While larger cities typically host more than one event or convention at a time, meeting groups have the opportunity to be a big fish in a small pond when they visit second- and third-tier cities, which frequently roll out the red carpet for guests. Local convention and visitor bureau staff often work closely with planners to ensure all their needs are met, from providing registration services to airport transportation and VIP gift bags. In many cases, the city will set up welcome signs for the group throughout downtown.
“We constantly get remarks from people about how impressed they are with the friendliness of the people here,” said Rosson. “Wichita hospitality is what really sets us apart, not only from larger destinations but other places in the Midwest.”
Likewise, groups can often make themselves at home in the local convention center and hotel properties without having to compete with other organizations for space.
“The advantage in Sarasota County is that you can end up being the only group in the hotel instead of getting lost in one of the bigger hotels,” said Thomas.
These days, many business travelers are looking for experiences beyond the boardroom and conference sessions, and smaller cities provide the perfect opportunity to discover a few incredible hidden gems.
“We truly believe that Wichita is a must-visit Midwest destination, and there are so many unique experiences that people can have right here in the heart of town that they can’t do anywhere else,” said Rosson.
For example, the Tanganyika Wildlife Park in downtown Wichita offers an unusual variety of interactive animal encounters, from feeding lemurs to swimming with penguins and interacting with African okapis. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, one of Lehigh Valley’s major
cities, is home to the former Bethlehem Steel factory, which has since been revitalized
into a thriving arts and culture campus with some of the original steel furnaces
towering in the background.
Sarasota County made its own mark in history as the headquarters of the Ringling Brothers’ traveling circus for several decades, and visitors can learn about its legacy at the Ringling Museum of Art, the Ringling Circus Museum and other notable landmarks.
Incorporating these one-of-a-kind sites into your marketing material is a great way to boost attendance and encourage attendees to take a trip to a less-visited destination.