By Nancy Mann Jackson
From cosmopolitan cities and breathtaking resorts to white sandy beaches and world-class amusement parks, Florida truly offers something for everyone. As a domestic location, meeting or incentive groups can save money on travel and still enjoy an amazing, first-class adventure.
Site of the first permanent European settlement in the United States, Florida is rich with history. Bordered on three sides by the beautiful beaches of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, the state has long been a haven for those seeking sun and sand. And with a number of major metropolitan areas, Florida offers a great combination of culture, history, relaxation and convenience.
The state is full of incredibly high-end accommodations and qualified CVBs and destination management companies that understand the needs of meeting and incentive planners. Your attendees may have visited Florida before, but there are plenty of adventures you can incorporate into your next program to ensure they have an experience unlike any other.
“Deep in the interior of the Everglades where the sawgrass prairies give way to the Big Cypress, you’ll find the proud heartland of the Seminole Nation,” says Christine Tascione, CMP, Director of Sales for the Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB. “Guests can explore the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, which showcases rare artifacts that show how the Seminole tribe ancestors lived in the Florida swamps and Everglades during the late 1880s.” Your group can then enjoy rides on an airboat or swamp buggy in search of wild hogs, hawks, alligators and Florida panthers.
St. Augustine, founded by Spain in 1565, is the oldest permanent European settlement in the United States. Groups can retrace the steps of the country’s earliest “Americans” on an archaeological or architectural tour of the city. Better yet, design a scavenger hunt and have participants find their way to historic sites, including Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest fort in the United States; the Oldest House, also known as the Gonzalez-Alvarez House, which displays the combination of Spanish and British architecture that became a signature look for St. Augustine during the British period; the Ximenez-Fatio House, built about 1798; and St. George Street, the city’s main street, which dates to 1595 and runs from the plaza in the center of St. Augustine to the city gates.
In Orlando, your group can experience the magic that’s only available at Walt Disney World, which includes an assortment of parks like Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Animal Kingdom and Universal Studios. Disney’s dedicated incentive planners can help create the perfect event for your group. For instance, you might start the day with an inspiring breakfast featuring a presentation from the world-renowned Disney Institute or a guest appearance from favorite Disney characters, followed by a round of championship golf or an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the Magic Kingdom Park. Bring the evening to an end with a private celebration complete with a world-class dinner and dance party at the base of Disney’s Mount Everest or a VIP dessert party while fireworks and lasers light up the sky.
From Miami and Fort Lauderdale to Destin and Panama City Beach, incentive groups in Florida can enjoy their own private beach party, “with the stars as your backdrop and the moon as decoration,” Tascione says. Delegates can take off their shoes and enjoy the cool breezes from the ocean and the smell and taste of fresh Florida seafood and delicacies prepared right before their eyes.
With mild weather year-round and top-notch courses dotting the state, Florida is a perfect destination for groups who love golf. In Palm Beach, groups can play the five courses of the PGA National Resort and Spa, the only destination that has hosted a PGA Championship, 18 Senior PGA Seniors Championships and a PGA Grand Slam of Golf. And in Jacksonville, groups can visit the World Golf Hall of Fame at World Golf Village, which is available for meetings and was constructed with the support of 26 major national and international golf associations, foundations and organizations that recognized the need to develop one facility where the game’s great players and contributors are honored.
At almost any coastal Florida destination, you can take advantage of the friendly seas with some friendly competition by hosting a deep-sea fishing tournament. Charter boats can usually accommodate up to six anglers each, and you can let loose your group of incentive winners on the high seas to bring back the trophy. Finish off the day by hiring a chef to prepare the catch for your group’s evening meal.
Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB: http://www.sunny.org
Jacksonville CVB: http://www.visitjacksonville.com
Miami CVB: http://www.miamiandbeaches.com
Orlando CVB: http://www.orlandoinfo.com/cvb
St. Augustine CVB: http://www.getaway4florida.com