Activities, Accessibility Key for Drive Market Meeting Destinations

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Activities, Accessibility Key for Drive Market Meeting Destinations

By Blair Potter | Aug 25, 2020

“From the beginning of this COVID-19 pandemic, we have worked very hard to over-communicate what we are doing to keep future attendees safe in our city,” says Amy Angermeier, VP of sales for Visit Mobile (Ala.). “We are focusing on smaller meetings for the near future and will continue to target larger meetings in future years.”

A recent MPI survey found that 34 percent of respondents won’t be comfortable with domestic air travel until the first quarter of 2021 or later, and that number goes up to 78 percent when asked about international air travel. The survey also found that planners want to hear about suppliers’ safety plans/strategies more than anything else (58 percent), and seemingly hollow messaging such as “We’re open for business” resonates with very few (5 percent).

So for a city such as Mobile that is actively trying to attract smaller meetings with a lot of attendees who can drive to the destination, a focus on safety and a targeted marketing approach are exactly what is needed.

Angermeier says walkability is key for drive-in visitors.

“We are focusing on smaller meetings for the near future and will continue to target larger meetings in future years.”

“They can park their car and not worry about it until it’s time to go home,” she says. “Mobile has over 1,400 hotel rooms within walking distance of the Mobile Convention Center as well as first-class attractions, delicious dining, museums, eco-tours and paddleboat cruises.”

Angermeier says the city offers many drive-in groups discounts to restaurants and attractions, trolley dine-around services and city tours with step-on guides and complimentary visitor information specialists to help with additional activities. Also important in the COVID-19 era: active attendees adhering to social distancing protocols.

“Mobile has numerous wide-open spaces, parks and squares within walking distance from the convention center as well as over 20,000 square feet of outdoor space at the convention center,” she says. “Additionally, outside of downtown are dozens of opportunities for attendees to enjoy activities with safe social distancing, including golfing along the famed Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, kayaking, biking and fishing.”

A citywide health and safety initiative, “Enjoy Mobile with Confidence,” communicates the measures businesses and venues have in place, and Angermeier says transparency about safety protocols and expectations is key. For example, she says the convention center—which is investing US$2 million in capital improvements over the coming year—recently hosted a large volleyball tournament and stayed in compliance with U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

“ASM Global, which manages the center, has sanitation stations at every entrance, elevator and restroom,” she says. “There is an abundance of signage recommending protocols such as two people in elevators and protective measures such as plexiglass barriers for information booths. In addition, Visit Mobile and our partners are flexible with registration, cancelations and room blocks.”

Sandi Harvey, vice president of sales for Meet AC, says the seaside location of Atlantic City, N.J., is perfect for meeting attendees traveling by car and concerned about social distancing.  

“Atlantic City is located within a few hours’ drive of nearly one-third of the nation’s population and is easily accessible to many cities along the Northeast. We have wide-open spaces such as the beach and Boardwalk and a variety of outdoor dining establishments,” she says. “In addition, our venues—such as the Atlantic City Convention Center, which provides more than 500,000 square feet of space—are quite large and can easily handle the current social distancing requirements. Local properties and partners have made notable adjustments—with additional options for outside dining, additional signage encouraging social distancing and advanced technologies to take temperatures being just a few.”

Harvey says Meet AC is working on several specials and discount offers to help attract drive-in attendees, and several events are scheduled to take place in the city this fall. In the meantime, a recovery plan for the Atlantic City Convention Center and Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall involves creating a safe environment (high-frequency cleaning/sterilization), social distancing (reflected in scalable event floor plans), preventative practices (hand washing/personal protective equipment), education (employee training/visible signage) and strong communication (more collaboration/increased focus on sharing up-to-date information).

“Under the direction of the New Jersey governor’s restart and recovery commission, Atlantic City is taking a responsible, multi-phased approach to reopening,” Harvey says. “I believe that events will be different for the time being, with enhanced efforts on safety, sanitizing and social distancing. I see opportunities to redesign and reimagine events, and I look forward to the time when we can meet face to face.”

In the meantime, she points to Meet AC’s robust platform for keeping future visitors connected virtually, which involves an award-winning virtual reality experience (including hand surfing in the ocean).

Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

 

Author

Blair Potter
Blair Potter

Blair Potter is managing editor for The Meeting Professional. He likes toys and collects cats (or is it the other way around?).