Find That Destination With a Difference to Make Your Event Truly MemorableJune 11, 2019

A Unique Upside By
June 11, 2019

Find That Destination With a Difference to Make Your Event Truly Memorable

A Unique Upside

Trump National Doral Miami offered one planner golf, pools and nearby shopping and nightlife — everything her attendees wanted. Credit: Trump National Doral Miami

Organizing an event, convention, retreat or offsite meeting? From musical venues to appealing hideaways to ultra-hip destinations, there are a variety of meeting locales and destinations for attendees who want a memorable experience. These destination gems offer unique accommodations and amenities aplenty — all while providing ideal locations for associations to work and play.

Miami is marvelous

Having a successful event is part art, part science. But if you have it in a world-renowned locale like Miami — you’ve got it made. Jennifer Porro, meeting planner and officer of Conventions & Program Development, Florida Chiropractic Association, recently held the Florida Chiropractic Association’s “SE Regional Convention and Expo 2019” at Trump National Doral Miami.

With 475 attendees and 150 exhibitors participating, the expo featured chiropractic continuing education as well as exhibitions showcasing the latest and greatest industry resources.

“Our convention wasn’t easily conducive to the downtown options Miami had to offer,” Porro says. “In our quest to find a location further south than Palm Beach County, but not wanting to give up the elegance and hospitality that Palm Beach County offers, we discovered The Trump National Doral. The appeal of many golf courses was quite attractive, yet the fact that it was easily accessible for attendees by car or plane, coupled with the amazingly hospitable staff to help us properly host our South Florida crowd.”

According to Porro, members of the Florida Chiropractic Association who were Miami residents requested a destination south of Palm Beach County, so they have made an effort to bounce between Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties every other year.

“This location has tremendous opportunity to appeal to golfers, poolside-loungers, as well as downtown city life junkies,” Porro says. “Downtown Doral is across the street, and Brickell is a quick ride away for those that are wanting fine dining, hip bars, and more nightlife than the resort will offer. Miami Beach is not far for a destination, and the airport is a quick 10 minutes away.”

Confident and cutting edge, Miami offers one of the most intriguing destinations for meeting and events. From high-tech hotels to art gallery spaces, the city is teeming with venues aplenty. One of the largest, most recent renovation projects in Miami is the refurbishment and expansion of the ever-popular Miami Beach Convention Center (MBCC). For years, the MBCC has been the epitome of convention locales within the Miami area.

The Miami Beach area is the most attractive region in the country for meetings and events, as the area continues to develop properties and infrastructure unparalleled anywhere else. The city of Miami continues to be at the forefront of this trend as the region updates its infrastructure while growing room and function space inventory with the addition of revolutionary projects, including the MBCC project.

Occupying 27 acres in the heart of Miami, the Miami Worldcenter will be opening the door to new and unique meeting spaces for meetings and events of all sizes in 2021. Situated on a 10-block site, Miami Worldcenter is one of the largest private real estate developments underway in the U.S. At the heart of the development is a delightful open-air, pedestrian-friendly shopping center and entertainment complex.

In addition, the monumental Marriott Marquis Miami Worldcenter Hotel & Expo Center will deliver a level of style, setting and service for guests that is simply unprecedented. Offering approximately 1,800 rooms and 600,000 sf of meeting, exhibition, and convention space, the hotel will boast a wealth of resort-style amenities, including an expansive pool deck with views of the bay, the American Airlines Arena, and the downtown skyline, as well as an 80,000-sf outdoor event deck.

Dominique Vanleuven, conference and incentive manager at HiPoint Events, has held several events at The Palms Hotel & Spa in Miami, mostly being upscale and international meetings. The most recent event held at The Palms was a group with 85 attendees, where they organized a cocktail bar near the pool, a dinner on the lush green lawn, as well as a barbecue lunch under the Grand Tiki. The property makes the most of its inspired-by-nature design which includes lush gardens, a large pool area, and white sandy beaches, providing plenty of opportunity and space for guests to mix and mingle.

“Miami is a popular destination that is often associated with gorgeous beaches, palm trees, and clear blue waters as well as its fun and unique art deco architecture,” Vanleuven says. “Its variety of culture and melting pot of ethnicities, has made Miami an international destination that is both safe and fun. Whether you’re visiting as an attendee or planner, there are plenty of options and activities available to meet your business needs or leisure.”

The Association of Internal Management Consultants recently held its international conference in Miami, with approximately 100 consulting leaders attending. According to Dr. Willliam D. Trotter, AIMC executive director, the event involves presentations, panel discussions, networking sessions, a vendor share fair, awards ceremony and skill-building workshops

“The location on the beach was a differentiator,” Trotter says. “Miami has the combination of great climate, beaches, entertainment and proximity to international airports. As with all conference planning, it is important to visit the site personally before making a decision.

Laura Land, meeting planner with the Florida Watermelon Association, Inc. agrees. In January 2018, Land orchestrated the 50th Florida Watermelon Association Convention at Trump International Beach Resort Miami for about 250 attendees.

