Sponsored Content Provided by The Marcus Whitman Hotel
1. Know Your Group’s Experience Priorities
Not every group wants bright lights and a big city for their next business retreat. Before you scour the countryside for the perfect meeting destination, ask a few questions about personal preference. Does every meal need to be fit for a king, or will less expensive options suffice? How about walkability versus shuttling from place to place? Should entertainment options lean more towards cultural or world-class attractions? What is the level of tolerance for long-distance travel? Knowing the group’s experience priorities will enable you to narrow the field of cities you present for consideration.
2. ALWAYS Consider Group Size
Regardless of how popular a destination may be with reviewers on Trip Advisor, square footage and enough hotel rooms should be a priority consideration when planning for an event. Depending on the group’s size and experience priorities, smaller cities with destination appeal can deliver significant cost savings over their larger city counterparts.
3. Become an Air and Ground Transportation Expert
The first experience your group is going to have with a city is how easy it was to get there. As the destination meeting planner, it’s your job to be intimately familiar with flight and ground transportation options to and from the selected venue. How many direct and in-direct flights per day? What are average ticket prices? Will there be ground transportation when guests arrive? What can they expect driving to the event? Is parking an issue? Will guests be able to walk anywhere after meetings? These are all concerns you will want to address well in advance of your group’s arrival.
4. Know the Meeting Space and Hotel Layout Like the Back of Your Hand
Lots of convention centers and hotels advertise themselves as the perfect destination venue for business groups large and small. But the finest amenities in the world are meaningless if reality on the ground doesn’t match what was said in advertising. Do your homework. Find out just how far apart meeting spaces are from hotel rooms. Will the meeting space layout work with the intended flow of the event? Are there potential bottlenecks that will slow traffic between presentation rooms? Consider where your group has met in the past and compare their experience with what you know about the venue under consideration
5. Think Like a Consummate Entertainer
Even the most dedicated meeting and event attendees require a little downtime to relax and enjoy life. Being able to provide them with a variety of fun, interesting, and unique entertainment options should be a priority in your destination meeting plan. Especially in smaller corners of the world, your knowledge of the local entertainment landscape will be heavily relied upon to guide attendees toward potential fun. Proximity to popular restaurants, tasting rooms, cultural exhibits, live-entertainment venues, shopping, and outdoor activities should be heavily considered when scoring a potential meeting location. Walkability is another factor that may be a priority for some groups. Safety after dark is often another concern. The more you know about a city’s after-hours amenities, the more precise you can be with your venue recommendations.
6. Become the Know-It-All of City Development Projects
It’s rather deflating to arrive at a highly-anticipated event—only to discover that the city has begun tearing up the road in front of the hotel. As a destination meeting planner, it’s your job to know if anything might negatively impact the experience of an event. Attention to detail should include a quick call to the city planning department to determine if any projects might interfere with your group’s event. Excessive noise, traffic diversions, traffic delays, view obstruction, unpleasant odors, and construction barriers can all conspire to turn a five-star event into a horrible mess.
7. Don’t Blow the Budget if You Don’t Have To
The difference between customer satisfaction and customer loyalty often lies in the service provider’s ability to exceed expectations on a budget. Knowing ahead of time whether your destination meeting group values the quality of attendance over quantity may give you ammunition to suggest more affordable tier-two cities—which may not attract as many attendees, but cost less to do business with. Smaller groups that might struggle to afford the barest of amenities in a tier-one city, can often take advantage of lower costs in tier-two cities to be treated like royalty.
8. Be a Good Steward of The Environment
It’s never a bad thing to be conscious of how resources are used (natural or otherwise), to satisfy the demands of a group. If being earth-friendly is important, don’t be afraid to ask if a city or meeting venue actively participates in environmental conservation programs.
9. Never Be Afraid to Look for Diamonds in The Rough
It is a very real temptation to do a Google search for the top 50 meeting destinations and base your entire meeting research plan on the first page of results. Orlando, Chicago, Las Vegas, and San Diego are all wonderful destination meeting locations—but so are a lot of lesser-known places, that are often more affordable, and equally as exciting to visit. Don’t overlook places like Walla Walla, Bend, Coeur d’Alene, and Missoula. There’s an entire world of second- and third-tier destination cities awaiting your discovery.
10. Be Prepared
When contacting sales team members at CVBs, conference centers, hotel properties, or city government offices, go into each conversation with a checklist of questions you would like to ask to make sure the answers you receive are comprehensive to your research. Also, be very observant of the staff’s attention to detail. It can say a lot about what it would be like working with them down the road. Do they ask the right questions? Do they appear interested in building a relationship—or are they just trying to close your business? Very often your experience will be a harbinger of the customer service experience your group can expect to receive as guests of the property in question.
Sponsored Content Provided by The Marcus Whitman Hotel
Since 1928, The Marcus Whitman Hotel has stood majestically against the skyline of downtown Walla Walla, WA. Located in the capital heartland of Washington Wine Country, The Marcus Whitman is Walla Walla's premier luxury hotel & conference center. Conveniently located adjacent to Walla Walla's world-renowned main-street shopping district, The Marcus Whitman is mere steps from a multitude of wine tasting rooms and specialty boutiques. Whether for business or pleasure, The Marcus Whitman guarantees an exceptional guest experience for every guest. Meeting planners are encouraged to contact the hotel's group sales team for more information on lodging and event accommodations. For more information, please visit our website at marcuswhitmanhotel.com.