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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Destination: Delaware

Wilmington, Delaware, is a midsize Northeastern community that prides itself not only on what the city has to offer visitors but also on what they may discover upon exploring the historic and gorgeous Brandywine Valley, of which metropolitan Wilmington is a part. People can have a unique city-country experience along the backbone of this region: the Interstate 95 corridor.

Wilmington is located southwest of Philadelphia on the northern tip of Delaware and near the Pennsylvania and New Jersey state lines. Some consider it the midpoint between New York City and Washington, D.C.

“The Wilmington area is conveniently located and only 25 minutes from Philadelphia International Airport, and we have Amtrak, too,” said Sarah Willoughby, executive director of the Greater Wilmington Convention and Visitors Bureau. “You can easily go from the heart of the city to the rolling hills of the Brandywine Valley. It’s also a college town; the University of Delaware is in suburban Newark”

Willoughby goes on to promote her city as featuring diversified attractions, with plenty of city life, history, culture and gardens, and as a great jumping-off spot to visit hundreds of other attractions.

“Everything is compact,” she said. “It’s great being the second-smallest state in the nation [after Rhode Island]. You can get around and do things easily.”

The CVB’s staff is eager to work with meeting planners to help them map their events and make their organizations’ visits productive and enjoyable. Wilmington hosts plenty of social, military, educational, religious and fraternal, or SMERF, group meetings.

“We get all of the above,” said Jessica Bittmann, the director of sales for the CVB. “The corporate meeting business we get primarily comes from companies located right here. Or maybe they’re based here but bring in people from the outside for training. The religious and association markets are also quite busy for us, but we are always trying to get more of them.”

Bittmann said the Wilmington CVB books fairly steady Monday-through-Wednesday meetings but is trying to boost more late-week and weekend business.

Meeting Venues

The Chase Center is Wilmington’s chief conference venue, with 87,000 square feet of space for meetings, trade and consumer shows, and social and corporate functions. The center has 33,000 square feet of exhibit space, 13 meeting rooms, a 260-seat theater and two ballrooms. In addition, the Westin Wilmington hotel is connected directly to the Chase Center and has 180 guest rooms.

The Chase Center is perfect for general sessions, training assemblies, breakout meetings and networking. There is ample space for executive boards to conduct business and significant areas devoted to trade exhibitors.

“The complex is located right on the riverfront in downtown Wilmington,” said Bittmann. “If you step out the door, you can walk straight to the Christina River, a tributary of the Delaware River.”

Meeting planners should keep in mind that when they book a conference center in Wilmington or anywhere in Delaware, their company or organization will pay no sales tax on the transaction.

“That translates to meetings as well,” said Willoughby. “When groups meet here, they’re not paying taxes on room rentals, food and beverage, audiovisual services and so on. I think that is a big draw because of the cost savings for everyone.”

In their spare time, meeting organizers and attendees can shop to their heart’s content and save. Wilmington features the Christiana Mall and three Tanger Outlet Centers near Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and boutique shopping in numerous quaint communities across the state.

Dan Dickson

Dan has been a communicator all his professional life, first as an award-winning radio and TV news reporter for two decades and then as a communications director for several non-profits for another decade. He has contributed to The Group Travel Leader Inc. publications since 2007.