Tourism Visit Orlando

Orlando a Hole-in-One for Innovation in Golf

Q&A with Marc Simon, PGA Golf Exhibitions


The 65th annual PGA Merchandise Show this year in Orlando welcomed 40,000 industry professionals from all 50 states and 87 countries. A key player behind this production is Reed Exhibitions’ Marc Simon, event vice president of PGA Golf Exhibitions. Here, he talks about how the PGA Merchandise Show’s technology has adapted to the shifting demographics in golf and why Orlando is crucial to the show’s success.

Tell us about Reed Exhibitions and how you are connected to the PGA Merchandise Show.

Reed Exhibitions is the parent company of PGA Golf Exhibitions and a leading B2B events organizer, hosting more than 500 events in 40 countries. We manage two major PGA events, and our portfolio also includes New York Comic Con, ComplexCon and a recently launched show called POPSUGAR Play/Ground. We incorporate many innovations and best practices from those events into our events for PGA. The first PGA Merchandise Show was in 1954, and we have been at the Orange County Convention Center each consecutive year since 1985.

How has technology influenced the game of golf?

There’s a lot of innovation in golf right now. Businesses like Topgolf and Drive Shack are bringing new people into the game. Social media has become a bigger part of our marketing and communications tools tied to the show. We now have livestreaming, Jumbotrons, charging stations and a mobile app with floor plan navigation of the show. Little things like that are really important.

How is the PGA Merchandise Show evolving to appeal to millennials?

Our demographic is getting younger and younger. We appeal to these attendees through a combination of changing how we communicate, incorporating technology and offering more networking experiences. Interactive elements such as Demo Day, a field test of the latest in golf equipment and technology, allow ample networking opportunities. My favorite new initiative is digital matchmaking where, based on attendees’ product interests, we recommend exhibitors that are a good fit. Enhancing these recommendations maximizes attendees’ time and success.

What makes Orlando an ideal city for hosting the biggest “major” of golf shows?

First and foremost, we love coming to Orlando in January for the climate. Orlando also has an easily accessible airport with many affordable flight options, a plentiful hotel inventory close to the Convention Center, many golf courses in the area and great dining and entertainment options. These things are especially attractive to our international attendees who tend to make a vacation of their stay, visiting nearby attractions and theme parks before or after the show. The Convention Center is wonderful and has lots of space — both public and private meeting areas — which allows for an ideal layout.

What role does Visit Orlando play in your experience?

We secure discounts and perks for our attendees at a wide variety of local dining and entertainment options through Visit Orlando. The organization has helped get our PGA Perks program off the ground and has been a valuable resource for our attendees.

No Matter How You Tee It Up

Orlando delivers something for every golf fan

President and CEO, Visit Orlando

While modern golf may have gotten its start in Scotland, Orlando has certainly contributed to its continued popularity and evolution.

Our region offers year-round play on more than 150 courses and is home to notable tournaments such as the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a key stop on the PGA Tour. Famous pros have established courses, networks and international brands that remain successful today. And each year, the PGA Merchandise Show pumps upward of $80 million into our local economy.

The golf industry, like its players, has changed significantly over the years. Courses once known for strict guidelines are now offering karaoke and craft beer. Dress codes are looser, and rounds are shorter — perhaps mirroring how some younger players may have entered the sport in the first place: through video games.

Along those lines, the latest in golf innovation is the growing popularity of digital driving ranges like our member companies Topgolf and Drive Shack — exciting additions to Orlando’s sports entertainment landscape that provide hours of fun for locals, leisure travelers and convention attendees alike.

In fact, the National Golf Foundation reports that these types of facilities — especially popular with millennials and non-golfers — are sparking interest in more people playing the traditional game. That, of course, spells great news for our region’s impeccably designed and world-renowned courses, which are ready to welcome the digital generation with open arms.

So, no matter what the future holds for golf, one thing seems certain: Orlando is well positioned to continue delivering memorable experiences that can be enjoyed by all.

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i4 Business

i4 Business magazine has become one of the most trusted voices for and about the Central Florida business community. Each month through our print and digital platforms, we provide access to meet, to learn from and to learn about some of the incredible entrepreneurs and business leaders who are shaping our region.

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