NOV 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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N O V E M B E R 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 37 MARKET SEGMENT REPORT: YOUTH & FAITH BASED EVENTS exploring than a typical attendee at a corporate or association meeting." For the 2016 Challenge event, event planner Laurie Seay said that a combination of value offered by the city of Louisville in tandem with service and relationships with destination marketing professionals proved important to the final selection. "We chose Louisville because they worked hard to meet all of our event requirements and provided exceptional service," she said. Challenge is a biennial growth-level event designed for students who have completed grades 7-12. The core element is nine gatherings that include high-energy worship, state-of-the-art sets and speakers. In addition, students have afternoon options that include outreach in the community, recreation and training, Seay said. The event requires a convention center large enough to accommodate the programming, as well as ample double sleeping rooms within walking distance of the venue. The walkability and safety of downtown districts in cities such as Louisville, Oklahoma City and Frisco, Texas, provide an appealing atmosphere for youth and faith-based groups. For instance, along with the needed hotel infrastructure, Louisville offers a diverse array of attractions, from an outdoor entertainment complex to its Museum Row on Main. "Specifically, Museum Row on Main is great for groups to visit. There are a ton of museums within walking distance and we have a Main Ticket that costs $24 for youth and includes entrance to six of our highest-ranked museums," Sauer said. "It makes it easy for meeting planners to offer a variety of family- friendly options to their attendees." Maureen Gutierrez, senior sales manager with the Frisco CVB, pointed out that the variety of hotel price points and availability of large meeting venues within walking distance of larger hotels makes Frisco an appealing choice. "We are able to accommodate a wide variety of meeting specifications that might not be just your standard ballroom space," she said. "We are also a huge sports market, so our hotels are very accommodating to youth groups and, in fact, most hotels have at least half of their room inventory as double queens." Second-tier cities such as Oklahoma City provide the affordability these groups often require, Wilson said. "Faith-based planners are picking locations where there is an abundance of affordable restaurants within walking distance of their convention venue," she said. "Cities with walkable attractions and a good variety are very appealing to faith-based planners. Often, families arrive a few days early or stay a few days after the meeting and treat the experience like a ► ► Donna Wilson, senior sales manager with the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) suggested that planners consider destinations willing to add value to packages such as complimentary or low-cost meeting facilities, affordable sleeping rooms rates with added amenities and locked-in food and beverage prices. ► Laurie Seay, event planner with the Evangelical Free Church of America said, "take the time to visit the city and get to know the staff. This will give you the context you need to lead the event with excellence. Also, I have a template 'site visit checklist' that I tailor to each site visit I conduct. This guides my time in the city." ► Susan Sauer, senior sales manager with the Louisville CVB noted that the best tip is to make sure a destination offers a hospitality community that understands the budgetary concerns and constraints that these types of groups face. In addition, a community well-connected with its local non- profit organizations can readily connect groups with community service options for meetings – often a core selling point for youth and faith- based meetings. Youth & Faith Based Events: Best Practice Considerations North American Youth Congress of the United Pentecostal Church International in Oklahoma City

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