New IMEX Research Shows Rise of Midsize Cities as Meetings Destinations

March 19, 2018

A new research report on “The Rise of Midsize Cities in the Meetings Industry” in North America and Europe, commissioned by the IMEX Group and developed by Skift, examines how some midsize cities have positioned themselves as hubs for innovation or knowledge.

The 44-page report covers how smaller cities have elevated their destination appeal through leveraging their local economies, tapping into innovation and developing multi-partner coalitions and new experiences designed to attract meeting and convention groups.

The report claims that two primary factors are driving the shift towards mid-size cities. Expense is the primary reason, as the growing cost to hold meetings in many global gateway cities is taking them out of the realm of consideration for many decision-makers.

Smaller cities that invest in infrastructure development and building local industry networks have therefore become strong competitors. The report states that these cities are more affordable, can offer unique experiences, and are often more appreciative of the business.

According to the report, price will be a major disruptor in the meetings industry over the next decade. It cites data including the Canadian hotel industry report of an average daily hotel rate (ADR) increase of 5.2 percent from 2016 to 2017.  

According to American Express Meetings & Events, hotel rates are expected to increase 2.8 percent on average globally in 2018, with the highest increases predicted in Central and South America (2.6%) and North America (3.5%), with smaller upticks in Europe (1.3%) and Asia Pacific (1.4%).

While larger cities may be easier to reach with direct flights, the higher costs and lower availability for dates and space in these metropolitan areas add to the appeal of slightly smaller destinations. Therefore, the biggest challenge for reps from midsize destinations is to convince planners that the extra journey time, whether it means a connecting flight or a train, is worth it.

Planners today are amenable to considering midsize cities, especially those that offer something unique.

“I like learning what second and third-tier cities are doing to promote themselves, and make themselves more exciting,” said Brianne Lamm, marketing & events manager for the International Microelectronics Assembly and Packaging Society.

She continued, “It makes my job selling a second-tier city to our stakeholders and members a little bit easier. Especially as our budgets are increasingly pushing us out of major cities, we have to consider these second and third-tier cities for our major events.”

The report provides information on Albuquerque, Belfast, Brisbane, Bristol, Calgary, Hamburg, The Hague, Monterey, Nashville, Newcastle, Portland, San Antonio, Raleigh, Stuttgart, and Victoria.

Also included are interviews and insights from: American Express Meetings & Events, SD Meetings & Events, Johnson & Johnson, HelmsBriscoe, Bayer HealthCare, UBM, International Microelectronics Assembly and Packaging Society, VR World Congress, Encounters Festival.

“There’s a general desirability for something new because we’ve all been going to the same places for years — we’ve been there, seen that — and it’s not exciting anymore,” says Neil Mulligan, senior future host manager for UBM EMEA, based in Manchester, who sources cities for the Routes Events series of aviation conferences.

Mulligan continued, “Second-tier cities are also more aspirational. They’re trying to become tier-one cities, so they have a point to prove. The challenge is capacity, depending on the scale of the group, and you have to plan further out. But then again, tier-one cities have tier-one costs, which are only going to continue to rise.”

The research was produced in support of the IMEX Talking Point for 2018 – “Legacy.” The report marks the start of a new partnership between Skift and IMEX, created to develop attendee education, panel discussions, and more at each of the IMEX trade shows. IMEX Frankfurt will be held May 15-17, 2018 at Messe Frankfurt. IMEX America will take place Oct. 16-18, 2018 at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas.

To download the “The Rise of Midsize Cities in the Meetings Industry” report, go HERE.

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