JAN 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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J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 6 ⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 19 COVER: DRIVE-IN MEETINGS within a two-hour drive of Atlanta, Nashville, Knoxville, Huntsville and Birmingham, and within a three-hour drive of 10 million people. Our city is at the intersection of three major in- terstate highways: I-75, I-24 and I-59," Dolliver said. With so many businesses based in major cit- ies, it makes sense that attendees want drive-in meetings to be within close proximity. The drive-in sector continues to expand for the Emerald Coast of Florida. CTIS Travel Indus- try Sales Director for the Emerald Coast CVB Sherry Rushing said, "The proximity to our destination from larger cities like Atlanta, Mont- gomery, Huntsville, New Orleans, Tallahassee, Hattiesburg, Nashville and others" makes this destination a great place for events where people are driving in. "Attendees love to come to the Emerald Coast because we are centrally located to these corporate and association hub cities. The Emerald Coast Convention Center and our accommodations with meeting facilities offer complimentary parking." Having freedom while attending an event doesn't hurt either. "Groups love to drive in for the convenience and the options to have their own vehicle to enjoy their free time to go shop- ping, enjoy the local gulf-side restaurants, and the many activities and attractions the destination offers," Rushing noted. Experiencing a taste of the exotic as part of a drivable destination, at- tendees will be sure to enjoy the Emerald Coast. "The Destin – Fort Walton Beach – Okaloosa Island area is like being in the Caribbean without [the need for] your passport and is a lot less expensive," Rushing stated. The Emerald Coast Convention Center "hosted a large Cheer Competition WSA from Louisiana in November. The group was 700 strong, and the competitors and spectators also enjoyed shopping, dining, activities and the beautiful beaches during their free time. The room rates are great in the fall and winter months," Rushing said. "A number of the groups who choose the Emerald Coast Convention Center make their selection for the versatility of the center and what the entire destination has to offer. The clients are delighted to spend time on the sugar-white sand and in the emerald-green waters, experience the Southern hospitality, enjoy all types of water sports, dolphin cruises, festivals and events," Rushing explained. Florida's oceanfront appeal makes it a popular Southern state for drive-in events, and one venue that has benefited from the drive-in meetings sector is the Ocean Center Convention Center in Day- tona Beach, Fla., according to Angela Cameron-Daniels, director of sales, marketing and event services. "The Ocean Center Convention Center is only 400 feet from the Atlantic Ocean and is sur- rounded by accommodations, restaurants, attractions and more in the core area of Daytona Beach," Cameron-Daniels said. "Drive-in meetings have been an important element in the number of guests attending events at the Ocean Center Convention Center. Drive-in meetings typically bring in strong numbers utilizing area restaurants, hotels, shopping and attractions." Cameron-Daniels added that "the Ocean Center is adjacent to Daytona Lagoon Waterpark and Arcade; Peabody Auditorium with Broadway shows, concerts and events throughout the year; and the historic Bandshell, which provides outdoor concerts and showcases fireworks every Saturday evening from Memo- rial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend. The Daytona Beach area is affordable and provides personalized customer service." Another city that is conveniently located to many hub cities has seen a spike in drive-in meetings, especially due to much higher airline prices. "Greenville, South Carolina, provides great, easy access to most larger/mid-sized feeder market cities in the Southeast including Charlotte and Atlanta," said Joe Kramer, vice president of sales for VisitGreenvilleSC. "Heavy leisure and group marketing in the Southeast U.S." have helped to grow this sector for Green- ville, according to Kramer. And with interstate access to I-85, I-26 and I-40, as well as "rea- sonably mild winter weather," the destination is a "great value, especially November through February," Kramer explained. "The city has easy access to the Blue Ridge Mountains and can offer pre- and post-event options to Asheville, Charleston and other major cities." n Peace City in Greenville Hattiesburg

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