From its world-renowned theme parks, to award-winning restaurants and sunshine, Central Florida is a proven leader in the tourism industry – in fact, in April, Visit Orlando announced the destination set a historic new national record, by becoming the first to reach 60 million annual visitors with 62 million visitors coming to the destination in 2014.
But beyond the scope of what Orlando is typically known for, a new sector has emerged: medical tourism. Just last year, Visit Florida, the state’s tourism agency, announced a new $2.5 million grant program to encourage medical tourism in the state, including travel for treatment, surgeries and recovery as well as for medical conferences and training. Today, Orlando is not only the center of international tourism, but now medical research and modeling, simulation and training.
Orlando Becoming a Medical Hub
Located in the 7,000-acre Lake Nona development just east of Orlando International Airport and minutes from UCF’s main campus, is Medical City, a 650-acre health and life sciences park and premier location for medical care, research and education. Because of its cluster of healthcare and bioscience facilities, Medical City is fast becoming an intersection of innovation and a global model for progress, making Orlando a global destination for healthcare.
With all eyes on Orlando medical tourism, breakthrough simulation technologies, medical research and medical training are converging at Medical City. In addition, Orlando’s booming and Modeling, Simulation & Training (MS&T) sector is gaining speed, and Lt. Gen. (Retired) Tom Baptiste, CEO of the National Center for Simulation, commented, “Today, Orlando is well postured to drive the future of medical simulation.”
Orlando has gained recognition with the emergence of not only Medical City, but also Florida Hospital’s Nicholson Center, one of the largest and most experienced medical learning and simulation incubation centers of its kind in the country. It also has mobile labs for medical groups that want to do demonstrations in hotels and conference centers. Together, all this will continue to drive critical innovation and advancements, in turn, resulting in another reason for visitors to come to Orlando.
Orlando is ranked by the Healthcare Convention & Exhibitors Association (HCEA) as the No. 3 destination for medical meetings in the nation. In Orlando, nearly 20 percent of all events booked are medical meetings, making it the No. 1 sector for conventions.
In the next few years, Orlando will continue to gain clout in the medical community with the emergence of Medical City and the Nicholson Center. Two of Orlando’s largest medical conventions include the HIMSS Healthcare Information & Management Systems Society, bringing in 35,000 attendees, and the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions Programming, bringing in 18,000.
The destination is an obvious choice for its year-round temperate weather, attractions, dining and entertainment scene and more. However, it’s also an invaluable source of medical speakers, in part thanks to Orlando’s growing medical sector and accessibility to top institutions such as UCF and local health systems.
As Orlando’s medical sector continues to grow, as will its visitors to the region. Not only will it be a place for fun and sun, but also a destination where they come to learn, heal and train — continuing to expand Orlando’s influence around the globe.
With business travel having been slower to recover from the Great Recession than leisure vacations, the growing number of medical meetings has proven to be a prescription for success for Orlando’s convention business. According to recent statistics from the Health Care Education Association, Orlando hosted 40 percent of the top 50 largest medical meetings in the country in 2014.
Medical Meetings come to Orlando for a number of reasons: First, it’s easy to get here – Orlando has non-stop service from more than 100 domestic and international cities and airfares are among the lowest of the 50 largest U.S. airports. Orlando also has a wide range of hotels in every price point and the dining and entertainment scene is constantly growing. And our destination is home to the highly acclaimed Orange County Convention Center, which has successfully hosted meetings in several medical fields, including nursing, oncology, dermatology and cardiology.
We recently announced that Orlando became the first destination to reach a historic milestone of 60 million annual visitors by welcoming 62 million in 2014. The attendees of hundreds of medical meeting groups contributed to our historic achievement. We have long seen the value in medical meetings, and we recognize the growing demand from visitors coming to Orlando for their healthcare needs, while also experiencing our destination. Going forward, Visit Orlando plans to continue to position Orlando as a premier medical tourism destination, adding to the wonderful diversity of offerings available to visitors who choose our community over anywhere else.
– George Aguel, President & CEO of Visit Orlando