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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Florida Meeting Guide: Daytona Beach

Courtesy Daytona Beach CVB

There was a time when Daytona Beach was more synonymous with spring break than breakout sessions. That’s changed.

“We’re a good drive-in market for regional meetings,” said Linda McMahon, director of sales for the Daytona Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We’re seeing success with state associations, and we’re getting a lot of interest from national associations.”

The Daytona Beach area, which includes Daytona Beach, Daytona Beach Shores, Holly Hill, Ormond Beach, Ormond-by-the-Sea, Ponce Inlet and South Daytona, has long attracted social, military, educational, religious and fraternal meetings. In 2013, for example, Daytona Beach will host Rejuvenate Marketplace, which attracts about 500 faith-based planners. Shriners International selected Daytona Beach for its 2017 convention.

“We are a small destination with the capability of hosting up to 20,000 people,” McMahon said. Credit goes in part to the Ocean Center, situated 400 feet from the sea. After a 2009 renovation that doubled its size, the center’s meeting space now tops 200,000 square feet.

Many large-scale resorts also target meetings. The Daytona Beach Resort and Conference Center has 322 studio and resort condos and 14,000 square feet of meeting, banquet and exhibit space. El Caribe Resort and Conference Center in Daytona Beach sports a 3,000-square-foot ballroom, 100 oceanfront guest rooms and suites for entertaining.

And there are plenty of intimate properties. New to the area’s “inn” crowd is the Lotus Inn and Suites, a 42-room oceanfront property in Ormond Beach suited to incentives or executive getaways, according to McMahon. Built in the 1960s, the revamped inn now has a contemporary flair and modern amenities.

Daytona Beach benefits from having 1,200 guest rooms near the beach and within walking distance of the Ocean Center. Most are also a quick stroll from the Daytona Beach Pier, an 88-year-old landmark that reopened this year after a two-and-a-half-year repair and upgrade project. The flagship restaurant of the Joe’s Crab Shack chain is located on the pier.

Beyond the beach, golf and auto racing are Daytona’s draws. Golfers can play courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, Rees Jones, Arthur Hills, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Lloyd Clifton and Bill Amick. The Ladies Professional Golf Association, which has its headquarters in Daytona Beach, has two courses.

And groups delight to learn that Daytona International Speedway is more than a racetrack. The speedway has a number of event venues; the 7,691-square-foot Daytona 500 Club and the Velocitorium; a 60,000-square-foot showroom with an Imax theater that features a movie on NASCAR, of course; driving simulators; and trams that tour the speedway. It’s a popular reception site.

For a formal occasion that needs a special setting, the News-Journal Center’s glass-enclosed atrium lobby has views of downtown and the Halifax River. It is ideal for a reception for 750 or a banquet for 400.

The area’s many cultural offerings — the Seaside Music Theater, the Daytona Beach Symphony Society and the Museum of Arts and Sciences — may surprise those who link Daytona Beach with bikini-clad college students.

Yes, Daytona is still a spring break destination. But it is also a busy spot for the meeting industry.