Destination Selection - But Wait...There's More!

In the April 2014 issue of Meetings Today and online, industry veteran planners shared their expertise on site selection.

It was just the tip of...well, I was going to say “iceberg,” but they are melting. So let’s say it scratched the surface!

In this blog and during the 4/30/14 Site Selection Best Practices webinar, I’ll explore other areas and issues often overlooked when meeting destinations and sites are considered. I’ll use a technique called Q-storming® within each area to provide some questions you can ask.

Use the following content as a guide to start your own list of questions. I hope too you will add to the discussion items you consider important, especially ones that you learned just when you thought you knew it all, and questions we all can use.

Destination Selection

  • Transportation: Air

Lift & Access:  Airline mergers have meant that many cities have lost service entirely or have curtailed service now or they will, especially when the USAirways/American merger settles. How many seats are available into and out of the destination? From what cities? How many stops/layovers will it take most of those attending to get to the destination? Will participants be comfortable with and/or accept the travel times? What might impact the amount of lift into that destination and how will that information be tracked internally?

Cost: You’re right – we don’t know from one minute to the next what airline tickets and add-on fees will be. We can, at least at the time the destination is determined, look at current costs and provide input about what might impact future costs for those booking more than 6 months out. What is the current average airfare from “hub” and non-hub destinations? Of the airlines that service the destination, which ones have the most add-on charges? What will most impact the cost of airfares in general and into that destination? (See note on “other activities.”)

Airport: Some airports are expanding their runways and others are adding new or remodeling current terminals. What’s planned for the airport(s) into which our participants will fly? How many airports serve the destination? What is the lift into each?

  • Transportation: Ground

Types, Times and Costs: If you live in a city with great public and private (cabs, car service, shuttle) transportation, you may not realize what others cities have to offer. What are the current options to and from the airport? Are they all accessible for people with disabilities? What are the costs? Is public transportation available 24 hours/day? Is it safe? Are all car services allowed to come into the airport to pick up passengers? What are the current costs for each type of transportation? If one wants to travel by train, how many trains per day arrive and depart and from and to what destinations?

Timing: What is the average time to get to or from the airport/s and the site of the meeting and/or hotels? If one has to walk to and from the start and end points of public transportation, how far is the walk and is it safe? If there is highway construction or if there are accidents, what are the options to go around the area to get to and from the airport/s?

Driving to and from the destination: What is the drive time for those who are in a radius most likely to drive? Is it cheaper, faster, better for more people to drive? If many people are day guests, will they use and will you encourage public transportation? What is the cost and access for its use? How many parking spaces does the facility have? Are they attached to the facility or nearby? If nearby, how far are parking garages and lots? Is the route to and from where a car is parked to the facility well-lighted and safe? Who owns the parking garage or lot? If it is not owned by the facility in which your meeting or participants are housed, are the prices negotiable? Is valet parking available?  Does the destination anticipate new parking facilities and/or tearing down current garages or lots?

  • Other Activities:

It’s so easy to forget that all destinations have more than even the city-wide you may be booking on their calendars. In some cases, cities have regularly occurring yearly events; in other cases they are booking events and meetings short term.

Regularly Occurring Events: What events are already on the books or are likely to occur over the dates you are considering? What are attendance records? Are participants usually local to the area and driving or using public transportation in and out of the area/s of the event/s sites? What has been the experience with traffic and parking options? Do these events draw a national or international audience that may increase air traffic (and airline fares and crowds at the airport and on the roads going and coming) into the destination? How has the city handled safety and security for these events? What has been changed after an incident occurred? Is this an event that our participants are likely to want to attend? Will want to bring family or others to see (And will that impact our room block)?

Other Events: What is the city currently trying to book for the year and dates over which we want to hold our meeting? What is the expected impact on the city – air and ground travel? Media? Security? Hotel room and other facility usage? What will take precedence for the space – their event or ours? What other meetings are currently booked and into which facilities? How many people will that bring into the city?

Other Events/Other Impacts: When there are other meetings or events in town, it means that there is competition for services. You might find that all DMCs or transportation providers are already booked or if they aren’t, they may not have enough local drivers. (From where do you hire drivers? How do they learn or know the area? Will they be contractors with your company or employees?) Do local cab or car companies do surge pricing when there is high demand? If your group likes to eat at local restaurants or you have exhibitors or others who entertain clients, will there be private dining and/or reservations available at the preferred restaurants? (Do those restaurants accept reservations? How far in advance?)

Oh there are more concerns and questions! I’ll cover more on Wednesday, April 30 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time in the Webinar or you may listen to this webinar (after its live date) and access others On Demand at the Meetings Today web site.

Posted by Joan L. Eisenstodt

Follow Joan on Twitter: @joaneisenstodt

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