Chicago has grabbed the top spot among U.S. destinations for where companies and associations are planning meetings and events, according to Cvent, a technology company that connects event planners with tens of thousands of venues.
Looking at its booking data from July 2013 to June 2014, the company found that Chicago had inched up to first place compared with the previous year, overtaking Orlando, which now is second, followed by Las Vegas.
“It’s pretty significant,” says Eric Eden, Cvent’s vice president of marketing, noting that it’s usually difficult for other U.S. cities to top Orlando and Las Vegas, which have large convention centers and hotels that on their own have millions of feet of meeting space.
But Chicago has seen extensive investment in its hotels, including major renovations of the Hyatt Regency Chicago and The Langham, he says. The fact that Chicago and other Midwestern cities are more centrally located also is appealing because they may be more convenient and affordable for attendees traveling from various cities.
“Chicago in particular is very attractive to association meetings as they’re trying to draw their membership from around the country,” Eden says. “It’s not just the hotel rates that might be more competitive than some other locations. But because it’s centrally located, the airfare and total cost for people to attend are lower versus if people have to fly from one coast to the other.”
Such cost consciousness shows that while meeting and event activity has bounced back after dropping significantly during the recession, businesses and organizations still are guarding their pursestrings, sometimes holding meetings in hotels near airports or in the suburbs to curb expenses.
“Meetings are how business gets done, so organizations need to continue to have” them, Eden says. “But there is a lot of focus on being financially responsible.”’
Chicago was not the only Midwestern, or more centrally located, city to grow more popular in the past year. Dallas moved up a spot to No. 7, and Nashville jumped four sports to 10th.
“A lot of destinations that aren’t as large are investing in interesting ways and doing a lot of marketing to attract business,” Eden says. “Nashville is a good example. . . It’s attractive to a lot of planners because you have new properties, there’s a brand new convention center experience and it isn’t as expensive as other, larger destinations.”
Convention centers, hotels and visitor bureaus are racing to buff up properties, boost entertainment options and offer incentives to event planners because hosting a meeting or corporate event can be vital to a city’s and hotel’s coffers.
“For most hotels, meetings and events are about one-third of their business, and overall, meetings and events are a big economic driver for a lot of cities,” Eden says.
Meetings can be more lucrative for hotels than individual travelers because of the tabs accrued from catering and providing audio visual assistance along with other services.
For cities, “it’s not just the hotel revenue,” Eden says. “It’s the revenue that goes to restaurants, shopping and entertainment.”
Tourism generates nearly $5 billion a year for the Nashville-area economy, and 40% of that revenue is from meetings and events, says Heather Middleton, spokeswoman for the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation.
“It’s an easy city to host a meeting,” she says. “and it has a culture.”
This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service — if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.