Planners Have Plenty of Options to Find the Best Bang for Their BuckJune 5, 2019

Hidden Gems By
June 5, 2019

Planners Have Plenty of Options to Find the Best Bang for Their Buck

Hidden Gems

CIT-2019-05May-Value_Meeting_Destinations-860x418_v2Indianapolis is becoming more popular with the versatility of the Indiana Convention Center, which is adding a 235,000-sf expansion that includes a 50,000-sf ballroom. Credit: Visit Indy

There was a time when planners chose meeting destinations by selecting one of the biggest that offered the most of everything at the best prices.

Not anymore. Finding value in destinations of all sizes is more important than ever as meeting budgets shrink or remain flat while attendees’ expectations for unique experiences rise.

That’s why destinations aggressively seek to offer value by providing top services and building new hotels and venues while expanding and renovating existing ones.

Here are some of the destinations that are establishing reputations for providing value.

Indianapolis

When it comes to what Indianapolis offers planners, the Visit Indy website says it all: “If you can dream it, Indy can make it happen.”

Indianapolis made it happen last May for 2,500 software engineers and sales employees of Siemens PLM Software Inc.

Sally DeBolt, CMP, senior event manager, global events, Siemens Digital Industry Software, says Indianapolis was chosen for its value and other reasons.

“Indianapolis is a centralized location for many of our users, and offered a hotel package with a variety of service types and price points, and the affordability helped us sell the event as a whole,” DeBolt says.

“As a result, the decision to attend was a good value proposition,” DeBolt says. “Also, options for using venues such as Lucas Oil Stadium for our opening reception gave us the opportunity to provide some unique experiences for our guests.”

The Siemens Digital Industry Software citywide meeting involved half of the Indiana Convention Center (ICC) space and six hotels, and the properties were a perfect match. “We obviously fit very well in the vast amount of space available,” DeBolt says. “We are incredibly space heavy with 40-50 concurrent breakout rooms and exhibit space.”

Judy Payne, CMP, director, meetings and travel, GameStop, was also impressed by the meeting and hotel space in Indianapolis. Payne planned GameStop’s recent 2019 annual conference for 7,000 attendees.

“Our host hotel was the Marriott, but we also used the Embassy, Westin, Crowne Plaza, Hyatt Regency, and Marriott Tri-brand,” Payne says. “All of our meeting space was at the convention center. The beauty of Indianapolis is not only are all these hotels across the street from the convention center, but they’re also connected. Attendees can elect to cross the street outside or stay in the skywalk to get to the center,” Payne says.

The ICC met the conference’s needs in a way no other facility had. “GameStop has extensive A/V in our meeting rooms to support our gaming sessions, so we require a lot of space,” Payne says. “In most other cities we use the full convention center plus all of the space at our host hotels. Indy was the first city where we could put all of our sessions under one roof.”

“Not only was their more than enough space,” Payne adds, “Our attendees said that the ICC was the easiest center in which to get around. It’s well laid-out and has lots of common space for our crowd.”

Leonard Hoops, Visit Indy president and CEO, says more planners are discovering Indianapolis’ value, especially in hotel prices. Indianapolis’ hotel rates for comparable properties are consistently more affordable than cities that offer similar convention district amenities,” Hoops says.

The downtown Wholesale District also contributes to the value. “Indy’s thoughtfully designed district provides unbeatable value both to event decision-makers and their attendees,” Hoops says. “The event package includes a centrally located convention center with 12 hotels totaling more than 4,700 hotel rooms directly connected by enclosed skywalks.”

The district will offer even more after the ICC completes a 235,000 sf expansion that includes a 50,000-sf ballroom, the state’s largest, and 30,000 sf of additional meeting rooms.

The ICC will also add 1,400 adjacent hotel rooms after two Hilton-branded hotel towers are constructed by 2023. In addition, another 1,800 downtown hotel rooms are under development. The new properties will include the Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Aloft Hotels and west elm Hotels brands.

Milwaukee

There was a time when some people jokingly referred to Milwaukee as Chicago’s smaller, friendlier cousin. Milwaukee residents think there is some truth to the saying and would add that the city’s value is also something to brag about.

According to the VISIT Milwaukee website, “Milwaukee is an exciting meetings destination with an unexpected ‘wow’ factor, and all this at substantial cost savings.”

In addition, the website boasts about “5,000 hotel rooms located downtown at average daily costs of lodging and meals that are among the lowest in our competitive set.”

