lights were either on or off but never controlled?  Yea, that’s what happens. . .

Backstage may look like a mess but thankfully the AV techs know every chord, plug, and outlet to make it all sync.

Backstage may look like a mess but thankfully the AV techs know every chord, plug, and outlet to make it all sync.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is what we normally set up backstage to use as a green room for all speakers to relax and do that final hair/makeup/lipstick check before show time, and yes, we usually have professional make up artists for the guys, too.

This is a simple but typical backstage set of a green room used by the speakers to relax and do that final hair/makeup/lipstick check before show time, and yes, we usually have professional make up artists for the guys, too.

The above green room had – within 24 hours –  one wildly popular A list movie star who kicked off this annual conference followed by a Wall Street guru who was then followed by a world renown author, animal activist and  preservationist who moved in with crates of exotic animals, one of which contained an anaconda.  That’s when I expeditiously removed myself from the green room.  I have my limits.

Now, ever wonder where all that luggage is stored when you have 5000 attendees checking out of their rooms at the same time?  We usually turn large ballrooms into luggage storage spaces on check out day so that sleeping rooms can be vacated – there’s always another group checking in –  and guests could attend remaining conference sessions before heading out to the airport.  Yes, it’s a whole lotta luggage!

Can you spot your bag? Now you know why those signs at the airport stress that 'all bags look alike. Please check carefully before taking yours.'

Can you spot your bag? Now you know why those signs at the airport stress that ‘all bags look alike. Please check carefully before taking yours.’

I could go on about ‘My Orlando’ but will save more photos and stories for future blogs.  However, I can’t resist this one final shot of what we frequently do when our convention guest count is top heavy with females.  Yes, we have to change out the men’s rooms to accommodate more feminine bathroom space, and yes, I always try to convince the client of the importance of attempting to ‘make those urinals pretty.’  Don’t you agree they look much better this way?

A urinal is a urinal until a women's conference takes it over!

A urinal is a urinal until a women’s conference takes it over!

 

 

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They Came. They Saw. They Chainsawed.

Oh yes they did! Hard to believe it was already one year ago when I attended the first of these events, and now I’m so excited it’s coming back for round two on December 16.  What I’m referring to is Rosen Plaza’s Iced Out holiday event wherein local top chefs put their chainsaw skills to the test, battling each other (not to mention the Florida weather. . .) by creating amazing sculptures out of huge blocks of ice.  With a chainsaw.  Poolside, at the Rosen Plaza.  Now you see why the weather plays a part in this?  Even on a cool night carving an ice sculpture outside can be tricky!

Hard to believe these guys have to wear a jacket while creating a poolside masterpiece but after all, it is ICE! Only in Florida!

Hard to believe these guys have to wear a jacket while creating a poolside masterpiece but after all, it is ICE.  Only in Florida!

 

Tools of the trade. The ice carving trade, that is.

Tools of the trade. The ice carving trade, that is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you look closely you can see Chef with a chainsaw working away on this beauty from behind.

If you look closely you can see Chef with a chainsaw working away on this beauty from behind.

And yes, it would normally be a total disaster having chainsaws suddenly appear poolside at a tourist hotel  – yikes!  But this event is safe and fun, entertaining, and very, very family friendly.  Plus it’s free, as in FREE.

Yup.  Free, as in no admission charge, and even self parking is complimentary.  Of course, there will be festive food and beverages offered at individual pricing, but seriously if you just want to sit poolside and enjoy both the chainsaw action and the “chill” music, by all means park yourself on a lounge chair and pretend like you’re close to the North Pole – only you’re wearing flip plops and shorts – while the guys on the other side of the pool are using chainsaws to make beautiful artwork out of seriously big chunks of ice.  By the way, each ice block weighs around 200 pounds at the start, and due to those consistent Florida temps, the Chefs have about 4 hours from start to finish before that ice goes bye-bye (and possibly ends up in one giant Frosty the Snowman slushy?)

December 16, 2018, 6-8PMRosen Plaza Hotel, International Drive.  Be there for all the chainsaw action!

Frozen Fish, anyone?

Frozen Fish, anyone?

I think I saw an Angel from the North Pole!

I think I saw an Angel from the North Pole!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Do You Have an “Alive Date”?

With grateful thanks to all members of our Armed Forces, past and present, alive and deceased,

this is my humble salute to Veteran’s Day.

 

In 2011, 21 year old Marine Corps Sgt. Mike Nicholson was down and out.  Wounded while on foot patrol in Kajaki, a village in southern Afghanistan, when he was hit with a 40 pound bomb hidden in the roadside he was patrolling.

Oh, did I say wounded?

