The Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) has had phenomenal growth and success throughout the decades. The Center of Hospitality kicked off 2020 by welcoming back many iconic, long-standing clients, along with some new conventions and trade shows.
Nonetheless, during this time the global COVID-19 pandemic began to greatly impact the entire convention and trade show industry. It goes without saying that the OCCC, along with the hospitality industry, has experienced an unusual end to an otherwise robust first quarter.
From January to March, the OCCC welcomed 35 events with an estimated 331,000 attendees, contributing $740 million in economic impact to the Central Florida region.
In January, the PGA Merchandise Show returned to the OCCC for the 35th year attracting nearly 40,000 golf industry professionals from all corners of the U.S. and more than 80 countries. It is estimated that this leading industry event contributed a major $102.7 million in economic impact to the Central Florida region. Later in the month, the OCCC also hosted Surf Expo, which generated $73 million in economic impact with more 28,600 attendees, as well as the Veterinary Meeting and Expo, known as VMX, with 18,500 attendees, contributing $47 million in economic impact.
In February, the OCCC continued to host thousands of attendees and industry professionals, welcoming the AHR Expo. This leading air conditioning, heating and refrigeration industry event hosted 50,600 professionals generating $130 million in economic impact. Additionally, the American Rental Association Show held its annual trade show and convention featuring 11,400 attendees, creating an economic impact of $29 million.
To round out the quarter, Global Pet Expo hosted their international industry event welcoming 17,000 pet professionals and boasting $44 million in economic impact. Each year, Global Pet Expo supports the community beyond economic impact. Through sustainable waste diversion practices, exhibitors at the premier industry event generously donated approximately $25,000 worth of goods to the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando.
The OCCC has withstood many economic challenges like 9-11 and the recession of the late 2000's, but nothing can compare to the repercussions of COVID-19. COVID-19 has had a rippling effect across all sectors of the economy – initially impacting The Center of Hospitality followed by tourism partners, airlines and hotels, including Orlando’s world-class theme parks and other restaurants and entertainment attractions. With an estimated $3 billion annual economic impact and supporting more than 1,200 local businesses and 29,300 jobs, the OCCC’s mission of economic development has never been more important than it is today.
“Although the Center and the industry has never experienced this magnitude of cancellations or setbacks in one stretch, the OCCC has always bounced back and this time will be no different,” said OCCC Executive Director Mark Tester. “The OCCC is dedicated to flattening the curve with a goal of coming back ahead of the curve, stronger than ever.”