The hotels include The Pfister hotel downtown, which hosted a corporate meeting earlier this year for 125 attendees.

According to Tracey Bockhop, CMP, CEO of Meet Meetings, a Verona, WI-based meeting and event planning company, “The Pfister is laid out almost perfect for our group. We had all our meeting space on the same level and moving from meetings to meals went so smoothly. The hotel has a lot of spaces for this size group and was able to accommodate us while keeping costs affordable.”

In addition, Bockhop says, “Our attendees were in intense meetings all day long and having such beautiful space and natural light in the hotel really helped them stay engaged and productive.”

Meeting in Milwaukee — in February  — and possibly facing very cold weather did not deter Bockhop. “I know Milwaukee is usually not the first choice for a group in February, but we found it to be very beneficial,” Bockhop says.

Attendees enjoyed several offsite activities. “There were not a lot of distractions during the day and in the evening, we were able to load up buses and take them to the Harley-Davidson Museum for dinner and entertainment. There were so many other choices, but this fit our attendees best.”

Attendees also enjoyed activities within The Pfister. “With so many options in and around the hotel, they did not have to look to hard to find things to do,” Bockhop says. “The hotel has a bar on the top floor which provides amazing views and great drinks. They also made some new friends with another group in-house that was doing a scavenger hunt and some joined in.”

Paul Upchurch, VISIT Milwaukee president and CEO, says the city is appealing to more planners such as Bockhop.

“Consistently rated as a top destination among planners and attendees, Milwaukee is the city that planners want to work with, and attendees look forward to visiting,” Upchurch says. “Being within a single day’s drive of several Midwest cities and having an airport offering nonstop service from cities coast-to-coast, it’s easy to get to Milwaukee.”

“And once you’re here,” Upchurch adds, “it’s easy to get around our compact downtown area with our convention center campus and connecting hotels right in the center.”

Oklahoma City

Michael Carrier, CTA, president of the Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau, touts the city’s value for groups: “Our cost of living is one of the most affordable in the U.S. and visitors benefit from that,” he says.

Carrier has a simple strategy for spreading the word about Oklahoma City’s value and other strengths: “Tell planners in all markets what is being done in this renaissance city to serve their needs, and then do it all over again every day,” Carrier says.

Several factors contribute to Oklahoma City’s value.

“Oklahoma City is a large city with small-town feel,” Carrier says. “The friendly, down-home attitude is obvious to our visitors. Planners and their attendees get first-class service all over the city.”

Service standards remain high as the city expands its meetings facilities and infrastructure. “Many of our long-time customers remark how OKC has changed physically but maintains its small-town charm and care,” Carrier says.

Planners will have 200,000 sf of exhibit space when the new $288 million convention center opens in 2020 with 45,000 sf of flexible meeting space, including a 30,000-sf ballroom.

The convention center will have an adjacent, brand-new Omni headquarters hotel. The 17-floor, 605-room Omni will feature 78,000 sf of meeting, event and pre-function space. Completion is scheduled for 2021.

Other properties under construction include a six-story boutique hotel in the Midtown area. The property, which will be part of a national chain, will feature 110 rooms and 8,500 sf of retail space. Construction is expected to be completed by 2021.

The new hotel is part of Pivot Project, a Midtown redevelopment program that includes a new brewery, food hall and offices. The hotel will also be one of the 20 hotel stops for the new streetcar network that started operation at the end of 2018.

In addition, Will Rogers World Airport (WRWA) terminal launched an $89 million expansion project that includes four new airline gates, a consolidated security checkpoint and additional greeting lounge space. It’s the first major expansion at WRWA in 12 years. The project is scheduled for completion in the second quarter of 2021.

Spokane, WA

Spokane is known for its plethora of outdoor activities, including 33 golf courses, 78 lakes and rafting on the Spokane River.

However, Spokane is also becoming known as an attractive meetings destination anchored by the Spokane Convention Center (SCC), which is connected to two hotels and offers 390,000 sf of total event space including 41 meeting and breakout rooms.

Last year, the SCC hosted 600 attendees for Reinke Manufacturing Company Inc.’s national sales meeting.

“Having direct access to the convention center — where all of our main events were held — from The Davenport Grand, Autograph Collection, which is connected, gave our attendees more time to enjoy Spokane as a whole,” says Stacey Bowers, Reinke meeting event planner. “They needed less time to transfer back and forth in between sessions and could get out and see the surrounding area.

