By Joana Mangune Posted May 18, 2012, 12:52 PM EDT
To promote Florida tourism and provide Visit Florida partners the opportunity to network with meeting professionals, Visit Florida is hosting Very Important Planner events in Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C., in May and June. The cities were chosen since they are large tourist feeder markets and have a major base of meeting professionals.
The V.I.P. events kicked off May 2 in Chicago with a Chopped-inspired event in which the Chicago meeting professionals worked next to Florida tourism representatives to create a meal together using fresh Florida ingredients kept in a mystery basket. The next week, the V.I.P tour stopped in Atlanta, where meeting professionals were treated to a spa session at Spa Sydell’s midtown and North Atlanta locations.
“Each of the events is different and themed to the latest trend or new happenings in that particular destination,” said Cheryl Hatcher, Visit Florida's director of sales.
The tour reaches Washington May 22 at chocolate lounge and boutique Co Co. Sala with a chocolate and wine tasting demonstration. Finally, Visit Florida comes to New York June 27 and 28. The first event will be set in Madison Avenue’s Jo Malone fragrance boutique where guests will be able to create and take home samples of their own Florida fragrance. The following day, a “Come & Go” luncheon at A Voce in the Time Warner Center is planned in keeping with the hectic schedule of meeting professionals who can only attend for a short while before heading to their next meeting. They can either stay for the hour-long lunch or drop by for a few minutes.
Visit Florida expects up to 100 meeting professionals to attend each event. The planners represent associations, corporations, government agencies, third-party planners, or the SMERF (Social, Military, Education, Religious/Faith Based or Fraternal) market.
Partnering with Visit Florida, representatives from various tourism sectors attend the events to network with the professional planners—usually up to 10 per event, Hatcher said. They include staff from convention and visitors bureaus, convention centers, and hotels and resorts.