Blake Dowling: In the event of an event … choose a life of ‘bleisure’
Businessman working on vacation even at sea

Work on holiday
Florida is perfect for living the life of bliesure.

For corporate tourism, seminars and retreats, Florida is king of the hill.

According to our friends at tech company Cvent, Orlando is the top conference site in the nation. Miami, Tampa, Hollywood, Ft. Lauderdale, and Jacksonville are the other Florida destinations also listed on their list.

Last year, Florida welcomed over 140 million visitors, up from the previous year’s high, according to the Governor’s office and VISIT FLORIDA. “Florida continues to welcome visitors with open arms,” said Dana Young, president and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA. “The record-breaking visitation seen in 2023 and continued through the first quarter of 2024 reaffirms Florida’s status as a must-visit destination for travelers worldwide.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis added, “These record-breaking numbers show that our work has made the free state of Florida even more attractive to visitors.”

I talked to a professional in the meeting planning space to get her thoughts on the wave of visitors to Florida for work and pleasure. “There is no longer a traditional ‘offseason’ in Florida when we know group rates will be low.  There are still more affordable times, but you must know when and where to look or have the ability to be flexible,” says Susan Stafford, President of The Event Architects, a Florida company specializing in site sourcing.

Susan told me a great pandemic story on our podcast about the staff at a hotel that hosted their first event after Florida opened and how they thanked her as they had not worked in weeks. You can hear all about that and more on our latest show:

Susan Stafford in the Biz & Tech Podcast studio. Image provided.

All of this information points to “bleisure” becoming a more common practice.

The term bleisure means the “blending of business and leisure travel” and Florida is the best place to do it

Florida has beaches, hotels, sports teams, restaurants and amusement parks, which keep people heading our way.

Plus, remember that only a couple of years ago, Florida was open for business when Vegas, California and New York closed shop. Conference planners remember these kinds of things, meaning where they could do work in 2020 and early 2021.

Susan Stafford at an event with some of her clients. Image provided.

The good people at Meetings Today had this to say about bleisure.

A 2021 Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) study found that 37% of all business travelers extend their work trip for leisure. The company one is traveling for has paid for an attendee’s flight in most cases, and hotels will often extend the group rate before and after the meeting. This inspires many travelers to extend the work trip into something else.

I always tack on an extra day for certain conferences. Anything in Amelia Island, for example, like the upcoming Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce Annual Conference. But every market is different, personally I try to flee Orlando like Saigon in 1975 the second a meeting is over. I am old and cranky now, no more crowds please. It would seem others avoid Florida for other reasons as not everyone loves the Sunshine State. Our state lost the Game of Thrones conference business recently as their meeting planners dislike our state because of some of the Governor’s policies.

Other groups followed last year but that trend appears to be over.

By comparison, do you think someone visiting Poland checked to see who the President is first before visiting? Or not visiting the U.S. because Joe Biden or Donald Trump are President?

I recall when we booked our 2018 trip to Russia. Whether Putin or Gorbachev was in charge did not come into the decision-making; we were rolling. We were never going back, either. But that’s a column for another day.

Bottom line: Florida is the place to be for conferences, and for those planning ones, make sure you have an app for your next conference. Allowing people to navigate a conference with a tech guide and a corresponding chatbot is the way to do it. Susan and I have both worked with the cool folks at 223 Agency here in Florida to assist with app building. You can check out their work here: Our Services — 223 Agency.

We have come a long way as a state since those days of 2020 when even Florida was briefly shut down.

Looking back at the conference scene — it was not so bad.

I attended a few with masks and 6 feet apart, and we provided several for our clients online as a virtual option. I spoke at a few of those, too. Being a virtual speaker is a zero-nerve-racking experience versus being in person in front of a crowd, but I would not trade anything for the in-person experience.

I will never forget the night one of our partners rented out the Harry Potter ride at Universal for their clients.

It was an epic meeting, and it was maximum fun, as we stuck around for a day or two after that one, even though it was in Orlando.

Florida is the place to have your meeting, and meeting season is upon us so see you out there.


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and can be reached at [email protected].

Blake Dowling

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. His technology columns are published by several organizations. Contact him at [email protected] or at


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