The Davenport Grand, Autograph Collection had all the amenities the group needed. “We had one small meeting at the hotel prior to our event,” Bowers says. “The meeting space was great, and the food, beverage and service exceeded our expectations.”

In addition, the group took advantage of Spokane’s diverse activities.

“Our group enjoyed a trip to Coeur d’Alene for a lunch cruise, a golf outing at The Creek at Qualchan Golf Course and also a sporting clay tournament at the Double Barrel Ranch,” Bowers says.

“They really enjoyed the walkability of downtown Spokane as well as the rental scooters,” Bowers says. “There are so many local shops and restaurants that it was actually hard to choose what to do some evenings.”

New construction will create more activities and venue space.

According to Meg Winchester, CMP, president and CEO of Visit Spokane, “Riverfront Park, adjacent to the convention center, is in the final phase of a $64 million upgrade that includes the addition of a 4,000-seat outdoor pavilion ideal for concerts and large gatherings.”

In addition, Winchester says, “The First Interstate Center for the Arts, which is connected to the SCC, opened in November after renovation. It has 2,700 seats and is the inland Northwest’s premiere theater facility.”

Mobile, AL

The cultural center of the Gulf Coast, Mobile, AL offers value its boosters say compares favorably to bigger-named competitors.

According to David Clark, Visit Mobile president and CEO, “I look at reports for our comparable cities. We are significantly below the average daily rates (ADR) for our ‘comp set.’ The value here is a great opportunity for meetings and conventions. It’s a big deal when your rates are better than almost everybody else’s.”

Clark says a variety of factors contribute to Mobile’s value.

“The value of the overall customer experience is significant when you tie in the things to do in Mobile, the walkability of our city and the iconic lodging that we have at very affordable rates,” Clark says. “We have about 1,100 hotel rooms within two or three blocks of each other, including Renaissance and Hilton brands.”

There’s also more to do in Mobile than ever. The city has opened more than a dozen restaurants, bars and shops in recent years. “The culinary scene is on fire with 62 restaurants within five blocks of each other,” Clark says.

In addition, many of the hotels are near the state-of-the art Arthur R. Outlaw Mobile Convention Center (AOMCC), the city’s prime meeting space. Planners are attracted to the center’s two ballrooms, each with 7,750 sf of space as well as 16 meeting rooms.

“We have made a few improvements in the AOMCC over the last few years with air walls and things like that,” Clark says. “We don’t have to improve a lot there. It’s one of the most beautiful in the nation. There are lots of windows and lights. It’s walkable to all downtown hotels.”

Meanwhile, Mobile officials have also been working hard to recruit cruise traffic back to the city and the effort is bringing results.

More than 2,400 passengers pass through the City of Mobile Terminal each day. Cruise traffic received a boost when Carnival Cruise Line agreed to extend the Carnival Fantasy’s stay in the city through November 2019.

Detroit

Detroit’s meetings industry has come a long way since the city filed for bankruptcy in 2013.

Since then, the city has turned around financially and become an increasingly popular option for planners, including Stephanie Gillett, manager, internal communication and events for Livonia, MI-based Pet Supplies Plus.

The company held its Leadership Summit for 750 employees, store managers, franchise owners and operators at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center.

Gillett chose Detroit and the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center after a thorough vetting process.

“I am very careful about choosing our venues because I want our people to see the kind of customer service we expect them to execute on the sales floor,” Gillett says. “I do site visits to make sure the space is adequate, but I won’t work with a group that’s not going to offer outstanding service.”

The Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center delivered.

“The level of customer service was second-to-none, which was a great thing to see,” Gillett says. “I had a group of go-to staffers at the Marriott that drove the meeting forward, taking care of one need after the next without hesitation. They handled one crazy situation after another.”

The Renaissance Center’s self-contained activities matched the group’s needs perfectly.

“The RenCen is a city unto itself,” Gillett says. “Our guests had a variety of restaurants and bars where they could escape the bigger group but not have to go outside. “From our point of view, it was great to keep the team so contained and close.”

On the other hand, the atmosphere outside of the Renaissance Center offered enjoyable experiences for attendees.

“You can just step outside and you’re on the RiverWalk, watching freighters go by, saying ‘Hello!’ to people on their fishing boats,” Gillett says. “And, of course, you can practically wave to Canada right across the street. We have lots of attendees who don’t travel except to our event, so seeing Canada was very cool for them.”

Gillett considers the meeting a big success because the destination and hotel helped her enhance attendee experiences and achieve meeting goals.