I meant maimed.  Severely, as in lost not one but both legs and part of his left arm.  The marine cry of “oorah” took on a new meaning for him.  Anger, depression, drinking followed because hey, wouldn’t you?  But the obvious difference between Sgt. Nicholson and most of the rest of us is that he bounced back. Big time.  Watch this amazing come back in the ABC Nightly News video clip made just two months ago back in September while Mike was competing at the 2017 Invictus Games, the only international sporting event for wounded, injured, and sick servicemen and women:


ABC Breaking News | Latest News Videos

So, did you catch the part about him winning 5 medals that included both gold and silver in track and the others from competing in wheelchair basketball, swimming, and golf?  Yeah, well, I guess you could call that a comeback, right?  Somehow he found the strength, courage, and determination to keep going and apparently decided not to stop.

That was one big OORAH! 

Anyway, I chose to write about Sgt. Nicholson today because he also has an Orlando connection.  Mike came here right after completing that grueling competition schedule at the September Invictus Games to race alongside our local crowd of heroes participating in the T2T 5K that took place at Crane’s Roost in Altamonte Springs, something I’ve posted about several times on this blog site.  As a recipient of a smart home, which is one of the many charities supported by funds raised via T2T activities, Mike will be forever grateful to those that support the cause.

Mike racing alongside Orlando's first responders at the 2017 T2T race held at Crane's Roost, Altamonte Springs. Many rescue squads run in full gear.

Mike racing alongside Orlando’s first responders at the 2017 T2T race held at Crane’s Roost, Altamonte Springs. Many rescue squads run in full gear.

And about that ‘alive date’.  It’s a military reference to the day a soldier survives catastrophic wounds.  For Mike Nicholson, his alive date is July 6, 2011.  And while there are millions of vets’ stories to write about when paying homage to Veteran’s Day, I’m glad I chose Mike and am able to educate others about both his incredible journey and his alive date because there’s a definite happy ending to this Vet’s story that now even includes a loving wife, Katie, and two beautiful kids.

Yep, that's Prince Harry, founder of the Invictus Games, shaking hands with Mike after watching him shoot an amazing 150 yard swing on the golf course during the 2017 Invictus competitions.

Yep, that’s Prince Harry, founder of the Invictus Games, shaking hands with Mike after watching him shoot an amazing 150 yard drive on the golf course during the 2017 Invictus competitions.

Vets day thanks

 

 

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This and That – Notes on Orlando Hospitality

Sometimes life needs updating.  With sooooo much going on recently, here-there-everywhere, I wanted to provide some updates on a few things I’ve written about (or, intended to write about. . .?) in the past.  In no particular order:

T2T Run – I posted about this worthwhile 5K back in August because the event was supposed to take place last month.  Well, thanks to Irma, that never happened.  But the run has been rescheduled to take place on Sunday, October 15.  You can still register and get updated information here.

And this next item may be one of those things  I “intended”  to write about last month and didn’t get to, but oh well.  Thanks to Irma’s mayhem,  our friends at Visit Orlando have extended the dates of their annual Magical Dining Month The extension now gives us until October 12th to enjoy great meal deals ($35 MDM specials), both rates and specially curated menus, at a huge variety of restaurants that you might be curious about but have never yet visited. Have you seen the paella bar and Flamenco dancers at Tapa Toro?  Curious to discover for yourself why everyone raves about The Ravenous Pig?  Are you looking for fantastic seafood served in a very romantic setting at Hemingway’s?   Well now is the time, so search that MDM website, find a new place to go, and get moving!

While on the subject of great dining, let’s add adult beverages to the chat because who doesn’t like that combination?  If you like BEER you’ll love this upcoming offering from our friends at Rosen Centre who have partnered with Florida’s own Funky Buddha Brewery pairing brews with a multicourse meal on October 20th. Yep.  Just like a fancy wine pairing dinner experience only using great brews.  So it’s less expensive, more fun, and wow, who knew there could be so much complexity with beer brews and menu match ups?  Check out this cool video they produced while getting ready for this upcoming special event.

Finally, I do want to mention what great support the local hospitality industry has garnered in so many areas due to all the recent mayhem, here, there, everywhere.  Where does one start?  Many hotels, attractions, restaurants, and venues have held fundraisers of all different sizes and shapes.  So many, in fact, I can’t possibly list them all here.  But as usual, a big shout out to Harris Rosen for not only offering incredibly low rates at all Rosen properties both pre/post hurricanes due to Floridians forced to seek shelter, but now he has also held a collection drive, last week at Rosen Plaza, for supplies going direct to Puerto Rico.

And this weekend, right across the street from Rosen Plaza in the Pointe Orlando complex, Cuba Libre is hosting a dine out for Puerto Rico This Saturday, October 7.

