Industries Hotels/Tourism

Calling all event planners

State targets meetings and conventions market with national campaign

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Print this page by Elizabeth Cooper

While many hotels and resorts are in the midst of updates, the Virginia Tourism Corp. is going back in time to attract 21st-century corporate groups. In the style of Thomas Jefferson, it has proclaimed Virginia’s Declaration of Meeting Excellence, a national marketing campaign that promotes destinations around the state aimed at meeting and convention planners.
Launched in September, the 18-month campaign combines the resources of the state’s tourism industry. “This is one of the first times we as a state have come together to target the meetings and conventions market,” says Tamra Talmadge-Anderson, the tourism corporation’s public relations director. The declaration lists the rights meeting planners have in Virginia, including the right “to get your life back” by using the state’s online meeting-planning tools. “We decided that meeting planners have a right to expect quality and value,” she adds.
Nationally, the meetings and conventions market is a $263 billion industry, according to the Alexandria-based Convention Industry Council. That translates into economic boons for states and municipalities that draw those groups. Goran Gligorovic, executive vice president of Omega World Travel in Fairfax, says corporate travel is slowly returning to prerecession levels. “We’re seeing an increase in the number of trips corporations are taking. Those people have got to sleep somewhere, so that’s welcome news for hotels.”
Nonetheless, planners want more than a hotel ballroom with the latest audio/visual equipment. Instead, they are looking for unique venues such as historic sites, wineries and state parks. “Those are the kind of interesting, out of the norm venues that meeting planners are looking for,” Talmadge-Anderson says. “Off hours, they want to have things they can do. That’s what makes Virginia so appealing.” 

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