Orlando’s Largest Medical Conventions
Q&A with Bill Reed, American Society of Hematology
Medical Conventions Find Vital Resources in Orlando
Bill Reed is chief event strategy officer for the 17,000-member American Society of Hematology (ASH), which serves scientists and clinicians working to conquer blood diseases. As the primary planner for ASH’s Annual Meeting & Exposition, he scouts locations that offer large conference spaces, upscale dining options and quality hotel accommodations for numerous attendees — the very things that help make Orlando the country’s No. 2 destination for medical conventions. After ASH held another successful event at the Orange County Convention Center in 2015 (its fifth since 1996), the organization signed on to come back in 2019, 2025 and 2030.
Why Orlando? What factored into your decision to secure future meetings here?
The Orange County Convention Center certainly factors into our selection because it is almost perfect for our needs. Since the ASH annual meeting is the largest hematology trade show and conference in the world, the convention space we choose must have a good mix of meeting areas, exhibit halls and larger venues.
What do medical associations need from communities when planning a major conference?
Because healthcare is a global industry, you need hotel facilities that will accommodate and support a global audience. For example, at the ASH annual meeting, 50 percent of the attendees come from outside the United States. In a community like Orlando, which has a proven track record of supporting international visitors, that is very positive for most medical associations and their conferences, but specifically ones like ASH that are highly global in nature.
What feedback did you receive from attendees after your previous Orlando meeting?
Beyond the strong capacity of the Convention Center, our attendees are really happy that Orlando has been enhancing its restaurant offerings with more locally owned, non-chain restaurants that provide uniquely regional experiences and local cuisine.
How important is it to have a quality hotel portfolio for attendees to enjoy when off the convention floor?
Orlando is a beacon for excellence regarding its large hotels close to the Convention Center. The hospitality community is comprised of workers who are highly skilled in the art of customer service in convention arrangements. When I think of Orlando, one of the things that makes me relieved is that everyone in the hotels genuinely cares about their customers. That makes a huge difference to attendees and is a real strength of Orlando.
How does Visit Orlando help your group put on a successful convention?
Visit Orlando is an invaluable resource and strong investment by the community that helps us connect with local vendors. If we ask our Visit Orlando colleagues to find the best provider of X, they will help us identify which one might be the right fit for our working style and quality level. That information is vital and may not be clear from web searches alone.
President & CEO of Visit Orlando
A LEADING MEDICAL DESTINATION
If you have lived and worked in Central Florida for even a short time, you have probably heard of Orlando’s “Medical City,” which is becoming a sought-after destination for medical research and education.
But did you know Orlando is a leading destination for medical conferences and conventions as well?
Orlando is in fact a leading hub in this area, now hosting approximately 40 percent of the Healthcare Convention & Exhibitor Association’s top 50 largest events. According to the most recent HCEA report, Orlando hosts the second-most medical conventions in the country — and at Visit Orlando, our team is always hard at work to secure that business.
What does this mean for our region? In 2017 alone, Orlando welcomed nearly 200,000 medical convention attendees across 180 events, generating an economic impact of more than $335 million. Total attendance was evenly split between the Orange County Convention Center — the nation’s second-largest such facility — and Orlando’s wide portfolio of convention-sized hotels.
Thanks to assets such as these, in addition to Medical City — recognized in 2016 as the “emerging destination of the year” by the Medical Tourism Association — and our thriving medical simulation and training industry, we have earned a reputation among conference organizers as a destination offering diverse options to medical groups.
As Richard Parker, director of healthcare for American Express Meetings & Events, noted to Corporate & Incentive Travel magazine, markets like ours “offer access to a larger pool of key opinion leaders and facilities that enable showcasing medical, surgical and hospital goods.”
I am sure you can agree that as our reputation grows as a hub for medical research, our opportunities in the valuable medical meetings and conventions market will grow as well. I am confident our destination will continue to capitalize on this growth.