Factors like affordability, accessibility as well as what the destination has to offer in the way of tourism, are objective. There’s external evidence readily available to compare convention destinations.
The six criteria below are the ones we believe are most often used by meeting planners and not surprising, attendees, for deciding on the best conference location.
1. – Walkability to restaurants and attractions around the convention center.
2. – Affordable hotel rooms How many total rooms does an area afford? How many within 1 mile of the convention center? This will give you a quick indication if there will be enough to accommodate your group. Also, average room rates for every city are available online. One source we’ve used is the General Services Adminstration’s Per Diem rates. Like total hotel rooms, this is a quick comparison that is subject to change with availability by season. We’ve added seasonal rates as a footnote when available.
3. – Close airports and the number of direct flights This information is available in several forms, both is the number of direct flights a city has and the distance of the airport to the convention center.
4. – Safety Personal crime risk varies by city – even within a city – so we centered in on the area around the convention center to determine scores. Personal crime risk is said to be a proxy for other types of safety measures.
5. – Tourism appeal We looked at hot buttons attendees use as leisure travelers when deciding to participate in an event or not: the number of attractions and restaurants a city affords. New for 2020, we also including a score for a city’s natural recreation – the sum of two numbers: air quality and city parks.
6. Weather Although left out of our first survey, weather is included for obvious reason: a moderate climate sells.
MeetingSource.com has developed an asset scoring system that gets inside each of these factors (or at least serves as a fairly accurate proxy) to rank the cities with convention centers across the USA. One advantage of scoring the city’s fixed convention assets over other surveys methods like bookings or the number of visitors is that the results are stable – good for several years out. Do you agree that these are the six most important factors in convention site selection? Is anything missing? Leave your comments in the space below.
P.S. While it is hard to argue with many of the 25 best convention cities selections and ratings that were made for our list this year, we are sure there are places on the list that are impossible for a group to meet there. For example, because affordable room rates are weighed equally with all the other factors, a destination that has hotel rates of $250+ per night may still score way above other destinations that your group can afford. This is an obvious limitation of any “best of” list. There’s also constraints on availability due to seasonal factors; for example, it is possible that a meeting in Atlantic City may have more room nights available for your group than one in New York City, a destination with five times as many rooms.
 Research Sources
- Editors note: This article has been updated for the release of the 2020 Best Convention Cities Survey. Feel free to offer new comments in the section below.