Everyone knows that San Francisco, New York and Las Vegas are awesome destinations — they always rank among the most popular cities for events. Yet San Francisco, CWT's number one meeting destination in 2018, faces a hotel room shortage, driving up rates and sending some planners looking elsewhere. Taking a look into booking data, CWT’s 2019 Meetings & Events Future Trends report highlights three locations rising in the rankings. Let’s break down the culture, hotel space, safety, transportation and many other factors making these the cities to watch in 2019.
Toronto is the fourth-largest city in North America, after Mexico City, New York and L.A, and yet it is sometimes underrated in the events space.
Toronto has the makings of an ideal host city. Planners love its location: only a 90-minute flight away from 60 percent of the U.S. population. There are more than 36,000 hotel rooms, several massive conference venues, and nearby international airports with direct flights to cities all over the U.S.
It's also one of the most inclusive, diverse and multicultural places in the world. "Toronto is a modern mosaic of cultures and ideas," according to Tara Gordon, Vice President, Business Events Sales & Service at Business Events Toronto. "More than half of the population was born in another country,” Gordon told us, “being open and welcoming to people from all backgrounds and cultures makes Toronto an appealing destination for international meetings."
This diversity carries over into cuisine and entertainment. Attendees can sample the food in one of Toronto's five Chinatowns, or pop into trendy Kensington Market for specialty cheese or an artisan cocktail. “Meeting delegates can experience the best of the world in Toronto through the food, culture and neighborhoods,” Gordon says, “all viewed through a distinctly progressive and inclusive lens.”
Much of the city is dense and walkable, the city is very clean and the locals are warm and welcoming. Positives like these make Toronto the most popular choice for U.S.-sponsored association meetings outside of the United States, and one of the fastest-rising locations for events in 2019.
2. San Diego
San Diego is sometimes overshadowed by its California neighbors, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, but it has evolved into a fun and diverse city in its own right, and planners have taken notice.
Logistically, San Diego works well for events of all sizes. The San Diego convention center, for example, is located right on the water, in walking distance to 13,000 hotel rooms of all sizes and prices. There's an international airport located less than three miles away from downtown, and a short ride to La Jolla and other beautiful surrounding areas.
The weather in San Diego is an undeniable positive, with sunny, warm days for year-round outdoor dining and activities. Attendees can check out 70 miles of beaches and 92 golf courses, as well as attractions like the San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park. For the happy hour crowd, there are over 100 breweries, many of which are centrally located in the Gaslamp Quarter, East Village and other hip, walkable neighborhoods.
Planners love Nashville's central location and unique venues like the Opryland Convention Center and the Nashville Convention Center, located downtown. But Nashville's appeal goes far beyond hotels and conference spaces.
While one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S., Nashville has maintained its unique spirit. "Music City" continues to be home to hundreds of music studios, publishers and record labels, and with live music pouring out of seemingly every bar and restaurant, Music Row is an experience you won't find anywhere else in the world. Visit a honky tonk or an open mic in East Nashville and you can see some of the many talented singers and songwriters honing their craft in front of live audiences.
Attendees can check out the Country Music Hall of Fame offers a day of music and history, or a show at the Grand Ole Opry — staged live each week — for an incredible experience that’s been going strong for 50 years. If you like the Opry, keep it mind that it’s available for rent as a meeting space as well!
Nashville's food, from barbecue to fried green tomatoes, adds to the city’s appeal. There are also lots of historical attractions, and it's known as "the Athens of the South" because of its many universities, and because there is a full-scale replica of the Parthenon located in Centennial Park.
Many of us at MeetingPlay are former planners ourselves, and we’ve traveled onsite for meetings all over the country. For more on how to integrate the unique culture of your destination, check our post on creating an exceptional day-of experience, or contact us for a demo. We’d love to talk about your next event!