“Miami has something to offer anyone — from the casual beach setting to the most luxurious big city settings. We have an annual convention and move yearly to different locations throughout the state. Miami made for an awesome experience with the warm weather and beautiful beach settings.”

Orlando, a Favorite Choice

In October, conference manager Libby Long hosted a conference for senior executives of her company at the Hilton Orlando. Across 2 1/2 days, the attendees absorbed phenomenal content in an even better environment thanks to the fresh and open event space and a staff that values partnership in event production and unparalleled service. Long hosted private lunches, receptions and the chefs at the property transformed the standard “conference food” experience into a culinary journey for attendees.

“Orlando is such a convenient location that really has it all — an international airport, countless golf courses, spas and entertainment — what more could you want?” Long says. “From an attendee perspective, Orlando brings a one-stop shop for a large array of interests, while being very convenient. Essentially, it is where you want to go.”

For meeting planners interested in Orlando as a potential locale for an association meeting or event, Long advises planners think outside the box. “There is more than meets the eye when it comes to Orlando, so take the time to understand how you can take advantage of all the city and area has to offer,” Long says.

Ashley Vercellone, meeting planner and senior director of operations, National Association of College Auxiliary Services (NACAS), says Orlando is a popular conference destination for NACAS members. “The location is convenient to the Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Studios Florida, and other local attractions,” Vercellone says. “This makes it appealing for our members to extend their stay into a vacation. From an event planning perspective there are many options to host unique experiences with access to local restaurants and other facilities.”

Last year NACAS hosted the C3X Annual Conference and Expo at the Rosen Shingle Creek Orlando resort. The 50th Anniversary celebration attracted approximately 1,300 attendees representing over 300 institutions and 200 business partners. Held annually, C3X is the pinnacle event for the auxiliary services industry where professionals can come together for high-level learning, idea generation, collaboration, and relationship building.

In addition to engaging general sessions led by keynote speakers and more intimate educational sessions, NACAS hosts the expo, where business partners have the opportunity to showcase their goods and services. They also host campus tours, a golf tournament, and affinity events to raise money for the NACAS Foundation.

“In addition, we hosted over 600 people to TopGolf for our opening event, and celebrated our 50th Anniversary with a barbecue and fireworks show overlooking the lake at the Rosen Shingle Creek resort,” Vercellone says.

Vercellone suggests meet planners look into event opportunities beyond the hotel.

Look at other local attractions that may not be your first inclination,” she says. “There are tons of quirky venues in the area that are unique, fun and convenient. Also consider the timing of your events as there are some potential weather considerations.”

While in Orlando, NACAS was connected with Florida Meeting Services, through Global DMC Partners and Shelley Meixell, vice president of global sales.

“While Florida Meeting Services brought us the fireworks and games, Meixell and her team continue to bring the connections across the country and around the world,” Vercellone says. “In the past two years that we have been working in partnership with Global DMC, they have provided us with creative ways to promote our conference and unique experiences that help to elevate our event for attendees. They are always quick to address any additional requests or concerns that come up along the way.”

Nashville is More Than Music

Nashville has become a hot destination, joining the ranks of other popular destinations. Just ask Brittany Baugh, CMP, DMCP, senior event manager of CSI Nashville, who has orchestrated many events in Nashville, ranging from spouse tours to offsite events for 300 people.

“Music city has Southern charm and a wealth of live music talent, which has lately been capturing the attention of Hollywood stars who are building homes here,” Baugh says.

“We’re not just country music anymore. We have axe throwing, pontoon boats, happening rooftops, and every type of cuisine you can imagine. We’re building countless hotel rooms to keep up with the demand.”

Karen Bennett, meeting planner with Coast Shows, has found that the convention and visitors’ bureau is always happy to help with events coming to Nashville and how to make the most out of an event.

“They can help meeting planners obtain hotels, convention or event space, catering and anything else you could need to produce an event,” Bennett says. “Everyone in Nashville is always happy to help.”

Though the convention center gets booked years in advance, Bennett recommends that planners be aware that their meeting date does not take place at the same time as another large event.

“Due to the fact that the traffic getting around the city could be an issue,” Bennett says. “The hotels are great and there are enough of them for any type of event size in Nashville. And there is live music everywhere you turn, great venues that are clean and willing to work with you, as well as outstanding restaurants and always something to do.”

Speaking of unique venues, Nashville boasts a century-old former train station turned hotel, called Union Station Hotel Nashville. Guests of the hotel now enjoy a new Union Station experience designed to convey a celebration of Music City — from local art to live music in the lobby. The Union Station Hotel also offers a range of group activities, including whiskey tastings and history tours.

Likewise, City Winery Nashville offers association event attendees amazing live music capabilities, delectable culinary creations, an award-winning wine program and stunning patio views. From intimate private dining spaces to a full production concert venue and winery, there are several distinct event spaces that can be combined and configured to host a one-of-a-kind gathering.

Anaheim Is Always a Safe Bet

Looking for a unique cool weather location? Anaheim, CA is a preeminent location for associations and their members who are looking to get away from it all. Thanks in part to the modern Anaheim Convention Center, many associations have found this city to be the ideal destination for hosting events with a reasonable budget. From intimate meeting spaces to large convention-style facilities, the Anaheim Convention Centers offers a wealth of venues from which to choose. And, thanks to a growing meeting and events industry, key facility space throughout the convention center has been expanded and renovated to engage and delight visitors.

