Canning has been at the Orange County Convention Center—where she leads in the operation and management of one of the country’s largest convention destinations—for nearly 30 years. The convention center hosts 150 events each year including the meetings of major corporations such as Microsoft and Starbucks. She is currently working on a master plan to further enhance the 2.1 million square feet of exhibit space, to increase both its capacity and amenities. Canning is also involved with numerous professional organizations. She serves as adjunct professor at the University of Central Florida and volunteers with the United Way, chamber of commerce and Visit Orlando.
Orlando is, of course, known as the theme park capital of the world, but we're also one of the top business meetings destinations. What do you think makes Orlando such a popular choice?
In the meetings market, Orlando is number one because of all that we have to offer: an international airport, the second largest convention center in the United States, a large hotel inventory, attractions, shopping, restaurants, great weather and the list goes on and on.
How many people come to Orlando for business versus for pleasure?
The Orange County Convention Center hosts close to 1.5 million business visitors per year. The large hotels also handle a good deal of the group business. The leisure visitor far outweighs the business traveler; however, the dollars spent by the business traveler is considerably more than the individual tourist spends. As a result, the OCCC attendees contribute approximately $2.1 billion to the area's economy each year.
What makes the leisure traveler different from the business traveler?
The main difference is the leisure traveler spends their own money for vacation, and the business traveler is often attending and entertaining on behalf of their organization.
What will new projects, like Orlando 360, add to the city and International Drive?
Orlando as a business and leisure destination needs to continually refresh, renovate and add new amenities to the inventory of things to do. When analyzing the individual business traveler, we use the rule of thumb: there are eight hours in the workday and eight hours of rest; the remaining eight hours need to be filled by the traveler with different options for dining, education, entertainment, shopping and relaxation, etc.
If someone is coming in for a convention and just has time for one thing, what would you tell them to do?
Relax and enjoy the weather, shop at our world-class malls, outlets or boutiques; dine at one of our highly rated restaurants; spend time at the attractions or on a professionally designed golf course. There are unlimited options, so I can’t think of just one thing.