Generating higher attendance, offering affordability for family members to attend and providing hassle-free convenience are a few of the reasons planners cite for the popularity of drive-to meetings.
Enhancing the appeal these days is cheaper gas. Clearly, when gas pump prices go down, planners find the highways very friendly compared to the pricier airways.
While there are hurdles such as parking, attrition challenges and occasionally sacrificing networking opportunities, the pros definitely outnumber the cons for drive-to meetings.
Meetings Today spoke with several executives about their successful planning and execution of a drive-to meeting.
Education Day: Finger Lakes, N.Y.
Terri Moreno, director of the Upstate New York chapter of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and travel manager for Anaren Inc., said weather is always a strong consideration for October to April drive-to meetings in New York.
“Our members travel from Buffalo, Syracuse and Rochester, and they prefer to drive because most of the airports are regional in nature and not very convenient,” Moreno said.
One of her favorite destinations is the Finger Lakes region, which is about a two-hour drive for her members and their guests. A group of 11 long and narrow lakes in central New York, the region is a popular tourist area offering activities like winery tours, boat cruises, horseback riding and antique shopping.
In October, Moreno coordinated an education day at two venues in Canandaigua, the Inn on the Lake and the New York Wine and Culinary Center, which started at 8:30 a.m. for registration and ended at 6:00 p.m. The event attracted 80 attendees with no cancellations.
“Our members and guests enjoy the Finger Lakes region, and I believe that’s a factor in the ultimate success of the meeting,” Moreno said. “The drive to Canandaigua is on scenic two-lane paved roads, and that puts everyone in a great frame of mind to focus and take advantage of networking possibilities.
“Everybody in our group is involved in the travel industry,” she continued. “So they’re more discerning in their evaluations of destinations.”
Moreno acknowledged the Finger Lakes region has extra appeal because of the number of people she sees bringing family members and those who decide to stay overnight or extend for a few days.
“After a long day of meetings, there are so many ways in the area people can unwind, which adds to the overall experience of the event,” she said.
Annual Confab: Orlando
In November, the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (FAPIA) staged its annual meeting at the Wyndham Grand Resort Bonnet Creek, which is located adjacent to Walt Disney World and only minutes from theme parks, recreation, dining and shopping.
“It’s a very popular venue because of its location,” said Nancy Dominguez, managing director for FAPIA. “After meetings, attendees like that they don’t have to travel great distances for activities. In promoting the event we encouraged people to bring family members because there was so much to do with easy access.”
The three-day event, attended by 300 licensed insurance adjusters, attorneys and industry professionals, encompassed meetings, continuing education classes, a tradeshow and networking parties. Orlando is centrally located in the state, and the attendee who drove the farthest was from Pensacola, about a 7.5-hour drive.
In conversations with attendees after the event, Dominguez said the ease and cost of parking at Wyndham Resort’s multilevel enclosed parking garage was a huge hit.
“Wyndham reduced their parking pass rate from $20 to $5 a day, and our attendees absolutely loved the significant discount,” Dominguez said. “In addition, they waived their resort fee and a lot of these little things added up to the success of the event.”
Dominguez says a bit of scheduling good fortune also enhanced the overall experience.
“I discovered late in the planning stage that Disney’s International Food and Wine Festival at Epcot was going on during our meeting dates,” Dominguez said. “Disney set us up with discount passes and a landing site with our logo to make it convenient, and our attendees loved the added theme park option.”