ConventionSouth

JUL 2016

ConventionSouth magazine is the leading resource for meeting planners who book all types of events, conventions, conferences and group travel in the south.

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⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ J U L Y 2 0 1 6 w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 18 which they accommodate and provide assistance to meeting planners," she said. "Events are now often hosted within non-traditional and unique venues that complement – yet are unique to – their respective destination." PERSONALIZED SERVICE, UNIQUE EXPERIENCES Beyond cost savings, the number one value of bringing an event to a small market is the individualized attention a group receives, said Stefanie Wyckoff, business development manager with meet NKY/Northern Kentucky CVB. "In a large destination, smaller groups may have to compete for staffing or other resources when larger groups are in a market over the same dates," she mentioned. "In a smaller market, groups are often the primary occupants of a convention center or convention hotel. When a group's needs, people and messaging are front and center for attendees and exhibitors, everyone wins and great meetings happen." Small to mid-sized markets also offer tremendous opportunities for attendees to discover new travel destinations, each with their own unique culture, history, attractions and niche experiences. For instance, Visit Stillwater has great success branding itself as "America's Friendliest College Town," Morrison said, "because most individuals have fond memories of their college days and they love the opportunity to relive those memories within a quintessential college town." Wyckoff emphasized that smaller markets are becoming more adept at theming and packaging rich engagement opportunities for groups that appeal to attendees eager to discover a new destination. "Showcasing regional food specialties along with local arts and culture really complements a convention experience and provides great visuals for social-media sharing," she noted. "For a quintessential Northern Kentucky experience, attendees can try a local flavors dine-around in historic MainStrasse Village or plan an event at New Riff Distilling for a unique craft tour and tasting that both entertains and educates." EXPANDING INFRASTRUCTURES Recognizing the opportunities that exist with conventions and meetings, second- and third-tier markets are investing in infrastructure to better support groups. For instance, many destinations are investing in walkable districts and downtown entertainment options, according to Janice Jefferson, director of sales with Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast. "We have legislation being passed to allow different cities along the Mississippi Gulf Coast to designate walkable districts where our patrons and visitors can carry to-go cups," she explained, pointing out that the bill will enable people to enjoy an alcoholic beverage while walking through designated districts. "We're even marketing it as 'Go-Cup' and planning a whole roll-out." The destination is also investing in more family-friendly venues to complement its existing casino hotel infrastructure. The 373- room Margaritaville Resort Biloxi opened its doors in June featuring an indoor 55,000-square- foot entertainment complex complete with a 40-foot, two-story Volcano Rock Climbing Wall, ropes course, zip line/roller coaster, golf, bowling and water park. The city of Rome recently added a newly constructed Hampton Inn & Suites to its historic downtown region to complement its existing inventory of rooms located in walking distance of the area's primary convention facility. The hotel features a modern interior design with 1,600 square feet of meeting space and is close to all attractions in Downtown Rome. Also, a new Courtyard Marriott, located across from The Forum is currently under construction with a SMALL MARKETS...BIG ON MEETINGS Kayaking on the Mississippi Gulf Coast Outside event in Rome, Georgia Paul Bonge

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