Good air quality is so basic to a productive working environment that it doesn’t even seem necessary to check up on and most meeting planners don’t.  However, sustainability in general is a growing topic and many are passionate about it. 

For us, taking a city’s measure of environmental sustainability is proving to be a difficult process as well, but we feel we need to start. Using air quality as a ranking factor in convention site selection provides a simple, yet dramatic viewpoint. It has definitely changed our survey results in 2019.

Consider the #1 spot in our ranking report for 2018 – Las Vegas. Looking only at air quality among the major convention cities in the USA, Las Vegas comes in last while Honolulu, a city not on last year ‘s list at all, comes in first.**

Honolulu is a strong convention city for several other reasons  – sunshine, great walking and promotional appeal – along with one of the busiest airports in the nation. For this reason, when air quality is thrown into the mix, the city took the top spot in our annual best places for conventions survey for 2019.

Finding a clean-air city to meet is getting harder and harder, but many destinations are taking the lead by reducing traffic, advancing clean transportation and curtailing the burning of fossil fuels in industry and homes. The city of San Jose has set a goal to be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2022. Hawaii is the first state in the U.S. to set a state-wide goal of 100% renewable electricity by 2045. Seattle was one of two cities to win the first Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge and will accelerate its climate action plan to reduce transit and building emissions over the next two years.

We feel clean air matters, and as cities improve their environment, they will move up in our rankings. Convention planners are in a great spot to encourage this change. 

See the ranking of the largest convention cities by air quality below:

CityCVBMetro-PopulationChance for "Acceptable Air"
(Little to no risk)**
Recommended For
HonoluluMeet Hawaii992,76198%Groups up to and over 10,000+
New OrleansNew Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau1,271,19593%Groups up to and over 10,000+
SeattleVisit Seattle3,802,66093%Groups up to and over 10,000+
MiamiGreater Miami CVB6,107,43391%Groups up to and over 10,000+
BostonGreater Boston CVB4,805,94291%Groups up to and over 10,000+
MinneapolisMeet Minneapolis3,557,27690%Groups up to and over 10,000+
PortlandTravel Portland2,423,10290%Groups up to 10,000
San AntonioVisit San Antonio2,426,21190%Groups up to and over 10,000+
San FranciscoSan Francisco Travel4,699,07789%Groups up to and over 10,000+
OrlandoVisit Orlando2,453,33389%Groups up to and over 10,000+
AustinAustin CVB2,060,55887%Groups up to 10,000
TampaVisit Tampa Bay3,036,52586%Groups up to and over 10,000+
Kansas CityVisit KC2,106,38286%Groups up to 10,000
Atlantic CityMeet AC270,83086%Groups up to and over 10,000+
CharlotteVisit Charlotte2,475,51985%Groups up to 10,000
San Diego & VicinitySan Diego Tourism Authority3,317,20081%Groups up to and over 10,000+
ColumbusExperience Columbus2,046,97781%Groups up to 10,000
New York CityNYC & Company20,275,17980%Groups up to and over 10,000+
NashvilleNashville CVB1,868,85580%Groups up to and over 10,000+
DallasVisitDallas7,253,42480%Groups up to and over 10,000+
Washington, DCDestination DC6,150,68177%Groups up to and over 10,000+
Houston & VicinityGreater Houston CVB6,798,01077%Groups up to and over 10,000+
ChicagoChoose Chicago9,546,32677%Groups up to and over 10,000+
St LouisExplore St. Louis2,806,78275%Groups up to and over 10,000+
LouisvilleLouisville CVB1,284,84875%Groups up to 10,000
DetroitDetroit Metro CVB4,305,86974%Groups up to and over 10,000+
DenverVISIT DENVER2,851,84873%Groups up to and over 10,000+
IndianapolisVisit Indy2,005,61272%Groups up to 10,000
PhoenixVisit Phoenix4,648,49870%Groups up to and over 10,000+
PhiladelphiaPhiladelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau6,077,15270%Groups up to and over 10,000+
Greater BaltimoreVisit Baltimore2,801,02869%Groups up to 10,000
ClevelandGreater Cleveland CVB2,060,06569%Groups up to 10,000
AtlantaAtlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau5,795,72368%Groups up to and over 10,000+
CincinnatiCincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau2,166,02967%Groups up to 10,000
PittsburghGreater Pittsburgh CVB2,341,53667%Groups up to 10,000
Salt Lake CityVisit Salt Lake1,185,97863%Groups up to 10,000
Los AngelesLos Angeles Tourism & Convention Board13,328,26162%Groups up to 10,000
Las VegasLas Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority2,156,72460%Groups up to and over 10,000+

**Using data meticulously complied by our friends at Penn Environment, we ranked convention cities by their number of “acceptable air” days (air quality not exceeding the particulate pollution levels the EPA labels “moderate”). The cities at the top of the list have the cleanest air and the least likelihood of subjecting attendees to two of the most dangerous forms of bad air – that of high PM 2.5 particle pollution or ozone.