As we begin to get the pandemic under control, the common thinking is that smaller regional meetings will be the first to return. One benefit for planners is the chance to explore destinations and venues that they hadn’t considered before.
Whether it’s a beach getaway, mountain escape, or small-town retreat, small destinations have a number of benefits in synch with the new goals of social distancing and avoiding big groups:
1. Fewer and Smaller Crowds. From more compact airports with less foot traffic to more lightly populated public spaces and attractions, having an entire destination for your group can make attendees feel safer and make it easier to arrange exclusive experiences.
2. Ease of Transportation. With less traffic and typically more condensed downtown areas, smaller cities are often easier to navigate. Whether it’s a brief walk to an off-site restaurant or a shuttle to a local attraction, shorter transportation windows provide more time for programming. The more efficient the meeting, the better.
3. New Experiences. After years of experiencing the same meeting location rotation, planners can provide their groups an entirely different experience. Attendees with a “been there, done that” attitude will have something new to consider.
4. Charm and Atmosphere. There is often a slower pace of life in a smaller destination. A laidback atmosphere and friendly locals can go a long way toward introducing a new mindset and driving productivity at your event.
5. Quality. One of the biggest misconceptions about smaller destinations is that groups will have to sacrifice quality. While not every destination is top tier, planners who do their homework can find luxury accommodations and restaurants that rival big cities, sometimes at a better value, and even those without high-end options often offer one-of-kind experiences.
6. Service. The meeting industry in smaller destinations usually appreciates the opportunity to showcase itself. Planners won’t need to fight for attention for their group.
Remember, with change comes opportunity. Small destinations could be the spark planners need to re-invent the event experience while simultaneously meeting today’s demands.
Kelly Defebo, CMP, is director of sales at Visit Sarasota.