The first industry event of the 2016 Tourism Excellence in Business & Leadership Seasonal Series, "Meetings, Conventions and Expos: Best Practices for an Emerging Destination," was held Thursday, February 18 at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts. With more than 100 industry stakeholders in attendance, the discussion focused on the challenges and opportunities that face emerging market destinations. From Bill Martin, VP of Strategic Development for Experient, Inc., and a panel of four leading national industry experts - David DuBois, president and CEO of International Association of Exhibitions and Events, Karen Miller, CEM, Director of Meetings and Sponsorships for the National School Boards Association, Bob Hope, Director of Convention and Meetings, American College of Surgeons, Michael Tarr, CMP, Director of Global Accounts for HelmsBriscoe - here are five undisputed tips for destination leaders:

  1. Continue to develop face-to-face relationships with meeting planners. Even with the emergence of third-party firms and new technologies, the value of cultivating personal relationships will never be replaced. 
  1. Headquarters hotels need a minimum of 400-500 rooms.
  1. Hire a representative that lives in DC and Chicago for regular face-to-face contact with meeting planners. It's not enough to just drop in for random visits. Planners need to be involved in the industry daily, especially on committees.
  1. Ensure ample meeting space. Meeting planners are always looking for more space.
  2. Offer reasonable Wi-Fi rates. High Wi-Fi rates in event spaces can be a deal-breaker, as access to free Wi-Fi has become an expectation for meeting attendees.

Save the date for June 2 at the Virginia Beach Tennis and Country Club, where Jon Schmieder, Founder and CEO of Huddle Up Group, LLC, will discuss trends in sporting events.