Cuba Libre for PREnjoy a great meal @ $35, with proceeds going direct to the United for Puerto Rico fund, and then stay for more sass and salsa on the dance floor!

 

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What’s the Buzz about The Alfond Inn?

Tired of hearing about hurricanes?  Me too.  With sympathy to those who may not yet be able to move on, if you’re looking for a Hive post about escapism, this read is for you.

One of our local gems, the Alfond Inn at Rollins, has been singled out as one of the Top 100 Hotels in the World by readers of Travel & Leisure in the poll known as World’s Best Awards 2017.  Pretty impressive, right?  Well, I’d have to agree, and here are just some of the reasons why I, too, love this little boutique property that is owned by Rollins College and found right here in our own posh backyard, aka Winter Park.

  1. It’s accessible – both easy to get to and easy to park in/at/around.  Access to the Alfond Inn is off New England Avenue, valet is quick & friendly and, best of all, validated if you eat or dine there, even without checking in or staying the night.
  2. It also has world class accessible artwork almost everywhere you look.  The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art is part of the Cornell Fine Arts Museum and includes sculptures, paintings, thought provoking photos and unique discussion pieces.  You’ll find artwork everywhere, tucked into nooks, crannies, and outdoor space. Art that makes you think.  But here’s the best part:  they offer free guided tours every Sunday at 1PM led by museum staff  to discover, observe, and learn more about the current displays which change frequently.  I can’t tell you how many hotels I’ve been in and viewed beautiful pieces of art that had not even one explanation or title or description by it, so this is really a unique offering.  Plus, did I mention this service is free?
  3. It’s dog friendly – woof, woof!  We all know that Winter Park is already a great place to parade your pooch around, but the Alfond Inn really welcomes them.  Check out this video about Fido checking in:

4.  Sunday Brunch at Hamilton’s is exceptional, billed as “Southern fare with a modern twist” and I’d have to agree.  See for yourself with creative starters like grapefruit brulee ($5) and white cheddar bacon scones ($8) followed by an entrée like their Bacon Jam Burger ($15).  Or for dessert how about a serving of Macallan 12 year Butterscotch Pudding ($10) to pique your curiosity?  Plus it’s just a lovely atmosphere with seating both inside and out on their very pleasing-to-the-eye patio. Currently under the watchful eye of Executive Chef Jason Klingensmith it’s definitely worth a visit even if it’s not Sunday.

5. Rooftop pool?  Oh yes they do!  Well, technically, it’s only on the second level, but hey, that ranks as rooftop here even though parts of the hotel do go higher.  Confused?  Heck, just go and check it out for yourself.

trust me - it really is a rooftop pool!

trust me – it really is a rooftop pool!

6. They have a super cool website that actually provides great photos, answers to many standard questions, is interactive, and pleasant to look at.  Why do I mention this?  Um, if you have to look at as many hotel websites – searching, searching, and searching for things as simple as an address or direct phone number – as I do each and every day, you would rank this one top notch, too.  Sayin’, and sayin’ with authority!

7.  Outdoor fire pits, rocking chairs, gorgeous lawn and public space.  It’s just really special.

8.  Great. Lobby. Bar.  Daily happy hour plus curated specials inspired by The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art served in all kinds of chic comfy nooks and crannies, inside/outside.  Your choice.  The bar menu also includes some great appetizers and noshes, and, gosh, who doesn’t love a fun and fabulous lobby bar?

The inviting lobby bar at the Alfond Inn

The inviting lobby bar at the Alfond Inn

Check it out for yourself.  It’s definitely NOT your average tourist hotel!

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Tunnel to Tower Run – Honoring Heroes Through Sports

What were you doing 16 years ago on September 11?

You can pick almost any other date on the calendar and most would be hard pressed to recall a daily digest from even one year past let alone 16 years.

But mention 9/11/01 and oh boy.

For those of us ‘of age’ we can remember – almost to the minute – what was going on in our lives when we heard ‘the’ news.  We can also remember how we heard about it, who told us and how long it took before we turned our TVs and radios on in disbelief because we just had to hear about it from another source.  Why?  Because it was that awful.  It was one of those moments in time when quite frankly we weren’t sure there would be another moment in time.  For any of us.  And then, slowly, painfully, as that awful day progressed we learned that for many 09/11/01 was indeed their last day on earth.  And then in the weeks and months and even years that followed many more lives would be lost, in so many different ways and in many, many different countries than our own.  All in the name of what is now simply referred to as 9/11.

And if you follow us here in the Hospitality Hive you know we tend not to dwell on ugly or depressing stories, as the word hospitality is well, rather happy and civil, right?  Heck yes.  So this is where we turn this particular blog post into something more positive and uplifting. Whew!  Today I’m reporting on a way that anyone reading this can involve themselves in honoring the sacrifices made, past and present, by our First Responders and Military Heroes by participating in the upcoming Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers 5K Run/Walk that will take place on Saturday, September 9 at Crane’s Roost Park in Altamonte Springs. For more on Stephen Siller, check this out but FULL DISCLOSURE:  You’ll probably want some tissues close by.  Sayin’.

So, as stories develop – and this is a good one about the T2TRun, as the annual race is now affectionately referred to –  and it’s kind of a story that’s been building itself out of ashes into sunlight with race locations all across the country at different times of the year culminating, of course, with the annual one in New York City.  Further, if you keep reading I can promise you there’s a potential happy ending. . .

But first, here’s a wonderful video explaining the rest of this story and how our local community gets involved each year:

And hey, did you catch a glimpse at those firefighters that actually run in full gear?  Yeah, try your next 5K strapping on 45 pounds or more and see how fast and how far you can go!  Many of our local guys do it in memory of 343, the number of firefighters that lost their lives on 9/11.

I could go on about how our local police squads, firefighters, paramedics and first responders train to participate in this upcoming 5K but you’ve really got to see it to believe it.  Of course race organizers want more participants, but it’s also great just to see the spectators coming out to support the runners and walkers.

To sign up as a runner/walker or for more information, please go here.

Oh and lest you think this race is only about firefighters you should know that all proceeds will benefit the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, including our Building for America’s Bravest program which builds specially adapted, custom designed smart homes for our nation’s most catastrophically injured service members.

Now, about that happy ending, at least in Altamonte Springs on race day.  Let’s just say it involves the afterglow party at World of Beer right there where the race happens at Crane’s Roost Park in Altamonte Springs.  The party is for everyone – race participants, volunteers, spectators and American Idol participants – say what? Oh, did I forget to mention the part about Idol celeb, Jax, attending and singing at this year’s race? Well now you know.

So, one way or another, everyone really can still join in on some of the fun of honoring heroes through sports, and here at the Hive we think that’s a very good thing!

 

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Bragging Rights: Orlando Meetings Top the Chart

You already know that Orlando is the No. 1 most visited tourist destination on the planet, right?  But according to Cvent, Orlando has been named the No. 1 meetings destination in the country for the fifth time in six years.  That in itself may not shock anyone who has braved the traffic on International Drive during one of those monsters exhibit shows like, perhaps, PGA that averages between 35-40 thousand attendees each year.

But the real news here is probably not that we’re No. 1.  It’s that Cvent looked at bookings in over 5000 U.S. cities before proclaiming us the top dog.  Yeah, that kind of makes it a big deal, right?

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How did we get there?  Consider this:

  • Orlando has almost 120,000 hotel rooms spread out over more than 450 hotels and resorts
  • Of the combined total of hotels and resorts, Orlando has more than 150 meetings-specific hotels which makes it the largest cluster of its kind in the East
  • the Orange County Convention Center is the second largest convention facility in the United States (Chicago’s McCormick Place still holds the top spot)
  • at least four major convention hotels located right here in Orlando made it into the top 25 list of Top Meeting Hotels in the US, and one, the Hyatt Regency Orlando, placed No. 9 on that prestigious list. Following closely behind were the Rosen Shingle Creek, Hilton Orlando, Hilton Bonnet Creek, and Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort Complex.  Then we had five more in the overall top 100 –  Gaylord Palms, JW Marriott, World Center Marriott, Loews Royal Pacific and Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress.

So now maybe you’re getting a little better picture of why we are top dawg in the meetings industry, too, right?  The stats are not just about bragging rights for a city’s convention center.  It’s about the overall amount of meeting space, hotel rooms, and venue options that planners have to research in order to find the right spot to host their conference or business meeting.

So, what is Cvent and why are they qualified to make these impressive claims?  This is a company founded in 1999 that is considered by most in the hospitality industry to be the global leader in meeting, event, and travel technology tools. Think things like on line registration formatting, management of venue selection, overall event management processes and so much more.  They also compile venue directories for just about any place you want to hold a meeting or event and have multiple global offices to support their worldwide network, so yeah, they’re kind of a big deal in this industry.

Beyond Orlando, some stats show that there are over 1.8 million meetings and events that occur in the United States each year, and by some estimates that brings in a combined total of over $393 Billion [direct and indirect] to the annual GDP which makes this industry big stuff everywhere, not just here in Orlando.

But since I’m concentrating on Orlando, let’s just get two more important stats out there:  we have also been named the 2nd most FUN city (losing only to Las Vegas, so read into that FUN word whatever you wish. . .), AND we have the most bars per 100,000 residents (estimated ratio at 215.81 bars/100K residents).  Now isn’t that something to be proud of?

 

 

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