Factors like affordability, accessibility as well as what the destination has to offer in the way of infrastructure for the event, are objective. There’s external evidence readily available to compare convention destinations.
Updated for 2019: The Seven Factors That Determine Our Picks for Best Convention Cities in the USA
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 availabilities for that season.
3. – Close airports and the number of direct flights What is most important for your group, budget or the value of time for attendees? This information is available in several forms, and a clue to 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.
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, art organizations and restaurants a city affords. This is the only category where we gave a handicap to smaller destinations.
6. Weather Although left out of our first survey, weather is included for obvious reason: Sunny sells.
7.NEW – Air Quality New for 2019, we’re using air quality as a measure of sustainability. Sustainability has long been on planners’ radar. This is the year to do something about it.
While we feel we’ve uncovered most of the top convention site selection factors, there are things that only you will know and they may well be the secret sauce and the key to your event’s success. What unique considerations about your group will make some convention cities shine compared to others? If the convention is about green building, it’s easy to select a city and convention center that would reinforce your message. Certain cities may offer immersive experiences in a way that advances your conference’s goals or attracts a smaller, yet more committed audience. Obviously for that, the questions asked may revolve around opportunities for exploring local culture or participating in a charity event rather than what will bring in the most people.
P.S. Now that we have participated in this process more than once, we do have to admit that “best of” lists are limited in the information they provide. 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 cities on the list that will be impossible for some groups 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 other factors not covered by our third party sources that we used to create our rankings. Due to constraints on availability, 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 2019 Best Convention Cities Survey. Feel free to offer new comments in the section below.