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High turnout, record business transactions at Florida Huddle 2014

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Florida Huddle 2014, held Jan. 14-16 in Palm Beach County, was a resounding success in its first year of being owned and operated by VISIT FLORIDA. Three high scores for this travel trade show tell the story: more buyers, more time for appointments, more Florida travel business transactions.

Hosted by Discover Palm Beach County, the show was sold out, filling four local hotels and reflecting the tourism industry’s revitalized interest in the re-engineered show.

“With more than 600 attendees from 22 countries conducting over 10,000 one-on-one appointments, Florida Huddle 2014 was a huge success,” said Will Seccombe, President and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA.  “Relationship building events that allow buyers and suppliers to have pre-arranged, face-to-face appointments are a vital component of the Florida tourism industry’s marketing efforts.  Having Florida Huddle as a VISIT FLORIDA owned and operated event has proven to be a great way to add value for our Partners and offer first-hand information to travel trade professionals from around the globe.”

The 619 delegates at Florida Huddle 2014 represented 345 companies from around the world. The number of qualified buyers – 203 -- who attended to broker deals with Florida’s travel suppliers was up 14% from last year. They came here from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Germany, Honduras, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The bustling trade-show floor in the Palm Beach County Convention Center exhibited 177 Florida travel companies, represented by 190 delegates presenting information about their destinations, products and services. The show’s host destination, Discover Palm Beach County, also provided extensive tours of local resorts, restaurants and attractions.

“The opportunity to host Florida Huddle was a true privilege for our destination, which is why so many of our tourism partners throughout The Palm Beaches went above and beyond to ensure that the Huddle delegates experienced the time of their lives during their stay,” said Jorge Pesquera, president and CEO of Discover Palm Beach County.  “We are grateful to our friends at VISIT FLORIDA for selecting us as the very first destination to host this prestigious event since they took ownership, and are thrilled to have been a part of something that so significantly benefits Florida’s tourism industry.”

Florida Huddle business transactions began Jan. 14 and continued for two full days, allowing buyers, suppliers and media to conduct 10,702 face-to-face meetings. A 1:1 ratio of appointment-taking buyers (187) and suppliers (190) was maintained to ensure most delegates had full, productive appointment schedules. The average number of appointments per delegate grew to 41, compared with 27 in prior years, vastly expanding opportunities to transact business.

Travel-trade media also were well-represented. Twenty-nine top trade publications were present to cover the show and to amplify awareness of Florida travel opportunities to audiences in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Germany, Belgium, Argentina, Venezuela and Costa Rica.

Opening-night festivities on a grand scale were hosted Jan. 13 at The Breakers Palm Beach. The next morning, kick-off breakfast sponsor All Aboard Florida promoted its plans for intercity rail service between Miami and Orlando and met with enthusiastic media.

On Jan. 15, top tourism executives held a press conference to discuss tourism in Florida and the United States. Panelists at the Florida Tourism Forum were Chris Thompson, President & CEO of Brand USA; Will Seccombe, President & CEO of VISIT FLORIDA; Eileen Forrow, Florida Huddle General Manager; Tammy Gustafson, Director of National & Group Sales, Universal Orlando Resort, and Chair of the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors; Jorge Pesquera, President & CEO of Discover Palm Beach County; and Fernando Harb, Vice President of Tourism Sales, Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau.

All delegates were treated to lunch outdoors on Jan. 15, courtesy of Brand USA. On Jan. 16, media were treated to a landmarks tour and breakfast at the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens, sponsored by the International Polo Club and hosted by Discover Palm Beach County. Other delegates started the day with a Huddle Fun Run hosted by Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, followed by breakfast on the trade show floor presented by Simon Shopping Destinations. All delegates were then treated to a luncheon extravaganza hosted by the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, which will host Florida Huddle Jan. 14-16, 2015.

Florida Huddle 2014 concluded Thursday night, Jan. 16, with festivities, food, flash mobs and fireworks in downtown West Palm Beach, hosted by Discover Palm Beach County. Key sponsors of Florida Huddle 2014 were Discover Palm Beach County and many of its tourism entities. Learn more at www.FloridaHuddle.com.

For more information, contact Laura Cassels (850) 205-3839, lcassels@VISITFLORIDA.org, or visit the Florida Huddle media site.