The new 200,000 sf of space allows the convention center to grow with large annual events, providing meeting space capacity to attract meeting-intensive conventions. Specifically, the expansion consists of a vertically stacked facility containing 200,000 sf of multipurpose convention space.

The Bahamas Is Sure to Please

With sun-warmed beaches, iridescent waters and breathtaking sunsets, the Bahamas is naturally linked as an ideal meeting destination. Within the last few years, this memorable getaway has become more than just a few moments in paradise. In fact, the Bahamas has turned into a key destination as associations discover that the islands can double as the perfect event setting. Hosting a meeting or event in the Bahamas offers a combination of adventure travel and wonderful surroundings. Add to that the affordable prices, and you’ve got yourself the ideal location for an association event.

Cindy Coakley-Knowles, CEO and creative director, Destination Angels Int’l recently organized and hosted a familiarization and educational event at Courtyard Nassau Downtown/Junkanoo Beach for some of her fellow colleagues of the Association of Bridal Consultants. They had a combination of 35 attendees — local members and members from the United States.

“All organized activities centered around the attendees becoming familiar with the property and learning the destination at large,” Coakley-Knowles says. “There were eye-opening site inspections, island tours and informative educational presentations. These professional bridal consultants were pleased that this property gave everything they would want for their bride seeking that personal atmosphere away from the hustle and bustle of a large resort, which we all agreed applies for any meeting planner seeking a vendor that gives you everything a large resort offers in terms of its modern contemporary décor and all the A/V amenities one would need.”

Simply put, Coakley-Knowles says making the Bahamas the destination of choice for attendees, gives them a destination within a destination.

“In the Bahamas you have options. Go ahead, pick an island — something secluded and super private where locking doors is optional and air conditioning is not needed or you might be more inclined to keep it modern while enjoying the island lifestyle,” Coakley-Knowles says. “The Bahamas gives you this and more because it is more than just ‘an island’. There are 700 islands and cays.”

Meeting planners should utilize the on-property meeting planner or a local planner in the Bahamas to assist in providing a local experience for attendees. “This would add value for your attendees who will get to actually ‘feel’ the destination,” Coakley-Knowles says.

Leah Stefan, event manager at CSI Bahamas, says the Bahamas boast crystal blue beaches, white sand. 2,400 coral reefs and year-round sunshine. There are 700 islands that make up the Bahamas, of which only 30 are inhabited.

“The islands’ close proximity to Florida makes the Bahamas one of the easiest island destinations to get to and from,” Stefan says. “After a long day of meetings, there’s no better way to kick back and relax with a frosty cocktail by the water.”

Stefan recently orchestrated a trip for 325 executives and their spouses. Held at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, the event featured a golf tournament, spa appointments, dolphin encounters, swimming with the pigs, sailing, rum tastings and tours, snorkeling and ATV/dune buggy tours of the island.

“If you’re looking for a destination that is a sure bet for entertainment, recreation and relaxation for your attendees — the Bahamas is the place to go,” Stefan says.

Unique International Locales

Mexico has long been one of the world’s most popular destination locales. Offering high-quality facilities, stunning backdrops, and hundreds of different activities, Mexico is the perfect place for associations to find exactly what they’re looking for in a meeting locale.

While many think of Mexico as being strictly a “beach” destination, the country offers a wealth of options for those who seek more variety for their event. In addition to some of the world’s most famous locales — from golden beaches with turquoise waters, to old colonial cities teeming with charming buildings, cobblestone streets and classic archways — Mexico gives associations the utmost in choice and opportunity for their event.

Australia and New Zealand also has a growing meetings and events sector, thanks in part to the global boom in demand for events in unique destinations. According to Cvent, Australia and New Zealand are some of the world’s best destinations for meetings and events — offering breathtaking landscapes, modern city life and unique cultural experiences. Both countries offer a wealth of memorable venues, historical sites and famous landmarks that offer an ideal backdrop for meetings, conventions and events of all sizes.

A growing number of association planners are exploring Costa Rica as a unique destination for their conventions, meetings and events. Here’s why: Costa Rica is a natural paradise with rain forests, cloud forests, volcanoes, more than 300 species of birds as well as pristine beaches.

The $35 million Costa Rica Convention Center has recently opened in the country’s capital of San José, fulfilling the most significant goal in the Costa Rica Tourism Board’s strategy to more aggressively compete in the meetings sector. The long-awaited facility covers nearly 168,000 sf, with the capacity to host as many as 4,600 attendees in one session. It is located approximately midway between Juan Santamaría International Airport and downtown San José.

And while it may be a bit farther, Singapore has also become a favorite destination for many travelers who revel in the unique urban setting. Singapore has become the perfect place for meetings, conferences and exhibitions thanks to its wide range of state-of-the-art convention centers and venues that cater to a variety of needs and budgets. In addition to entertainment options aplenty, Singapore boasts wonderful cultural and environmental gems just waiting to be explored. AC&F

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