Writer: Joshua Andino
2 min read March 2022— Americans and businesses alike are ready to be done with the pandemic, and Greater Fort Lauderdale is ready for them both.
As cities across the country call for businesses to get back to the office, both for the sake of tax revenues and the survival of local ancillary businesses that rely on the downtown worker to make a living, Florida stands out, where businesses have had the option to be in-person and back at the office since 2020. Greater Fort Lauderdale in particular stands to benefit from the return to in-person work and travel across the country, with convention space, new offices and its world-class amenities at the ready to welcome back business travelers and events.
The need to return to in-person business has become increasingly clear over the last year, as the initial COVID-pivot gave way to Zoom fatigue and a growing loss of corporate culture, proper mentorship and collaboration. As Visit Lauderdale President and CEO Stacy Ritter noted in a statement to Invest:, “The energy, engagement and sense of camaraderie among people at in-person events just can’t be replicated in a Zoom webinar or when working remotely.”
Across the country, businesses and cities are looking to bring workers and travelers back, whether that be in the office or as a destination to visit or hold a conference. Marking the shift, President Biden remarked during his State of the Union address that, “It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again.” Nike, on the eve of its 50th anniversary, has announced plans to return to the office. Microsoft has declared its offices in Washington and the Bay area will begin to open. In Florida, businesses have been in-person and hard at work for over a year, and for Greater Fort Lauderdale, it’s just another day in paradise.
Greater Fort Lauderdale’s reputation has shifted over the last two years, burnished by a number of business relocations and a swelling population. The region offers something rarely found anywhere else and which will remain a priority for both those who are back in the office and those who appreciate the convenience of remote work: an optimal work-life balance. “Greater Fort Lauderdale has something for everyone under the sun. From the east with the sun and surf on our sandy beaches, to the west with the unique ecosystem and wildlife of the Everglades, we’ve got it all. Known as the ‘Venice of America’ and the ‘Yachting Capital of the World,’ Greater Fort Lauderdale offers a unique water culture, from getting around town by Water Taxi to enjoying the dock and dine experience,” Ritter told Invest:.
With strong recreational offerings and numerous amenities at hand, the region is poised to capture the return of the multibillion dollar business travel sector, or the new iteration of corporate retreats and team building trips. While remote workers can be just as, if not more productive than at the office, Ritter noted, “Many businesses are reallocating what was once itemized as ‘business travel’ as ‘corporate team building retreats.’ Even with high productivity levels from remote work forces, there is a significant need for in-person interaction and brainstorming among internal and external teams. There is an even greater need for sales forces to return to in-person client meetings, which frequently take place at trade shows and conferences, which continue to return to live formats, sometimes with hybrid elements worked into programs. “Whether for work or recreational purposes, there is huge pent-up demand for travel and meetings and conferences held in warm weather destinations. Unique and desirable recreational options are drawing large numbers of attendees.” She had also noted that between its warm weather and world-class amenities, “Many, in addition to attending their professional events, will add on to their stays to soak up even more sun.”
Greater Fort Lauderdale is more than ready for the return of in-person meetings and events. Many new hotels were planned and under construction pre-pandemic, as was the expansion of the area’s convention center. Ten new hotels opened in 2021, with seven more expected to open this year. One of those, the Four Seasons Hotel and Residences Fort Lauderdale, and the standard-bearer for all things luxury, recently opened and is now accepting guests.
The Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center reopened in October 2021, with the 800,000-square-feet center boasting an expanded 350,000-square-foot exhibit hall, a part of the $1.1 billion expansion underway. The completed addition will include two new ballrooms, the larger with waterfront views. A six-acre outdoor waterfront plaza will complement the 800-room, 29-story headquarters hotel connected to the center. By 2025, the center will boast an astounding 1.2 million square feet of space, complete with its own Water Taxi and downtown access, further solidifying Fort Lauderdale’s moniker as the Venice of America. With Brightline already having restarted service, access to the rest of the tri-county area is merely a high-speed ride away.
As many across the country begin their returns to office and finalize their remote and hybrid work policies, Greater Fort Lauderdale is ready, and businesses have taken note of all that the region has to offer. “We have great interest from large associations and corporations for city and destination-wide events when our convention center expansion is complete in late 2025,” Ritter told Invest:.
The destination hasn’t wasted any time, with a number of events already underway or on the calendar. “We are hosting the National Senior Games, the world’s largest multisport championship event for adults 50-plus, from May 10-23, 2022. The Games take place at the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center and at sports venues throughout the community with plenty of locations for fans to catch the live action.” And for next year? “Next winter, the NHL All-Star Weekend is coming to FLA Live Arena on Feb. 3 and Feb. 4, 2023.” Ritter added that a full schedule of conferences and trade shows has already been posted to Visit Lauderdale’s website.
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