Partnerships are a vital tool for the success of the hospitality industry. That’s why the University of Central Florida’s hospitality college and the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau Inc. have partnered to increase opportunities for bringing new meetings to the area.

Through a research agreement, the Rosen College of Hospitality Management has created a telemarketing research program using hospitality students to contact about 18,000 potential meeting clients on behalf of the Orlando/Orange County CVB.

The project includes gathering and updating information from meeting planners on their target markets, their needs and their expectations, ultimately generating new leads for the Orlando/Orange County CVB sales staff.

“This program provides hospitality students who are focused on sales and marketing with hands-on experience and instruction — plus it provides an enhanced resource for our sales team to qualify and identify new leads,” said Gary Sain, CEO and president of the Orlando/Orange County CVB. “Having a reputable resource like the Rosen College of Hospitality Management gives us a great community partner that can help grow our meetings opportunities.”

The project was launched April 9 in a Rosen College computer lab. Twenty UCF hospitality students and two supervisors were selected and hired for the research program and were trained on marketing research, destination marketing, telemarketing techniques and Orlando as a destination. The program is funded through the Orlando/Orange County CVB’s meetings and convention marketing program. Students can receive academic credit, as part of a paid internship.

“This partnership is a wonderful opportunity for our students to get a feel for what research, sales and marketing in the hospitality industry is like,” said Abraham Pizam, dean of the college. “It also will provide them training and experience that can only further the education they receive here at UCF.”

Hospitality scholars at Rosen say the work also should pay off as the economic downturn eases.

“We are taking a pro-active and long-range approach,” said Fevzi Okumus, the project’s principal investigator and head of the college’s Hospitality Services department. “Our project has already started providing leads and prospects for 2009 and 2010.”

“Once the economy turns around, we hope all our phone calls will help planners to choose Orlando,” he added. “We are proud to be able to help the tourism industry and Orlando during these difficult times.”

Tammi Runzler, vice president of convention sales and services at the Orlando/Orange County CVB, works directly with the call center and is pleased with the project.

“Overall, we at the CVB are very happy and excited about our partnership,” she said. “It’s not only a learning experience for the hospitality students, but it’s helping us at the Orlando/Orange County CVB bring more business to Orlando. I feel that it is a win-win situation.”