Conference ‘What Ifs’?

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

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.

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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!

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Are You Overbooked?

I know I am, and I’m guessing you are, too.

But let’s suppose for a minute that we’re a hotel or restaurant that is filled to capacity.  Then the term ‘overbooked’ is a good thing, right?

Well, maybe not always.  At least that’s one chain of thought as presented in a book I’ve just finished reading titled, appropriately, “Overbooked – the Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism.”  Written by Elizabeth Becker, a former NY Times correspondent as well as a Senior Foreign Editor at NPR, the book puts forth a different vision of the industry that many – approximately one of every ten people around the world,  myself included – call home in terms of the job market.

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Orlando Tourism Continues to Move On

Well ‘it’ finally happened. Orlando, formerly known as both The City Beautiful and The Happiest Place on Earth was finally tested, and when I say tested I mean that in the worst possible scenario. While there’s no point or need to rehash what happened to OTown over the course of one crazy-sad mind blowing weekend full of shocking gun violence and a singular gator stunner, here in the Hospitality Hive we think what’s most important moving forward is exactly that.

Moving forward.

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Bone Shaking Fun With Skeletons this Halloween

This is the week – Halloween is here! Have you heard enough about it yet, or can you stand a little more?

If you’re not into the whole HHN freak out at Universal, and yet Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party doesn’t quite do it for you either, here’s another option, Skeletons: Animals Unveiled! It’s ‘under the wheel’ at the Orlando Eye complex and for sure it’s the real deal with over 40 exhibits featuring more than 400 real animal skeletons in poses and dioramas that will give you a whole new perspective (dare we say, um, the actual inside scoop?) on our friends in the animal kingdom. Plus, the price of this one might not rattle your bones as much as those other options with current ticket prices at $19.99 per adult and $12.99 for kids ages 3-11.

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What Do Women Want in Hospitality?

Last month I wrote a post about Chinese travelers – specifically about 1.4 billion of them that could be showing up very soon at a hotel or restaurant near you right here in Florida.  Today I’m “narrowing down” the discussion topic a bit more by talking about only 49.6% of the total world population, aka women, the single largest target market in the hospitality industry.  Specifically, the most recent stats show there are 3.52 billion women on this planet (roughly half the population).  And yes, I know that tittle you see up above is a loaded question but seriously, even though women are only about half of the world’s population, by some estimates we still account for 92% of the vacation decisions.  Using those numbers it’s destined to be a hot topic in this industry which in turn makes it super important to Orlando, so let’s just let those stats sink in for a minute.

You read that correctly – 92% of vacation purchases including airline decisions, hotel selections and restaurants as well as buying all those precious souvenir tchotchkes are made by women, and even I was shocked by the estimated dollar volume this accounts for because, are you ready for this? In some reports, women are shown to be responsible for a whopping expenditure of, drum roll please, $7 TRILLION dollars annually related to vacation purchases. Just in the USA. (Notice I didn’t print that in numericals because frankly I’m not really sure how many zeros to use.)

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Have You Ever Been First?

I’m not talking about those lucky days when there’s no wait in the line at EPCOT for Soarin’ (once, on a dreary Thursday evening in September of 2013 when most of Florida was in a hurricane watch. . .) or on the teensy-weensy outside chance that the Starbucks drive-though is a zip (again once, in the pouring down rain in the middle of a weekday afternoon. . .).  Nope, those aren’t the firsts I’m referring to.  I’m talking about something really big and very important.

The employment line.

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Curious About Cuba? Part Two of two

Welcome to Cuba!

In my last post on Cuba, I introduced you to an industry professional that has already logged plenty of travel miles in her Cuban business endeavors, and Renee Radabaugh of Cultural Explorations Cuba has managed to confirm what the rest of us have only just begun to suspect – that there’s no sign of this being a passing fad in the travel and tourism market.  With multiple daily non-stop flights from both Miami and Orlando, and additional ones being constantly added from other locations around the United States, it’s becoming more convenient to get there and that’s the first measure of a good trip.  But don’t buy your ticket just yet, because we still have a bit of a learning curve before we can grab our passports and pack our bags.

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Curious about Cuba?

I know I am, and if you think you’ve already heard enough about that tropical island sitting a mere 100 miles [+-] due South of us here in Florida you need to get ready to hear more – lots more, because this new détente between our two countries is serious business.  Especially in the hospitality industry.

