Unlike many major cities, where getting from one end to the other can take 40 minutes to an hour, smaller destinations are unbeatable when it comes to convenience. Thanks to the walkability of small downtowns, groups can often reach many of the main attractions in town on foot, effortlessly transferring from the meeting venue to shops and restaurants.
“With a compact destination like ours, you can enjoy so many entertainment options without struggling with traffic or having to take an hourlong bus ride to get to a venue,” said Ellen Thomas, meetings manager at Visit Sarasota County.
Moreover, smaller cities generally feature a relatively short commute between the airport and the downtown area, which can make a huge difference for attendees arriving after a tiring day of work or travel.
“Here in Wichita, most of our major conference hotels offer free airport shuttles right from the airport to their front door,” said Moji Rosson, vice president of sales at Visit Wichita. “In addition, we’ve got the Q-line Trolley, which connects most of the major conference hotels with the entertainment district. Planners can come here and have confidence that their attendees are going to be able to get around our city with relative ease.”
One of the most common misconceptions about small market cities is that they are remote and difficult to reach, but many are conveniently located off major interstates with proximity to regional and international airports. For some of these cities, their positions near various metropolitan hubs is one of their greatest assets.
“Location, location, location,” said national sales manager Suzanne Stianche when asked about Discover Lehigh Valley’s top selling point as a meetings destination. “We’re easy to get to and easy to get around. We’re just 90 minutes west of New York City, 90 minutes from Philadelphia and less than three hours from Washington, D.C.”
Before planning their events, planners can always visit destinations firsthand to get a feel for the ease of access and transportation. Even if the travel time from surrounding cities sounds long in theory, event organizers may find that the combination of affordable venues, unique attractions and outdoor recreation makes the trip more than worth their while.
“My goal is always to bring meeting planners directly to our meeting space and hotel properties, and if they can’t see it in person, we have lots of virtual tours,” said Stianche. “I frequently hear ‘Oh, I passed your area on the way to Philadelphia or the Poconos, but I’ve never gotten off on those exits and checked out those cities.’ It’s always interesting to get them to take a minute and learn about everything else we have to offer.”