ORLANDO – A year ago, the association representing a key aspect of this region’s hospitality industry held its annual trade show, attracting more than 100 attendees at a time when Central Florida’s tourism industry was starting to show signs of improvement following several years being battered by the national recession.
On Thursday, the Central Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association will again host its annual Trade Show, this year at SeaWorld, to put a focus on what’s been happening in the region’s critical tourism industry.
And if nearly doubling attendance is a sign of a healthy industry, said An Flamand, then 2012 was definitely a turnaround year for property managers of vacation homes.
“There is a lot going on at the trade show,” said Flamand, the president of the CFVRMA. “We have sold 50 booths. That’s full. We’re at full capacity for the booths. And we have 210 people registered. Last year we had 120.”
The CFVRMA’s annual Trade Show will be held on Thursday at SeaWorld’s Ports of Call convention center. The event is an opportunity for people working within the vacation home industry to get together, set up a booth providing information on the services they offer, and to get the latest updates on what’s happening in this specialized field of hospitality and tourism.
Vacation homes are a fast-growing segment of Central Florida’s tourism industry, particularly in Osceola and Polk counties. The field offers this region’s visitors an opportunity to spend their local vacation in a fully furnished house, complete with multiple bedrooms, a kitchen, private pool and game room – all the conveniences of home during a trip to the theme parks and other local attractions.
Flamand, who operates USA Vacation Homes in Davenport, noted that there are now more than 600 property management firms in Central Florida, making this one of the region’s strongest employers.
“People don’t realize how big our industry has become,” she said. “But in the next year, I think that will start to change.”
The Trade Show starts at 8:30 a.m., and the agenda will include guest speakers, breakfast and a buffet lunch, breakout sessions for association members, and something else – a flashback into the history of the CFVRMA itself.
There will also be a VIP Reception at the conclusion of the event, from 5:30-7 p.m., capping a day filled with activities.
“We actually have a very full agenda,” Flamand said.
Registration for the Trade Show begins at 7:30 a.m., when the doors to Ports of Call open to the public. Breakfast will be served from 8-9 a.m., and the attendees will be officially welcomed at 8:30.
At 9 a.m., guest speaker David Catalano will discuss the concept of YOLO – which stands for “You only live once, make it count.”
At 11 a.m. there will be a breakout session on social media and direct marketing, followed by a buffet lunch at noon on the patio at Ports of Call that will include seafood pasta salad, roasted sirloin, oven baked chicken, Yukon gold potatoes, wild rice pilaf and more.
Topics being discussed at the breakout sessions will include how to maximize use of social media in business marketing plans, and “How to make your business sexy,” Flamand said. The two half-hour sessions also give members an opportunity to network with one another, she added.
There will also be a presentation from the firm Glad To Have You, which created a mobile application designed for both vacationing guest and resort property managers, to enhance guest relations in a high tech way.
By putting the Glad to Have You APP on their smartphones, guests suddenly have a wealth of useful information at their fingertips.
“It’s an APP on your phone, and you can send it to all your guests,” Flamand said. “That APP is so advanced that it provides direction to your office, directions to the vacation home, and we can communicate to all our clients with it. They can use it to rebook or leave a testimonial. It’s a whole different type of service.”
At 1 p.m., the association will have a presentation on the CFVRMA’s history, followed by a second breakout session at 2:30 p.m. for property managers and associate members.
Susan Constantine, a motivational speaker and body language expert — who has appeared on national television, and in July 2011 examined the reactions of family members during the Casey Anthony murder trial in Orlando — will speak at 3:30 p.m.
Most of all, Flamand said, this event helps put a spotlight on an industry that has grown and prospered this year, contributing significantly to the local economy. Vacation homes are such a strong presence on U.S. 27 in Northeast Polk County, she noted, that 58 percent of the tourist development taxes that Polk County collects comes from vacation homes alone.
“We are still such an undiscovered market – not by tourists, but by the fact that we are not getting much support from the counties,” she said. “It is only now getting to the point where we are asking for a fair share of the tourist development tax money for marketing. We worked very hard to bring in that tax money.”
The Trade Show, Flamand said, will spotlight an industry that is healthy and on the rise.
“We’ve been working very hard on trying to figure out what our market really does in this area,” she said. “And we have a lot of new guests coming to us. It’s all good.”
To learn more about the CFVRMA Trade Show, call Judy Braland, the association’s manager, at 407-201-0120.
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