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CHAPTER 1:

CHOOSING YOUR PERFECT DESTINATION

You have fallen in love with a destination and want to hold your next meeting there. But will attendees love it too? Are there other cities or regions that can suit everyone’s needs even better? With so many wonderful countries, cities and venues to choose from, this selection process can seem like fetching a needle out of a proverbial haystack. The narrowing process, however necessary, can quickly become overwhelming. At the end of the day, you need to find the destination that meets your group dynamics and will promote maximum attendee satisfaction. Follow these five steps to guarantee the most efficient planning process for your next event.

5 DESTINATION SELECTION CRITERIA

MATCH THE DESTINATION WITH YOUR ATTENDEE NEEDS

Would your group be most comfortable in a first- or fifth-tier city? Maybe they’d prefer somewhere in between. Tier 1 cities such as New York or Chicago are going to be significantly more costly to attend than Tier 5 cities such as Omaha and Madison. While some attendees crave the fast-paced lifestyle and plethora of attractions a large city provides, others seek the quiet of smaller destinations with less hustle and bustle.


Don’t forget to also keep in mind your attendees’ price-sensitivity threshold. Are attendees paying for conference attendance or are their companies? In either scenario, you need to determine how much they or their organizations can reasonably allot for your event.


What other items and opportunities are important to them? Green and healthy meetings are on the rise, as well as family-friendly destinations. Find out if they are bringing their spouses, significant others or family members. If so, you will need a destination that can accommodate them as well.


One of the easiest ways to gather this information is to set up an online survey and send it out to all past and prospective attendees. With past attendees, find out what they liked most and least about previous destinations, hotels and convention centers. Carefully consider their feedback before moving ahead with a future event.

Attendee Costs

Chances are your organization is not paying for the attendee – especially with an association meeting or user conference. If this is the case, in addition to the conference registration fee, determine the estimated cost for the attendee or exhibitor in the following areas:


  • Food Expenditure
  • Hotel Room
  • Parking
  • Transportation To and From the Conference
  • Transportation for After-Hour Functions


When you add all this up, go back to the first point and look at the attendees’ cost threshold.


Your Organization

Keep the following things in mind when reviewing your overall budget:

  • Meeting Space
  • Food & Beverage
  • Audio/Visual
  • Speaker Fees
  • Entertainment
  • Transportation
  • Move In/Out


Again these fees may vary widely depending on the destination.

BREAK DOWN THE BUDGET

TYPES OF HOTELS AND MEETING SPACE

First and foremost, find out if there are enough rooms at the destination to meet your projected sleeping room needs. Determine if the hotels available are the type your attendees would enjoy. Filter out the unsuitable hotels (due to type or location) and review your room block requirements.


Second, explore the convention center. Make sure it has enough square footage to satisfy your meeting needs, including trade show space and breakout rooms. Will the layout provide a functional work area for your group? Also, determine the distance of the hotels at which your attendees are likely to stay, so that you can be sure transportation is as simple as possible. Third, look at peak and shoulder season times for this destination. Every destination has a slow period, in which you are most likely to negotiate the best meeting and hotel rates. Ensure these daily rates are in line with what your attendees can afford to pay.


Lastly, is the conference center and/or hotel environmentally friendly? Look at what green programs they have in place and determine if they are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified.

There is no doubt about it; a desirable location will always increase your attendance.

Here are 11 questions to answer when considering a destination:


  1. What is the walkability of the location? For example, New York has a walk score of 88 out of 100, making it the most walkable destination in the United States while Omaha has a score of 41, meaning it is a very car-dependent location.
  2. Is it safe to walk around the destination – especially at night?
  3. How many restaurants are in a reasonable walking distance and/or drive from the hotel? Do they offer diverse choices?
  4. Will the attendee have enough free time to enjoy the destination?
  5. Will they be bringing their significant other or family? If so, are there enough diverse attractions to keep them busy during the day?
  6. Where are the attractions in relation to the hotel?
  7. What makes the destination fun, interesting and unique?
  8. Are there any construction or development projects that might detract or attract visitors to the area?
  9. What will the average weather conditions be during your convention?
  10. What do other planners say about the destination?
  11. How responsive is the Destination Marketing Organization? Are they all about the attendee experience?

DESTINATION APPEAL

TRANSPORTATION

Ease your attendees’ worries about getting to and from your convention or conference by selecting a desirable and convenient destination. Here are 5 factors that should influence your decision:


  1. Where are attendees traveling from? If they are less than 200 miles away from the destination, they will probably drive. However, anything further away will require other forms of transportation.
  2. What is the destinations air, train and bus access? Do they offer multiple schedules? Will getting to the location be easy or difficult?
  3. If the attendee is flying, how many flights are non-stop? What are typical airfare costs?
  4. After the attendee has arrived at the destination, what are the mass transit offerings? Do they offer clean, affordable and safe subway, light rail and/or bus systems? Would your attendee use them?
  5. What about taxis or Uber?

These costs can add up, especially if the destination is difficult to get to and relies heavily on taxi service. Choose a central location to minimize hassle.

CVENT CAN HELP YOU CHOOSE
THE PERFECT DESTINATION

Rather than spending countless hours asking colleagues for destination suggestions or posting on social networks, use our tool to help you narrow down your selection.


Cvent Supplier Network is designed specifically for meeting planners and covers over 600 locations worldwide. This free resource will give you key information about destinations including:


  • Average hotel room rates
  • Average daily meal costs
  • Total number of sleeping rooms
  • Activities and entertainment
  • Star ratings
  • Promotions
  • Pictures of venues


For example, if you need a Northeast United States beach destination that has 200+ sleeping rooms and at least 10,000 square feet of meeting space, within seconds your options will be narrowed down to 3 locations:


  • Atlantic City, New Jersey
  • Long Island, New York
  • Portland, Maine


You can also browse the Cvent Destination Guide for more advice about location selection, as well as the top Cvent picks.

We use the Cvent Supplier Network to find a book sites for our annual user conference. For our most recent conference, I knew we wanted to be in California, but beyond that there was no specific location we needed. While searching the Supplier Network, I cam across the Bacara Resort and Spa in Santa Barbara, CA. This was a hotel that was not even on our radar when we began the process, but the description fit all our needs. We ended up booking our conference there and all our attendees loved it. I can say with absolute certainty that if we hadn't used the Supplier Network we never would have found the hotel and we would have missed out on the opportunity to wow our attendees with such a great destination.

Ashley J. Drake, CMP
Marketing & Events Coordinator, B2W Software