Sunday, May 5, 2013

Great Family News Previewed at #TMSOrlando Family Travel Summit

It's not even over but I had to share an incredible evening in Orlando, Florida at the TMS Family Travel Summit held May 3-5, 2013 at the Hilton Orlando Resort.  For the impatient ones, let's cut right to the video:

How did we get there?   After two days of intense work, listening to:
  • revealing insights from Amy Foster at Disney's Consumer Insights Team on why families travel and how it has lasting benefits in lives of children and overall family bonds
  • Neal McCord from Give Kids the World, a village style  hotel for visiting children with life-threatening illnesses, who talked about families' need to give back, even on vacation or... especially on vacation
  • Jeffrey Eslinger -- the original Big Data guy -- from D.K. Shifflet Associates, who analyzed and brought to life millions of data points to teach us that the Millennial Generation (born after 1981) are the most well traveled generation in the world today... and we have to please them!
  • Peter Yesawich, who shared breaking news of consumer optimism from the 2013 Portrait of American Travelers -- news we were delighted to hear.
We talked resorts, transportation, road trips, airlines, cruises, tour operators, adventure trips, destinations, RVing, mountain vacations, ski industry, PR, dining, spa, luxury, budget and of course theme parks....

Friday night, we had a fascinating meal set up by Lisa Cole from Hilton Worldwide inside the banquet kitchen at the beautiful, 1400-room Hilton Orlando, where we dined on a wide variety of thoughtful, creative, healthful and delicious appetizers and watched as deconstructed mushroom tarts and pork sliders ran down a conveyor belt and were "plated" (garnish and sauces added) by a line of skillful, smiling chefs.

After all that hard work and all the food, we still had time for intense partying.
And Orlando Florida has an amazing variety of family attractions.

The Saturday Summit sessions were taken to a new level at Wave, the farm-to-table restaurant at Walt Disney World's Contemporary Resort -- who knew they raised anything but citrus in Florida?  In addition to dining on the freshest grouper, pork tenderloin and grass-fed beef sliders, the Disney culinary and nutrition team shared their experiences and insights on finding ways to serve guests healthier food, without them knowing it! About 6 in 10 children dining in Walt Disney Parks now choose a side of veggies with their kids meals instead of French Fries (though they're suprisingly non-fattening too).

The Disney team led by Rick Sylvain, Print/Online Publicity Director at The Walt Disney Company, then took us on a whirlwind tour of Art of Animation, their brilliant new Family Suites property that is solving the problem for big families who want to sleep up to 6 together... one of the main issues that came up at the Summit.

After a brief break back at the hotel where co-host Eileen Ogintz of and I manned the Think Lounge -- the beautiful Presidential Suite at the Hilton Orlando sponsored by SeaWorld and Visit Orlando -- we headed out to the Universal Orlando Resort.

Quietly, quickly, we were ushered in through the back door to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the park's hugely successful new playground for all things wizarding.  Our group of 35 was totally wowed by our first butterbeers (well, not mine!) and a ride on our own, through the multi-sensory, multi-technology enabled Hogwarts Castle. Wow! At Ollivander's wand shop attendee Jamie Espinosa from Trafalgar Tours received her very own wand!

How could anything top that?

From there we were whisked over to the beautiful Loew's Portofino Hotel where our host Jennifer Hodges of Loew's Hotels and Resorts showed us around, and shared news of the resort's first moderate priced resort, the Cabana Bay Beach Hotel.  

Russ Dagon, a VP of Universal Creative revealed the fabulous new family suites themed to Universal's Despicable Me! movie coming to the hotel -- 18 of them will be online soon for your kids to make mayhem!

I sat with Alice Norsworthy, Universal's Exec VP, Marketing & Sales for a wonderful meal at the Portofino's waterfront restaurant. Yes, they really have some cute tenors belting out love songs!  We gossiped about family travel, where it's going, how can we make it better, how to get the word out about the amazing things being done in our niche industry, and what her 10-year-old daughter and my 21-year-old son were up to. Alice is justifiably proud of the stunning developments going on at Universal Orlando, in Hollywood, at their park in Singapore and ..... so many other places!

Then we were ushered into a ferry for a glorious ride across their lagoon to shhhhhhh....
a sneak preview of Transformers - The Ride.  You just saw it, and you can see it live after June 20, 2013 in Orlando.

Stay tuned, more to come after we wrap up Sunday.

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