Because I travel a lot, I get to stay in and explore many different types of hotels. In fact, you could say I’ve seen the good (Hello, JW Marriott!), the bad (did I actually stay at a beach dump called the Very Pleasant & Happy Hawaiian Inn?), and the exceptional (please don’t make me go home Mr. AAA and 5 Diamond Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs! I can’t bear to ever leave you…)
And even though many things in a hotel room are predictable, I’m still frequently pleasantly surprised when exploring a new room, even if the hotel is part of a standard chain where you would expect consistency in every room you visit. But I’ve found that what sets most hotels apart are the small unexpected touches that make you stop and pause, many times with a smile.
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 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!
It’s different for everyone, but at some point there comes a time in your life when you really start to understand the holidays. I’m not talking about the surprising and many times disappointing Christmas discovery when ‘you know the thing’ (shhh!) about ‘him’. What I’m referring to here are all the other truths you discover about holidays in general – big, small and everything in between – fumbling through them one year at a time.
For instance, I’ll never forget how surprised I was when I had my first Thanksgiving meal away from home and realized that the delicious homemade stuffing my mother had been laboriously creating all those years from scraps of bread saved and held frozen for months actually wasn’t the best one out there. Mon Dieu!
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.
I know what you’re thinking. In a year where black is white and white is pink and kneeling is disrespectful – but not in church – and well, just about everything is contrary to what it was last year (pause while trying to remember if last year even happened and if it did, was it “normal?” and if it was, that’s actually a question better discussed during happy hour and not in a blog post), sigh, you’re probably wondering why I still have “the nerve” to write about an Italian restaurant on, mio Dio!, Columbus Day. So let me be clear about my motive for this post because trust me, there is no political message involved here.
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.
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.
Some stories just have to be told. This is one of them.
Not so many years ago… okay, that’s kind of a lie. It was many years ago, ahem, when I was a flight attendant. So many years in fact that the correct terminology back then was stewardess, and I still have an engraved charm on a bracelet to remind me of that. It was given to me by some stewardess friends to mark the occasion of my first flight as a stew and it says, appropriately, “I’m a Stew!”, and it’s dated Aruba-June 16, 1977 since that was my inaugural flight. And, while the job is basically still the same, I’m guessing that flight attendant is a little more politically correct/all inclusive these days. Regardless of the title, I was one, and as a result have some great stories from those days. This is that, and more.
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?
Some people dream of it, and I must confess, the thought (along with some level of curiosity) had crossed my mind in the past. But in all honesty, it wasn’t high on my ‘must do’ bucket list. However, now that I can cross it off as been there/done that, I’m willing to admit it was definitely one of the high points of our most recent trip to Italy!
But, of course! Even though some would think that the tourism and hospitality industry here in Central Florida causes only constant traffic congestion, major air pollution, and basic overall mind fog [and yes, I do realize that mind fog is only damaging to oneself, and not the earth in general. Or, is it??] due to the sheer number of water parks, rides, and other brain-and-money-sucking tourist attractions we pride ourselves with [oopsie; did the Hive just admit to those sins???], I’m here to tell you that at least one local organization is a big – make that HUGE – player in the global landscape when in comes to decreasing the carbon footprint of our many central Florida hospitality blessings [there, wasn’t that a better way to refer to all those reasons we welcome tourists here?].
I realize that may not be shocking news to anyone, especially those that follow me here in the Hospitality Hive where I discuss and dish about all aspects of the hospitality industry – many times from my perspective as a professional meeting planner. But to further prove the economic impact of why meetings and events matter, let’s chew on a few of these recently released facts [2015 data from the US Travel Association]:
Do you remember what your first adult beverage was? I do. Kind of. Pretty sure it was – after a little experimentation with the most popular wine during my college wine drinking days, aka Annie Green Springs [?!] – a Singapore Sling.
Why, you ask? Not sure except that maybe, perhaps it was popular at the time? OR, maybe/perhaps it sounded cool, like it might even be able to transport me half way around the world to that far off land called Singapore? Yeah, that’s what I’m going with.
Are you currently dieting? Have any food allergies? Require special preparation for certain foods? Do you need Kosher, Glatt Kosher, or Halal meals? Are you a pescatarian, or perhaps just a picky eater?
If you’ve registered to attend anything recently that includes a group meal function you’ve probably seen a question on the response form asking if you have any dietary concerns. This is because it is now a serious offense to ignore some of these requests. So serious, in fact, that people with specific food allergies are protected by law under the American’s With Disabilities Act, aka the ADA.
Do you consider yourself trendy? I can’t say that I generally fall into that category (pause while wondering exactly what I was thinking when I bought into the bellbottoms and hot pant fads way back when. . .), but – professionally speaking – I do try to stay on top of what’s hot and what’s not as it pertains to the hospitality industry because I make my living planning meetings and events. So it’s important when clients ask me, “Hey, what can we do that’s different this year?” that I don’t respond with “teambuilding!” [hint: that’s so last year!] Or, “how about a corporate social responsibility project!” [ditto] While there is nothing wrong with either of those activities, if you’re working the meeting circuit well, been there/done that.
So, now that we’ve crossed over into 2017 (do I hear a Halleluiah? Yes I do!) for anyone in the meeting industry here in Orlando we are gearing up fast and furious for a busy convention season ahead. Heck, even as I write this I’m juggling no less than seven large meeting projects that will all take place within the next six weeks. And three of them are full week long programs making for a very tight and busy schedule for this planner. Which is why I’m finding myself doing some research on food trends so that I can make some snappy banquet decisions with the (hopeful) end result of impressing my clients.
Since we’re all in the middle of various levels of holiday insanity at this point, I thought I’d share a little gift buying tip with you. And this one involves making a purchase for yourself instead of ‘person #17’ on that never ending list. That’s right. As the final countdown begins to the busiest holiday dedicated to conspicuous consumption of the year I’m proposing you take a minute and remember who is most important in your life. And, if you don’t answer ‘me/myself/I’ then perhaps you haven’t quite had enough of that spiked eggnog yet.
So, pour yourself a favorite adult beverage and settle into a big comfy chair as you read along with me about why you need to buy yourself a copy of the just released book, iBrand: The Next Generation, by Pam & Olivia Sain, aka wife and daughter of Gary Sain, the [deceased] former President and CEO of Visit Orlando.