Factors like hotel room affordability, accessibility as well as what the destination has to offer in the way of tourism infrastructure, are objective. There’s external evidence readily available to compare convention destinations to one another.[1]

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.

These six criteria are the ones we believe are most often used by meeting planners and not surprising, attendees, for deciding on the best conference location. 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 each city’s fixed components over other surveys methods that rank meeting destinations by the number of bookings is that the results are stable – good for several years out where as performance based measures can fluctuate widely from year to year.

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.

[1] 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.



Leave a Reply

  1. Daniel Howard

    Under ‘Ease of Access’ I’m surprised to see San Francisco with five stars while Salt Lake City scores 4 – particularly comparing the distance from the airports to the convention centers. This is to say nothing about the reliability of Delta’s SLC hub in all weather conditions versus infamously erratic SFO. It also costs nearly 4 times the amount to utilize public transportation from SFO to Moscone as it does the Trax from SLC to the Salt Palace. Private transportation comparisons between the two destinations are equally disparate in terms of cost.

    Surprised also to see equal scores along the safety grid. Salt Lake is recognized as one of the cleanest cities in the country while the characters one will come across near SOMA or Union Square are unsavory, to say the least. My latest visit (last week) certainly had my antennas up along the personal safety scale and far too many of my colleagues have experienced muggings in tourist areas for the city to truly be granted four stars for safety. Here is the latest quote from ‘Scout’ on the current state of crime in SF – ‘With a crime rate of 70 per one thousand residents, San Francisco has one of the highest crime rates in America compared to all communities of all sizes – from the smallest towns to the very largest cities. One’s chance of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime here is one in 14. Within California, more than 98% of the communities have a lower crime rate than San Francisco.

    Separately, it is always interesting and important to compare a city’s crime rate with those of similarly sized communities – a fair comparison as larger cities tend to have more crime. NeighborhoodScout has done just that. With a population of 864,816, San Francisco has a combined rate of violent and property crime that is very high compared to other places of similar population size. Regardless of whether San Francisco does well or poorly compared to all other cities and towns in the US of all sizes, compared to places with a similar population, it fares badly. Few other communities of this size have a crime rate as high as San Francisco.’

  2. John Horchner

    Hi Daniel, Our rankings are strictly numbers based using third party sources. San Francisco was compared to all the other “big” cities and for safety, in just one zip code around the convention center, so as you noted, it fared well – but your point is well taken – if it was compared to Salt Lake, a “medium” city in our database, it would not have fared well at all. We will have to look at that for next year.

    With that said, nothing replaces your experience – not all the numbers in the world – thanks for sharing!

  3. carol.pica

    We in Tacoma are very excited to have been named among the top 4 cities for small conventions. How do you determine a city is small, medium or large convention city? Thank you!

  4. John Horchner

    Hi Carol, That’s great! For this year, we used a third party source with the number of hotels – a proxy for the number of hotel rooms available in a given market. I’m in touch with the leading industry source that tracks the number of hotel rooms. I hope we can use their data next year. Till then, if you have data that supports a change in classification – please share and also post it within your destination’s review. People read the comments!

  5. Thomas Jameson

    It’s good to know that walkability is a factor used to determine what cities are best for events like conventions. My wife and I want to start traveling to new cities for conventions, but we want to make sure that we go to cities that work well for them. We’ll be looking further into the walkability of different cities in the future.

  6. John Horchner

    Thanks for the feedback on walkability!

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