By Amy Drew Thompson
3 Reasons to Plan in Tier 2 and 3 Cities
New York. Chicago. San Francisco. Sure, they are big-city glamorous with myriad attractive qualities that your attendees could love, but there are also reasons to avoid the trappings of Tier 1 destinations in favor of smaller to mid-sized cities.
Whether it’s New Orleans, Nashville or, yes, more than a few towns in Texas, let’s look at three of the big reasons to consider Tier 2 and 3 when planning your next big event.
It’s the economy, stupid. Famous New Orleans resident James Carville made that saying famous for other reasons, but here the meaning is simple. Tier 2 and 3 could save you big money – that’s money your association can either bank for other purposes or reinvest into the meeting. In New Orleans, for example, that could mean music, sports or a five-star gala in the French Quarter. And of course, no matter the city, Tier 2 and 3 also have more space, sometimes with incentives to book at certain times of the year. Your “small fish” group in New York City could be a whale in an alternative destination and enjoy that much influence to boot.
Small is sweet. You’d be hard-pressed to find a way to walk your members all over town in L.A. (which isn’t particularly walkable in the first place), but in a city like Asheville or Savannah, your attendees will be looking to enjoy on-foot exploration of the destination. Your local CVB can help you with walking tour maps and on-the-ground experience, placing you in the city’s most charming quadrants for smashing success. Small towns, too, are sociable – who wouldn’t be charmed by the Southern hospitality
And speaking of the CVB … Smaller cities may have more time, energy and appreciation for your business, which translates into a wonderful experience for you, the planner, and thusly, your membership. From pre-meeting marketing materials to post-meeting follow up and state-of-the-art facilities (look at Indianapolis and Salt Lake City, for example), smaller destination are, largely, a no-lose proposition.
Sci-Fi to Real Life
The idea of biometrics – voice recognition, face recognition, retina scanning – these are the tropes of “Star Trek” and “Blade Runner,” except they aren’t anymore. Biometrics, growing in ease of use – and audience comfort – is set to be the next big thing. Imagine if you could gauge engagement simply by scanning the crowd for facial expression and emotional response? The opportunities are already here, with various companies working on feature-detection technology that can gather information about age, gender and other demographics while simultaneously recording the emotional response of each individual. That’s real-time reaction data you can apply to anything from the speakers you hire to the music chosen for mixers. Powerful stuff.
Lodging in the Lone Star State
Amarillo is seeing revitalization all over town. Earlier this year, a longtime indie property on the east side – the Amarillo Inn & Suites – announced it would become a brand-name double hit, collectively becoming both a Four Points by Sheraton and a Fairfield in by Marriott. The former will be set up for business travelers and small conventions, the latter part of Marriott’s economy-level properties. It will be the city’s first dual-branded hotel and is expected to open
Meanwhile, Marriott’s been busy in downtown Amarillo, as well, and is about to begin transforming the historic Barfield Building into the Barfield Marriott, Amarillo’s first boutique hotel and part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. Its target opening is late 2019.
Lubbock’s newest property, a Tru by Hilton, already has its doors open. The 98-room property offers convenience to the airport, Texas Tech University, Jones AT&T Stadium and the Llano Estacado Winery as well as meetings-based business amenities.
In West Texas, business – the sort that’s siphoned from the state’s Permian black gold stores – continues to boom. It wasn’t long ago, in fact, that the Wall Street Journal reported that even a barber could make six figures in cities like Midland, where planners might look to quench the thirst of their attendees only Texas heat could inspire at the Midland Beer Garden and its 74 taps, set amid beautiful flowers. Meanwhile, nearby Odessa will celebrate yet another Marriott opening this summer.
The Odessa Marriott Hotel & Conference Center will include a 271-room hotel and 79,000-square foot conference center, as well as a 22,500-square foot plaza.
Author Amy Drew Thompson is a travel and hospitality writer.
Photo credit: ©iStock.com/mstudioimages