JAN 2017

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 7 ⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 23 Columbia, South Carolina "Accessibility is cited as a top priority by our drive-in planners," said Sarah Britt, director of sales for the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. "Most of the Southeast and East Coast is within a day's drive. Our statewide and regional planners often tell us that they have the highest attendance in Columbia because of its central location and ease of access by car. Colum- bia is intersected by three interstates (1-26, I-20 and I-77) and is geograph- ically located in the middle of the state. This means that South Carolina groups have a maximum three-hour drive." Jason Outman, executive director of the Columbia Metropolitan Conven- tion and Visitors Bureau, pointed to affordability as another key factor for choosing the destination. "The metro region is growing quickly and several areas, including downtown, have undergone significant revitalization in re- cent years," he said. "However, we've still maintained the affordability found in smaller cities." n Drive-In APPEAL Columbia SC Main Street DRIVE-IN MEETINGS Many destinations offer drive-in appeal across the South. Here are a few to consider. Sandestin Resort in South Walton South Walton, Florida The beaches of South Walton offer built-in entertainment, making the region especially appealing as a drive-in destination for families, said Pamela Watkins, director of sales and visitor services for Visit South Walton. "They can come early or extend their reservation to take advantage of a variety of meeting/leisure accommodations and activities," she said. "Plus, when you have the option to drive, you can bring all your beach gear as well as explore the 26 miles of beach and the 16 unique beach neighborhoods." Currently, drive-in visitors make up 80 percent of the region's base. n Norfolk, Virginia Norfolk is easily accessible from a large percentage of population centers in the South and mid-Atlantic, said Donna Allen, vice president of sales and marketing with Visit Norfolk. "Drivers can easily reach our hotels, meeting locations and event venues from the interstate. Our downtown is very walk- able; there is a plethora of restaurants, attractions, retail shops, clubs and more located within 12 short city blocks," she said. The region is also home to a new arts district and will soon have a new hotel and new entertainment district. "Norfolk has very much changed in the last six years and continues to change," Allen added. "And you can literally park your car for your entire stay and reach all amenities and fun stuff to do by foot or The Tide, Virginia's first and only light-rail system." n Norfolk Waterfront

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