Letter: Hotels, Cabs, Restaurants: Orlando Is a Difficult City for Annual Conference

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I couldn't agree more with Tad Clarke's editorial ("Good Show, Wrong Location," Oct. 20). Orlando proved to be a very difficult convention city for many reasons. That the local press decided that the best way to sell its paper was with negative headlines and articles about our industry was only one reason we should never go back there.

We could start with the hotels. They were further apart and more difficult to get to than in any city other than Dallas that we frequent. There was no indication of those distances in any of the literature leading up to the conference.

Speaking of cabs, what is the deal with them? I was told many stories by many cab drivers as to why there was no way to know how much a ride was going to cost unless you asked before getting into the car. If you were quoted a price that was unconscionably high, there was no way to get a cab that was less, since the metered cabs were precluded from picking up at hotels.

Many drivers didn't know the location of restaurants that were very close and well known. Some cabbies became annoyed when I had only the street address and no directions. As a New Yorker, I have never seen anything like the cabs or town cars to which we were subjected in Orlando.

We should mention the restaurants as well. Though there were some very fine spots that deserved high ranking, many were not open for lunch, and the few that were didn't take reservations! We always seem to stress the restaurants when we come into town, but Orlando seemed unwilling to deal with it, and many times it took more than an hour to get served.

I admit that from an outsider's point of view, we behave strangely at conferences. We all gather in tight little knots, talk furiously, take notes and then get up and run to another meeting just about every half hour! To the waiters and bar hostesses, we must be about the wackiest group they come across. Another thought is that perhaps most of the tourists who come to Orlando spend the days at one of the entertainment parks, and the restaurants and hotel staff aren't used to doing much of anything during the day. All that being true, we do bring many dollars and jobs into the community.

The Direct Marketing Association works hard to produce the annual conference, and I applaud its efforts. It does need to come to terms with the fact that many of us go to this event to work. In our world, work means setting up meetings, taking clients to lunch and scheduling appointments according to the wishes of those attending, which can be one or 10 different people, all of whom are staying at different hotels. It is imperative to the continued success of these conventions that those needs are taken into consideration. My vote is for a city that fills those needs - and only the DMA can arrange that!

Linda Huntoon, Executive vice president, Direct Media Inc., Greenwich, CT



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