“Our goal for the meeting was to increase our team members’ engagement with the company and drive behaviors that help them provide an excellent shopping experience for our customers,” Gillett says. “The Marriott staff did everything in their power to provide our team with an experience they wouldn’t forget, with great service, a great Detroit theme, food and a great place to put on a party after the learning was done.”

Baltimore

Planners looking to stretch budgets while obtaining everything they need for meetings need look no further than “Charm City.”

According to Al Hutchinson, Visit Baltimore president and CEO, “Baltimore offers the perks of a big city without the price tag, plus the bonus of being located directly on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Baltimore’s affordability and walkability make it an easy city to navigate knowing that wherever you decide to explore, there is always something new and exciting to discover.”

Meeting space is plentiful. More than 8,500 hotel rooms are located near the Baltimore Convention Center (BCC) and Inner Harbor.

The BCC, with 85,000 sf of meeting space that can accommodate up to 75 percent of meetings and conventions, is undergoing a $20 million in renovations.

“We continue to work with the Maryland Stadium Authority and Baltimore Development Corporation on plans to expand the BCC,” Hutchinson says. “Not only would the current proposed scenario allow us to market to more and larger groups by added square footage in exhibit, ballroom and meeting space, but also renovate the facility and further enhance our overall competitive position.”

Completed upgrades to the BCC include additions that planners seeking green-friendly will find attractive.

Recently, the BCC completed its 27,000-sf Outdoor Terrace Green Roof atop the exhibit hall. In addition, the BCC is also the first convention center to implement SOMAT, a waste-reduction process that decreases solid waste up to 90 percent and converts it into a useable soil product.

Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, an energetic mid-sized city with a small-town feel, has made great strides as a meeting destination and is gaining national recognition.

For example, Pittsburgh ranks No. 3 on National Geographic Traveler’s 19 for 2019 Cool List. The destination was the only U.S. city on the list. Also, af&co., a restaurant and hospitality consulting firm, named Pittsburgh the 2019 Food City of the Year.

According to Craig Davis, VisitPITTSBURGH president and CEO, Pittsburgh’s value is very competitive.

“We compare strongly depending on how you classify our market set,” Davis says. “We compare ourselves against other mid-size cities in the Northeast. We have great four- and five-star hotels that, compared to other cities, are very affordable. We are right in the middle in terms of hotel affordability.”

Hotel rate value, coupled with the Platinum LEED-certified David L. Lawrence Convention Center (DLCC), is a winning combination for Pittsburgh.

AE Ventures, a South Easton, MA-based technology company, held its Total Tech Summit at the DLCC last year for 850 executives who stayed at the Westin and Omni hotels near the convention center.

Nicole Dreher-Silvia, meeting planner and creative services manager for AE Ventures, found that the DLCC’s central location, accessibility by air and 1.5 million sf of meeting and exhibition space, including 53 meeting rooms, perfectly matched her needs.

“Ease of transportation to and from the airport and proximity of hotels to DLCC are important to our attendees,” Dreher-Silvia says. “We have guests flying in from all over the country.”

The DLCC’s space was also crucial. “We needed over 25 breakout rooms and the DLCC easily accommodated us,” Dreher-Silvia says. “We also used the exhibit hall and ballrooms. All of our events took place at the convention center.”

Service was top-notch. “The staff at the visitor’s bureau and DLCC were very professional and helpful in every step along the way, which helped us serve our guests to the fullest extent,” Dreher-Silvia says.

At the end of each meeting day, attendees enjoyed Pittsburgh’s bustling nightlife.

“We planned a pub crawl outing for attendees,” Dreher-Silvia says. “Downtown Pittsburgh has lots of restaurants and bars in a compact location, so that made our pub crawl easy to plan and no one had to walk too far. There was also a Pittsburgh Steelers game one of the nights of our event and several attendees went to that.”

Davis says Pittsburgh’s value proposition has grown with its guest room space.

“We have a lot of new hotel product that has come into our city in the last six years,” Davis says. “We’ve added about 6,000 rooms during that time. We have about 29,500 total rooms in the metropolitan area. The growth has been in all price points.”

Baton Rouge, LA

Louisiana’s capital city, located just 80 miles from New Orleans, appears on many “best of” lists, including National Geographic Traveler magazine’s “Best Small Cities in the United States.”

As Baton Rouge reaps the accolades, it is offering more of everything planners need to for successful meetings, including value.

According to Paul Arrigo, CDME, Visit Baton Rouge president and CEO, “Baton Rouge continues to be a city that specializes in experiences at reasonable rates year around. We will continue to personalize services based on planners’ needs. We also offer incentives to meeting planners based on their group’s needs without offering a one-size-fits-all approach.”

