The 38th annual Florida Huddle, Florida’s travel trade event took place from January 14-16 in Palm Beach County.
Huddle, which is now owned and operated by VISIT FLORIDA, welcomed travel suppliers from across the state to meet directly with domestic and international buyers. This year saw a 12% increase in buyer delegates compared with last year, with total registered attendees amounting to 345 companies with 600 delegates and buyers from more than 19 countries.
Will Seccombe, president and CEO of Visit Florida, said that the state had welcomed record numbers of visitors over the last two years, of which a significant portion has been overseas visitors from 184 countries.
International visitors to Florida in 2012 amounted to 13.9 million of which 1.5 million were from the UK
Meanwhile, VISIT FLORIDA unveiled its winter brand campaign, Summer this Winter, which is part of its existing Must Be the Sunshine campaign. It focuses on attracting visitors to the typically warm winters of the Sunshine State and invites guests to head to 'the warmer side of winter'.
The event's host, Palm Beach County, revealed that there are 1,000 new hotel rooms in the pipeline including a new Hilton hotel which will be connected to the Palm Beach County Convention Center. A new Palm Beaches Outlet shopping mall will also open next month.
In other news, Fort Lauderdale has been named official host of VISIT FLORID Huddle 2015. The destination saw a total of 13 million visitors last year and is set to welcome additional numbers following new flights and developments. These include a new flight from Gatwick to Fort Lauderdale with Norwegian Airlines from July 2014 and the destination will boost hotel capacity with the introduction of the Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort; a La Costa Hollywood; and the Conrad Fort Lauderdale Resort and Residences.
Meanwhile, plans were unveiled by All Aboard Florida for a new high-speed passenger rail service that will link downtown Miami and Orlando Airport in just under three hours, with stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. The service is expected to be operational by 2015.
Orlando theme parks returned to Florida Huddle this year where Universal Orlando Resort revealed the line-up for it 2014 Mardi Gras celebration with an extended concert series featuring a line-up of artists including Robin Thicke, Nelly and The Wanted. The celebration offers 20 nights of concerts coupled with the legendary Bayou bash.
The theme park also unveiled details for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley which will open this summer with an expansive new area featuring The Hogwarts Express ride, plus shops and dining.
The themed environment will double the size of the area already dedicated to Harry Potter’s adventures at Universal Orlando, expanding it across both Universal theme parks.Guests will be able to travel between the two areas aboard the iconic Hogwarts Express.
Universal Orlando opened The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade at its Islands of Adventure theme park in 2010. That area includes the iconic Hogwarts castle – which houses the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction – and the village of Hogsmeade. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley will be located within Universal Orlando’s second theme park, Universal Studios, and will create new experiences based on the signature areas of London, Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley.