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New York State Hospitality Leaders on the Return of Business Events in 2022

Rochester skyline

New York is serious about the return of business events. Announced last November, the state’s $450 million "Bring Back Tourism, Bring Back Jobs" recovery package includes the $25 million Meet in New York grant program to help convention centers and conference venues attract events, traveler spending and jobs. Another $25 million will expand the global I LOVE NY marketing campaign into additional domestic and international markets.  

Major infrastructure upgrades, new market opportunities, planner confidence and other reenergizing boosts are setting the stage for a robust return to action, with bookings to match. CVB leaders around the state shared their optimism as groups come back strong. 

Jerry Cito, Executive Vice President, Convention Development, NYC & Company  

“Continuing to grow and evolve during the pandemic, New York City now offers a multitude of new and newly improved venues, hotels and infrastructure options across air, rail, bike and waterway. From the $1.5 billion expansion of the world-class Javits Center to the approximately 10,000 new hotel rooms expected to come online this year, we are well positioned to welcome groups now and into the future. 

SALT 2021 at Javits Center
SALT 2021 at Javits Center, New York City. Credit: Javits Center

We are bullish on NYC’s recovery. There is no substitute for meeting face-to-face, and no better place to do so than NYC, the global capital of business and commerce. With the high pent-up demand for travel and the city’s unrivaled vibrancy and destination appeal, we are confident in the continued return of live events and look forward to welcoming delegates to the five boroughs. 

With the country’s highest vaccination rates and a steadfast commitment to health and safety across our hotels, venues, restaurants, cultural institutions, Broadway theaters and more, NYC is a safe bet to meet and reconnect with colleagues and friends.” 

Don Jeffries, President & CEO, Visit Rochester   

“Our convention sales team has been in constant contact with clients, rescheduling events and returning to tradeshows, marketplaces and sales missions to bring new events and groups to the area.  

Don Jeffries
Don Jeffries

Located under a mile from the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center, the all-new 127 room Courtyard by Marriott is among several exciting infrastructure updates. Convention Center improvements include a reconstructed outdoor event patio. The new riverside space is part of ROC the Riverway, a multi-project initiative to revitalize the Genesee River corridor. 

Rochester is seeing a strong return of annual meetings and conventions. Sporting events served as a key area of growth and recovery over the past two years, while drivers for 2022 include our important New York State Association market and new opportunities in the music and education markets. 

With affordability and accessibility even more important for planning post-pandemic events, our mid-sized city, within a day’s drive of one-third of the U.S. population and easy to navigate, is the right fit for a broad range of groups.”  

Jay Cloutier, Director of Sales, Discover Albany  

“Our partnerships with the Center for Economic Growth and local game development companies, along with our support of collegiate eSports event Hudson Valley Gamer Con, have locked Albany in as a leading eSports destination. Industry events tied to the region’s strength in green and alternative energy initiatives is another focal area with much promise. Ideally located for drive-to regional meetings of up to 3,000 people, we are seeing growing interest in standout areas including offshore wind, solar and hydrogen. 

Albany Capital Center
Albany Capital Center. Credit: Discover Albany

In terms of hosting readiness, our large convention hotels and convention centers used the slowdown to upgrade their air handling systems where needed. Our facilities constantly focus on air quality and heightened surface cleaning protocols.  

Visitors can connect with local experiences and businesses through our Discover Albany App, which also offers meeting and convention tools.”  

Mike Even, Vice President of Convention Sales and Services, Visit Buffalo Niagara  

Mike Even
Mike Even

“Revitalization efforts include the continuing refresh of the GBAC-certified Buffalo Niagara Convention Center and extensive makeover of the skywalk-connected Hyatt Regency. Restoration of the long dormant adjacent Statler Hotel will include a 183-room boutique property and upgraded meeting space. 

Special events and outdoor entertainment will continue to activate the newly enhanced nearby multi-block, multi-faceted Chippewa Entertainment District in the heart of the downtown hotel corridor.  

With in-year and for-the-year planner inquiries increasing, 2022 looks to be busy with the concentration of business already on the books. State and national association business is returning to normal, while potential growth areas include cleantech, agricultural, fraternal and civic groups. 

Ongoing investment by private developers is dramatically regenerating the downtown core, while continuing investment by New York State, Erie County and the City of Buffalo in the Buffalo waterfront, including new parks, bike paths and hiking trails, has made it more appealing and attractive for locals and visitors than ever before.” 

Q&A  with Darryl Leggieri, President, Discover Saratoga  

What can groups expect in 2022? 

Safety remains our top priority as we continue to follow public health guidelines to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and keep our doors open.  

Darryl Leggieri
Darryl Leggieri

While “Health, History, Horses” runs deep in our veins, going above and beyond in hospitality is where we shine the brightest. Planners can choose from nearly 60 lodging properties, many iconic, with a total of 3,900-plus rooms, and a variety of meeting spaces for up to 2,200 attendees.  

Saratoga Springs City Center is our largest meeting venue, offering 58,000 square feet of space in combination with the anchoring Saratoga Hilton. The center’s attached 600-car parking garage is among several infrastructure investments, which also include amazing new outdoor meeting and event space at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and interactive exhibits at the newly renovated National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.  

What are the pillars of your 2022 strategic plan? 

Focal areas include targeted marketing to regional and state associations, corporate groups, and other clients to promote the drive-to convenience of Saratoga Springs.  

To expand our national exposure, we will be attending collaborative DMO events, regional MPI events, national and regional tradeshows, and other in-person industry gatherings. We are creating a fresh marketing message to promote the destination, as well as providing a monetary incentive for first-time bookings. Another key focus is reconnecting with our loyal planner base to promote our creative convention services and recapture in-person meetings that went virtual in the past couple of years.  

How are 2022 bookings shaping up? 

In-person meetings are happening in Saratoga Springs! The larger state association conferences held in Q4 2021 and Q1 2022 had great in-person attendance, demonstrating planner confidence. The 2022 booking pace is very strong, and we anticipate getting close to pre-pandemic levels. Planners are more assured when signing future year contracts, and consumer confidence is also rising.  

Downtown Saratoga Springs
Downtown Saratoga Springs. Credit: Discover Saratoga

State and regional associations remain strong as we focus on solidifying multiple year contracts to increase future bookings. Our corporate and education markets are cautiously picking up, with internal restrictions for conducting events.  

Hotel numbers for the second, third, and fourth quarters of 2022 are very promising, with some even exceeding their record breaking numbers from 2019.                      

Saratoga Springs is open and ready to safely welcome groups as we rebuild a strong future for the destination. 

Read this next: 4 New Hotels in New York City, Philadelphia and Tysons Corner

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About the author
Jeff Heilman | Senior Contributor

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based independent journalist Jeff Heilman has been a Meetings Today contributor since 2004, including writing our annual Texas and Las Vegas supplements since inception. Jeff is also an accomplished ghostwriter specializing in legal, business and Diversity & Inclusion content.