Meanwhile, Baton Rouge is adding more guest amenities.

“Over the past few years we’ve seen a lot of growth in the number of hotels as well as attractions and restaurants,” Arrigo says. “We don’t see this growth slowing down anytime soon. Being able to continue to offer different experiences is a reason to keep coming back.”

Reasons for planners to return include Baton Rouge’s meeting-space mainstay, the Raising Cane’s River Center (RCRC), recently underwent an expansion that transformed the downtown area.

The RCRC complex has the River Center Arena and River Center Theatre for the Performing Arts and a new exhibition hall, all of which offers more than 200,000 sf of meeting and exhibition space.

In addition to the RCRC, Baton Rouge offers many activity and venue options.

“We are a city that offers plenty of unique meeting venues whether you choose to meet over a game of golf, on a swamp tour, in Louisiana State University’s Tiger Stadium or in a traditional quiet meeting venue,” Arrigo says. “Meeting the needs of the planner is what we specialize in.”

Greenville, SC

Value along with all that Greenville offers as one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities is attracting more meetings from companies, including SYNNEX Corporation, which holds about 400 meetings a year nationwide.

The technology solutions company recently held a meeting in Greenville. Rae Hawkins, SYNNEX manager, conferences and events, says they chose Greenville partly because it encourages networking.

“For us, having events in a smaller destination like Greenville means more interactions between our attendees, which fosters better networking, partnerships and, ultimately, better business,” Hawkins says.

Attendees spent time together at the many local restaurants and bars within walking distance.

“For example, they socialized at the Orb Lounge or had dinner together in the Roost Restaurant or somewhere along Main Street,” Hawkins says. “In Greenville, our attendees could spend all their down time together because everywhere they went, they ran into other attendees. They didn’t get lost in the crowd, because they were the crowd in Greenville.”

In addition, Greenville offers a healthy variety of downtown hotels and meeting venues that accommodate groups ranging in size from 12 to 2,000.

According to Hawkins, “Some newer venues we used to great success are el Thrifty social club; Oak and Honey restaurant and bar in the newly opened SpringHill Suites Greenville Downtown; and the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, where we hosted a reception and concert for 800 people. Some hotels have great alternatives to a ballroom, like the Hyatt.”

In addition to plentiful hotels and venues, the Greenville Convention Center (GCC) offers 60,000 sf of meeting and conference space along with 280,000 sf of exhibit space. According to the VisitGreenvilleSC website, “The Greenville Convention Center offers unbeatable flexibility and value to people hosting any type of event.”

Hawkins plans to bring more meetings to Greenville partly because of its unique charm.

“The advantages to hosting a meeting in Greenville is that you get to be a part of this colorful and ever-changing southern tapestry,” Hawkins says. “There are so many award-winning restaurants, great breweries, unique venues and a walkable downtown.”

Richmond, VA

Don’t think of Richmond as a dowdy destination that isn’t accustomed to hosting a variety of meetings.

Richmond officials are the first to admit that the city traditionally hasn’t been top of mind for planners. But while planners may have focused on other destinations, Richmond was busy making itself more attractive for meetings.

Now, Visit Richmond, VA’s website boasts, “While you weren’t looking, Richmond got cool.”

It’s no wonder that Travel + Leisure named Richmond a must-visit destination, and the city ranked No. 7 on Travel + Leisure’s list of “America’s Favorite Cities.”

Indeed, Richmond offers everything planners need for every type of meeting.

Like many mid-size destinations, Richmond attracts a sizeable portion of meetings from companies within driving distance.

One such company, Wartburg, TN-based radio station WECO-FM, held a meeting last year for 65 employees and advertisers.

According to Ed Knight, owner of WECO Radio dba: Morgan County  Broadcasting and meeting planner, “We chose Richmond because it was the host city for a NASCAR race with several hotel options nearby, making travel logistics easy. We went to the race and watched from a suite and took garage and pit tours.”

The meeting was a success. “My clients were very happy. So happy in fact, that they renewed a large contract for 2019.”

The destination’s meeting space anchor, The Greater Richmond Convention Center (GRCC), is the largest in the state with more than 200,000 sf of convention, ballroom and meeting space, including 13,000 sf of newly renovated space. The GRCC is located within a short distance of most of Richmond’s 8,000 hotel rooms, which include brand-name properties such as Marriott, Hilton, Omni and Hyatt.

Atlantic City

Conventions and meetings continue to flock to Atlantic City, as the destination expands and refurbishes meeting space while setting booking records.

Meet AC reported a fourth consecutive year of higher convention bookings in 2018. Last year, Meet AC booked 238 conventions representing 371,996 hotel rooms through 2022. Meet AC aims to book 360,000 rooms this year.

As an example of the rising attendance, earlier this year the four-day Progressive Insurance Atlantic City Boat Show recorded a 2 percent increase in attendees.

Commenting on the bookings, Jim Wood, Meet AC CEO, told the organization’s annual meeting, “I think we as a group, we as a destination, as we continue to pour investment and add new products into hotel properties and casinos, continue to enhance their flavor and their offerings.”

Hotels and resorts, which offer a total of 18,000 guest rooms, are improving their properties.

Caesar’s Entertainment is financing a $56 million renovation of 507 rooms and suites in the Coastal Tower at Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City Hotel & Casino. The project is expected to wrap up by the end of the year.

Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa is undergoing an $11 million refreshing to integrate its sportsbook operation with a new bar. In addition, Borgata added a two-floor, 18,000-sf conference center.

The Ocean Casino Resort is undergoing a $70 million project that will add 500 guest rooms to the 1,399 currently in the property’s hotel tower.

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City opened last year after undergoing a $500 million transformation. The Hard Rock offers 150,000 sf of meeting space and the 7,700-seat Mark G. Etess Arena.

Resorts Casino Hotel recently added 64,900 sf to its conference center.

Coastal Mississippi

Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau is now  Coastal Mississippi, according to Milton Segarra, CEO of Coastal Mississippi. The “recent rebranding has led to a shift in our value drivers as a premier meetings and conventions destination to destination influencers. We are positioning ourselves amongst the leading DMOs to provide meeting planners with the highest-quality service and strategic support.”

Coastal Mississippi targets a range of groups. “In terms of meetings and convention bookings, our sales and marketing strategy targets specific business in and around hub cities that have direct flights to and from our regional airport,” Segarra says.

Groups in industries related to the Mississippi coastal area are among the prime targets.

“Our marketing strategy leverages key industries that Coastal Mississippi has to offer, such as maritime biology research, nature-based organizations, aerospace, golf, and port-related and petroleum industries, in order to solicit and secure new business,” Segarra says.

Coastal Mississippi’s advantages include The Mississippi Coast Coliseum & Convention Center (MCCCC), across the street from Biloxi Beach, which features 400,000 sf of meeting space and can accommodate up to 6,000 attendees.

The MCCCC is also within walking distance of nine casino resorts with a total of 5,000 guest rooms. Some of the casinos have up to 66,000 sf of meeting space.

The resorts include: Beau Rivage Resort & Casino, Golden Nugget Biloxi, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Biloxi, Harrah’s Gulf Coast, Hollywood Casino Gulf Coast, IP Casino Resort Spa, Palace Casino Resort, Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort, and Treasure Bay Casino and Hotel.

Norfolk, VA

Planners seeking an affordable, friendly and accessible destination can meet these needs in Norfolk. According to Kurt Krause, VisitNorfolk president and CEO, “Norfolk is a vibrant, urban destination that provides unique value to planners.”

Krause says Norfolk provides value in several areas, starting with the destination’s 5,000 hotel rooms.

Primary meeting hotels include the Norfolk Waterside Marriott, which is undergoing a transformation that includes the renovation of all 405 guest rooms and suites and the M Club, an exclusive lounge.

The 468-room Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel, the city’s only waterfront meeting property, provides 46,000 sf of meeting space. Another property, the luxurious Hilton Norfolk The Main, is located downtown along the waterfront. It offers The Main Ballroom with 18,382 sf.

Beyond meeting properties, Norfolk offers many activities and top service to enhance attendee experiences.

According to Krause, “You can feel the Southern hospitality and creative grit when walking around downtown which is full of entertainment, shopping, attractions and delicious cuisine.”

Most of Norfolk’s dining, nightlife and entertainment options are located downtown within 12 walkable blocks. “Additionally,” Krause says, “Norfolk has 144 miles of shoreline to be explored so attendees will also never be far from the water.”

Destinations that have spent years under the radar are becoming more popular due to planners’ needs for more budget-friendly options.

Groups that have been priced out of costlier destinations or want a change of pace from bustling big cities can find everything they need at value destinations to achieve meeting goals and create unique attendee experiences.C&IT

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