Why?  Well, let me illustrate what I mean:  imagine you’re an explorer discovering an island, unchartered territory if you will, that has built-in mystique and appeal to tourists who (because living here in Central Florida) we know absolutely positively will buy anything and go anywhere and endure any hardships whatsoever in the name of travel.

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Do You SunRail?

Have you been on board yet? Yes, I’m talking to YOU out there. With an average daily passenger count of around 3700, that leaves roughly 2.1 million [+-] of you that don’t ride SunRail. Yet. And, before June 23rd, I was one of you, but now I’ve crossed over and am happy to report what a great experience it was.

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Has Orlando Embraced “Brooklynization?”

What’s that you say? Never heard of that word? Well let me explain:

BROOKLYNIZATION= a city/entity (Brooklyn) wanting to go in exact opposite of, for example, New York City (think capitalism, corporate imperialism, unchecked corporate greed and you get the full picture here, right?). Turning instead to local artisans, hand-made/home-made anything, small batch [fill-in-the-blank], nurturing a successful environment for entrepreneurs, etc. IN PLAIN ENGLISH: empowering the creative class in your own area to help grow local identity.

Ah yes, now it makes sense!  But what’s the connection with the Hospitality Hive?  Glad you ask!

For some time now, we’ve all noticed an increase in the words or terms such as locally grown – locavores – farm to table – craft made and many more just like those.  These are all ways of referring to areas embracing it’s own local community by purchasing, using, and helping to spread awareness about products from your next door neighbors.  In the world of Orlando hospitality, the best example would be the plethora of hotels owned by Harris Rosen, which can only be found locally, as opposed to those hotels also found here but that are affiliated with a national chain such as Hyatt, Marriott and so forth.  It’s not rocket science to understand this concept, but circling back to our hospitality community at large, there are just so many wonderful examples of establishments that do go out of their way to connect with the local community and I find it pretty cool that it all started with the ‘Brooklynization’ concept that began as a

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All Eyes Now On the Orlando Eye

And to be clear, they are ready for it! Last week’s media opening of the IDrive 360, aka The Orlando Eye, was followed by the public invited-guests-only opening on 4/29; and by the time you read this post the doors, err, I should say ‘pods’, will be officially open to the world. And that’s a very good thing. Want to know why? As Scott Maxwell said in his ‘Taking Names’ column in the Sunday, May 3 Orlando Sentinel, “this is what I-Drive needs – an innovative, high-tech addition that’s garnering national attention.”

That’s due to more than just the stand-out size of this project which can be seen from numerous locations in and around Orlando. It’s also due to the prestigious comparisons being made between this attraction and similar successful ones already in place in London and other world class global destinations.

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I Drive 360 Orlando – Top FIVE Know Before You Go

Yes, it’s true.  Some of us are able to get in before the crowds and take a ‘spin’ around. But no, when I use the word spin I’m not referring to having been on the ride already because technically, well, it’s not quite ready and seriously, who wants to risk their lives just for the sake of scooping a story?  Not the HH Maven, although during my days at USF we were privy to many opportunities to ‘ride the rides’ before the flood gates were open to the masses.  But I digress with that little share because this post is not about a [now] 25 year old attraction.  This is a preview post about the latest and greatest attraction that Orlando has to offer, The Orlando Eye.

I know you’re already thinking I’m a lucky gal, right?  Well, yes, I’ll go ahead and agree with you because I’m not going to lie.  It’s a really cool thing to be able to take a hard hat walk-through while the place is still empty and in advance of an estimated 2 million visitors (year one estimate) coming from every nook and cranny of the universe to see what all the fuss is about.  But beyond the ‘cool’ factor I should also point out that I do make my living as a planner so, among other things, that means I like to know details in advance because how else can a planner avoid near disaster if she isn’t properly informed?  Lucky for you I’m happy to share what I was able to learn about the I-Drive 360 which is the official name of what most people will refer to as The Orlando Eye.

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You Be the Judge – It’s Not JUST a Pie!

TRUE CONFESSION: I’m writing this at the end of a weekend wherein I taste-tested over, um, gulp, 27 different pies.

There, I said it, and yes, I’m a pie butt, albeit this past weekend I was officially one for a very good cause. You see, I was honored/happy/over the moon when I recently found out that I had ‘made the cut’ (oye-now starts the pie puns. . .) to be an official judge at the recently completed National Pie Championships sponsored by the American Pie Council, whose purpose is “committed to preserving America’s pie heritage and promoting America’s love affair with pies.”

