We know that planning conventions and events can be daunting, and that the perfect location for the event can often seem elusive. How do you manage the tension between providing a memorable event, complete with high-quality venues and engaging experiences, while at the same time staying within the constraints of a budget?
To the event planner who is frustrated by this task, made more difficult by the date and cost constraints of the typical destination cities, we, the smaller (and equally qualified) cities, write this letter to you. In our cities, you are special!
Cities are often placed in tiers, relative to the size and general characteristics corresponding to that tier. Those cities that quickly come to mind for conventions are designated as "first-tier destinations." Cities such as Chicago, Las Vegas and Orlando may be able to provide many amenities, but they should not be viewed as the only option for event planners, particularly in terms of price and ease of access.
“While a second tier destination may not have a lot of international airlift, 10,000 committable hotel rooms or large meeting/exhibit space, it doesn’t mean that these destinations don’t have world-class meeting facilities and amenities,” says Christine 'Shimo' Shimasaki, CDME, CMP, the Managing Director of empowerMINT.com and E.I.C. Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI).
By choosing a smaller destination, your event takes precedence. In larger convention cities, an event becomes one of many, often overlooked for the larger clients. A second-tier, while still well-suited to your event, means less hassle when selecting dinner reservations, choosing event experiences and coordinating overall transportation logistics. In fact, most smaller cities have a concentrated downtown, often eliminating the need for any additional transportation during the event.
When selecting a second-tier destinations, affordability is often a contributing factor. According to VisitFortWayne, meeting planners are saving 15 percent when locating their convention in Fort Wayne rather than a larger city. Savings are similar in the other second-tier cities in the region: entertainment, fine dining and even transportation are often more affordable, without sacrificing any of the quality provided by a first-tier city.
"Clients are saying, 'I've really kind of done the main cities,'" says Sarah Williams, senior purchasing manager at Chicago-based BCD Meetings & Events. "A lot of people are trying to save money and they're looking for a different kind of experience that a second-tier city can offer."
In smaller cities, conference venues are often located within walking distance of these top destinations. Even when driving is necessary, parking is affordable and time spent driving to destinations is considerably less.
Selecting a second-tier city doesn’t mean sacrificing quality of experience. In fact, it can often be the difference not only in cost, but also in the accessibility and enjoyment of the conference. We invite you to think small and enjoy the benefits that we, the second-tier cities, can offer.