Southwest Florida’s gleaming Tampa is topping planners’ lists as a destination with the right prescription for successful medical group and association meetings.
The bayside city offers a concentration of resources across multiple specialties with dozens of accreditations in all health care fields. Tampa has earned the moniker as “Medical Facility Capital of the Southeast,” hosting many top-rated facilities including Shriners Hospitals for Children, Florida Hospital Pepin Heart Institute, Laser Spine Institute, James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital and Busch Gardens Animal Care Center.
One significant draw to Tampa for medical groups is the University of South Florida’s Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation, known better as CAMLS. Completed in 2012, CAMLS is one of the world’s largest free-standing simulation facility exclusively dedicated to training health care professionals.
“What makes CAMLS so unique is it is a 90,000-sq.-ft. stand-alone, three-story surgical skills health care simulation center in the heart of downtown,” says Paul W. Ayres, director of sales, marketing and business development for CAMLS. “We are only 7 miles from Tampa International Airport, across the street from Tampa Convention Center, and surrounded by hotels and all of downtown’s amenities.”
Ayres notes CAMLS is specifically designed for group training and education. The center offers resources including a virtual hospital and exam rooms, virtual reality simulators, high-fidelity human simulators and more than 250 actors trained as standardized patients, as well as a comprehensive array of general surgical equipment including booms and towers, in-house cadavers and an on-site vivarium.
The facility also has 25,000 square feet of flex-meeting space, conference and classroom facilities, including a 200-person, semicircular tiered auditorium equipped with hard-wired, global teleconferencing capabilities as well as Apple TV, Wi-Fi direct connections and a state-of-the-art audience response system that enables live, interactive polling.
CAMLS has recently hosted groups such as the Society of Gynecologic Oncology, which used the facility for training in laparoscopic procedures and robotics training, and The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which conducted best-practice training. Last fall, Florida Association of Nurse Anesthetists held its annual meeting at CAMLS, taking advantage of the training facilities on-site.
“Having the actual clinical-grade settings is tremendously important for medical education and training,” says Ayers. “Groups like that they can use their own experts and educators in our facility or work with us to identify area resources to support their training needs.”
Tampa Convention Center
CAMLS’s proximity—a quick three-minute walk—to Tampa Convention Center
affords even greater flexibility for planners. The convention center has 600,000 square feet of flexible event space, including a 200,000-sq.-ft. exhibition hall, and is situated alongside the Hillsborough River, where Tampa’s fabled Riverwalk fronts the center. Here, 32,000 square feet of outdoor patio space accommodates up to 3,500 for a reception.
TCC has 36 meeting rooms—10 with waterfront views—and a 36,000-sq.-ft. ballroom accommodating 3,600 theater-style and 2,080 seated. Additionally, 84,000 square feet of prefunction space offers many on-site event options.
Recently hosted and upcoming medical groups:
> 2016 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students: 4,000 attendees
> 2016 American Phytopathological Society Annual Meeting: 2,000 attendees
> 2017 American Nurses Association Annual Conference: 4,100 attendees
> 2018 Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses Convention: 3,500 expected attendees
“Medical groups are an essential element of our meetings and convention business,” says Alex Kaptzan, vice president of convention sales and services at Visit Tampa Bay. “Tampa has everything groups are looking for in a Florida destination, from gorgeous beaches, parks and nightlife to history, arts, culture and excellent value.”
Tampa Bay’s notable attractions offer groups a diversity of entertainment and off-site options such as The Florida Aquarium, Busch Gardens, Tampa Museum of Art, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and Saddlebrook Resort.
In January, Tampa successfully hosted the 2018 NHL All-Star Game at Amalie Arena, home of the Tampa Bay Lightning, upping the city’s national profile. “We offer many attractive pre- and post-meeting possibilities,” says Kaptzan. “From golf and area resorts to excursions from our Port Tampa Bay cruise terminals, groups enjoy the work-and-play advantages we offer.”
Read on for hotel properties.
Bed Rest Tonight, Meeting in the Morning
Tampa’s downtown corridor has more than 3,000 hotel rooms, with new projects underway to dramatically enhance their inventory. Here’s where to stay:
Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina:
Situated alongside Tampa Convention Center and with 43,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, this 717-room property recently completed a multimillion-dollar enhancement to its lobby, lobby bar and restaurant. An additional $40 million in renovations are targeted as part of the newly developed adjacent JW Marriott Tampa.
JW Marriott Tampa:
Slated for a 2020 opening, this premium luxury property broke ground in early 2018 and will have 519 rooms and 126,000 square feet of meeting and event space—including the largest hotel ballroom in Tampa Bay at 30,000 square feet—when completed. The development is in the Water Street Tampa neighborhood, steps from Tampa Convention Center and Amalie Arena, home to the National Hockey League’s Tampa Bay Lightning, with the highest rooftop bar in Tampa Bay.
Embassy Suites Tampa – Downtown Convention Center:
Connected via skybridge to Tampa Convention Center, the Embassy Suites offers groups 360 rooms and 9,000 square feet of flexible meeting space.
Hotel Spotlight: Innisbrook Golf & Spa Resort
Planners check all the right boxes when combining work and play options into a lush destination that excels at both, at Innisbrook Golf & Spa Resort, 30 minutes northwest of Tampa International Airport.
Nine hundred-acres of tropical Florida landscape welcomes groups at this upscale yet relaxed property. Salamander Hotels & Resorts has invested more than $30 million in renovations since their acquisition of this storied locale in 2007. A comprehensive multi-million-dollar renovation of the more than 450 guest rooms and suites launched earlier this year and will be completed by December 2018.
“We host between 600 and 700 meetings annually,” says Bill McKay director of sales and marketing at Innisbrook. “Groups are most surprised to discover how spacious our guest rooms are. Our one-bedroom suites, for example, are almost 1000 sq. ft. with separate living rooms and full kitchens.” Recent groups hosted include 800 with HCA Healthcare, 700 with Humana and 225 with Adventist Health.
Diversity of meeting and breakout venues is especially attractive for planners as Innisbrook offers 100,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, including 65,000-sq. ft. indoors. The Grand Ballroom’s 14,000- sq. ft. hosts up to 1600 theater-style and the adjacent 8,000-sq.-ft. foyer is well suited for both exhibition and receptions for up to 2000.
Groups discover many playful diversions for unwinding here including golf on the resort’s legendary Copperhead course, home to the annual PGA’s Valspar Championship. Three other compelling tracks complete this golf Mecca and multi-year winner of Golf Digest Editor’s Choice Best Travel Award. Tennis, miles of cycling/hiking/jogging trails, multiple pools and pampering at the Salamander Spa and four onsite dining venues also keep groups engaged and energized.