Yea, there really is, and you betcha, I really was!

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Looking for Something to “Wine” About?

Well, here’s some interesting wine news from the hospitality desk: In a recent survey about global wine and travel trends conducted by market research firm StudyLogic, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts discovered that after a long day, one out of every two people would reach for a glass of wine (48%) rather than their smartphone/tablet (15%) or – get ready for this one – even their spouse (15%). Yes, you read that correctly. Having a chat with your spouse was given the same percentage ranking of importance (or lack thereof) as reaching for your electronic device, aka crack cocaine of personal choice. [see previous Hive posting RE more on this phenom at Welcome to the Experience Economy ]

Further, and perhaps even more surprising, were that survey results also showed 23% of the respondents would be willing to give up sex for a week in return for a premium highly rated glass of wine. (Hey, I’m just reporting the facts here. Please don’t diss the messenger.)

So what does that mean to you and I? In broader terms, a lot of us like wine, oh yeah, and we like it real good.

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Looking for Interesting Work in the Field of Hospitality?

If so, there’s plenty to choose from, especially here in Orlando.  And in particular if you’re one of the many, many people who actually put this sentence on your resume or job application:  “I’m such a PEOPLE person, I know I’ll be perfect for this job!  People just LOVE me!”  Well go ahead, gag all you want, but some people, and you know who you are, really do put this on their job application.  But good news for all you people-lovers, because guess what?  Seriously, what kind of jobs are out there that don’t require some form of interaction with actual live human beings at some point?  (Okay, I do recognize that there are a lot of virtual workers in the world now; but still, even those jobs must require just a tad of  playing-nice-with-people-when-necessary, right?)

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Pig on a Plane?

Here in Orlando, it would appear that we have a corner on the weird and wacky market known as tacky tourists.

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Do We Have Enough ICE in Orlando for Everyone Yet?

I think not, because everywhere you turn this time of year you discover a new ‘ice thingie’ here in town.

In the mid 70’s when I first arrived on the Orlando scene, it was just the occasional tiny ice rink that would pop onto the scene around the holidays, kind of like those Teflon ones you find on some of the cruise lines. Then RDV opened their Sports Complex in Maitland including the Ice Den and voilà, next thing you know we have an actual hockey team here in Otown. Soon, the great, big sprawling Gaylord Palms Resort Hotel opened and immediately began featuring an incredible annual ICE! exhibit which just gets more creative and bigger (and more expensive, as a fellow Hype Orlando blogger recently posted) every year, followed by the city of Winter Park adding their popular ice rink for public skating. Next up not one, but two ice bars in the tourist corridor on International Drive. Ice Bar Orlando, located right on the Drive, and Minus 5 Ice Bar, which you will find at Pointe Orlando. So, what next? An ice show with professional skaters for all to enjoy based at a local hotel? RC_Holidays on Ice logo

Why yes, thank you!

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The Four Seasons – Luxury, Ambience and a Food Truck?

That’s right, a food truck.  Who knew?  For most people (myself included) familiar with the Four Seasons message of over-the-top luxury, the tag-along of a food truck would never be in the same sentence.  Yet here I am writing about both.  One from the standpoint of ‘been there, experienced that’ and the other, well, guess […]

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Welcome to the Experience Economy

Keeping up with industry buzzwords, I learned recently that we have left the SERVICE economy behind us and are now in the EXPERIENCE economy.  (Technically, this happened a few years back.  For data and details, check out the book The Experience Economy by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore that was last updated in, um. 2011. Full Disclosure:  Not the first time I’ve been late to the party. Just sayin’ .) Anyway, here in the wonderful world of hospitality we still believe that service is king, oh yes we do! But, the current challenge is to find more and better ways of providing excellent service experiences at the same time that we’re embracing unemotional systems, policies and procedures.

To put it in a hospitality-hotel nutshell, if you’re smoking your iPhone and are addicted to technology (yes, you out there, currently tapping your thumbs on your you-know-what), do you really want or care about that smile delivered with your room key at hotel check in, or would you prefer to bypass human interaction at the front desk and unlock your room with an app that you’ve downloaded on your very own hand-held piece of legal crack (aka iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, Nokia Lumia, or whatever you’ve got)?

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