5 winter destinations that will melt your groups’ heart

5 winter destinations that will melt your groups’ heart

Planners are often tempted to host their group of attendees in warm, premium destinations under the sun, especially during colder weather months.

Palm trees and umbrella drinks anyone?

While the appeal of warmer temperatures is common, they aren’t necessarily more dynamic or cost efficient. There are a variety of benefits to visiting scenic winter destinations and even more when choosing a lesser-known location for your meeting or event.

Every event planner has essential criteria when searching for destinations. From the need for easy air travel and public transportation to convention center accommodations and after-hours attractions — we’ve considered them all.

We’re shining a spotlight on winter wonderlands for your group and breaking down everything you want to know.

Why you might want to choose a smaller city during the winter months
You may not have considered the following cities for your next meeting or event, or the winter season for that matter, but you should. Here’s three reasons:

1. Affordability

Better price points are simply more attractive. While some of our selections aren’t really off season, many destinations during winter are. Whether your budget is tighter or not — midsize cities can often get you the most bang for your buck without sacrificing quality. In addition, they typically offer special incentive packages for after-hours activities.

2. Population

Navigating densely populated airports and sidewalks while shoulder to shoulder does not lend itself to a relaxing travel experience. Plus, over-crowded public transit systems are stressful. Smaller cities, by nature, have more elbow room and are often easier to navigate.

3. Community

The hospitality of midsize destination cities means planners can create high-value experiences for their event attendees that interpolate small-city charm. That might include vouchers to nearby businesses, hotel room welcome baskets with local products, or pre-arranged guided city tours.

These cities might not be on most organizers’ radars for wintertime events, but we encourage planners to think outside the box when sourcing host cities.

There are, of course, other not-so-commonly-used cities for meetings and events that may work well. If you’re lost in destinations but know everything else you require, our GroupSync Marketplace can recommend cities based on your group’s criteria.

5 winter destinations for meetings and events

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Jackson Hole, WY

They say you won’t go a day in Jackson Hole without running into an elk, and honestly, that might be enough to draw you in. For nature lovers, adventurers, and wannabe outdoorsmen, this is a city that fully embraces its panoramic landscape — from camping and dog sledding to hot springs and Nordic skiing.

Air travel: Jackson Hole Airport is serviced year-round by Alaska, American, Delta, and United Airlines.
Convention center: The Conference Center at The Lodge at Jackson Hole is a flexible event space of 10,000 square feet. It has natural light, individual climate controls, and a modern mountain design, and is a short drive to Yellowstone.
Off the clock: Travelers could do the typical souvenir shopping in the town square, but why do what’s been done? Instead, opt for a wildlife tour or experience a winter sleigh ride. (If you do opt to shop, know that single-use plastic grocery bags were outlawed in 2019.)
Stay longer: Reserve shuttle service and fly in early to visit Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks.
Public transportation: Hiking, backpacking, skiing, whitewater rafting, and horseback riding are all ways people get around here. You can also manage with the public bus system, called START, or by renting a car, using a car share service, or calling a taxi.
Cost efficiency: If skiing is a priority, the trip can become pricey. Yet there is still free activities to maximize your stay.

For more details:
Visit Jackson Hole
Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce

Park City, Utah

Park City, UT

“Winter’s Favorite Town” combines its silver mining history with its proud participation in the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. In fact, many athletes still use Park City as their training grounds.

Air travel: The Salt Lake City International Airport’s sustainability focus is a plus, yet it’s really the convenient access travelers care about. The airport, which is also a Delta hub, is a 10- or 15-minute TRAX ride from downtown Salt Lake City and about the same drive time to the Salt Palace Convention Center.
Convention center: Speaking of the convention center, take an online fly-through of its 700,000 square feet to see it for yourself. Park City’s meeting spaces vary in size.
Off the clock: Depending on your cold weather bravery, you might pick a mountain biking route, as Park City is North America’s only IMBA Gold-level Ride Center. Celebrate your gumption post-ride at High West, the state’s first brewery and first legal distillery.
Stay longer: Most of the state’s 15 resorts are less than an hour from the airport, so you’d be remiss not to take advantage of “The Greatest Snow on Earth” (it’s science). Then, save the date for the Sundance Film Festival.
Public transportation: There’s a free bus and trolley system.
Cost efficiency: Park City and neighboring Salt Lake City can’t help but be compared to one another, yet one aspect where Park City squeaks ahead is travel costs. Average costs for food, transportation, accommodation, and entertainment are higher here.

For more details:
Park City Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau
Utah Office of Tourism

Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Coeur d’Alene, ID

Although the most revered is Lake Coeur d’Alene itself, the ice age left more than 55 lakes in and around this off-the-beaten-path destination. Boat cruises and private charters are available year-round if you’re looking for memorable and experiential ideas for your attendees.

Air travel: The Spokane International Airport, Washington’s second largest, is 40 minutes west of Coeur d’Alene.
Convention center: There’s 100,000 square feet of exhibit and meeting space to choose from in Coeur d’Alene, all near the lake and downtown. The 13,000-square-foot Best Western Plus Coeur d’Alene Inn, for one, can supply meals for up to 625 guests.
Off the clock: So maybe the snowy conditions are for everyone. Here, you have the option for some faux summer fun at one of Coeur d’Alene’s indoor water parks.
Stay longer: By now, you’ve gotten the sense that these winter-centric cities offer skiing. But here’s where you take true advantage of these destinations: Invite the family for a shoulder stay specifically aimed at celebrating Christmas. Coeur d’Alene really does Christmas.
Public transportation: You can book a Greyhound seat, travel by Amtrak, or follow the Citylink bus routes. Omnibus provides ground transportation back to the airport when your visit concludes.
Cost efficiency: A late January visit will likely be the most affordable.

For more details:
Coeur d’Alene Convention & Visitor Bureau

Palisades Tahoe, California

Palisades Tahoe, CA

Palisades Tahoe, previously Squaw Valley, hosted the 1960’s Winter Olympics and remains a winter paradise. It fully embraces the skiing lifestyle, so much so, that some restaurants let diners come straight in from the slopes.

Air travel: Twelve airlines serve the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, which is currently undergoing its largest-ever construction program. More than 130 daily arrivals and departures connect to 20+ nonstop flight destinations.
Convention center: There’s a reason floor-to-ceiling windows are common throughout Palisades Tahoe’s event space overlooking Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Mountain range. They provide the scenery, while you customize the 40,000 square feet to fit your needs.
Off the clock: Even the pups here are athletic, so now’s your chance to go dog sledding. Then, organize your group (of humans) to bundle ski lift tickets and snag the group rate.
Stay longer: The milder winter temps might encourage you to extend your stay. Plan a scenic drive through glacial lakes to arrive at Emerald Bay, the country’s second-most photographed location.
Public transportation: It’s easiest to navigate the city with your own car, but transportation options are plentiful—local and national bus systems, water taxi, rail travel, and more.
Cost efficiency: While there might be group deals and packages, if you plan to ski, you’ll want to prepare to pay.

For more details:
Tahoe.com
Palisades Tahoe

Quebec, Canada

Québec City, Canada

With its charming European feel, Québec City is brimming with landmark, boutique, and chain hotels. (Le Concorde, for one, has a revolving restaurant atop the hotel.) Don’t be concerned about a potential language barrier, though—while it helps to learn a few useful French phrases, many locals in the tourist areas speak English.

Air travel: It’s only 20 minutes between the Jean Lesage International Airport—where there are direct flights to many North American hubs—and the Québec City Convention Centre.
Convention center: The convention center is a top event venue, yet depending on budget and size needs, there are hundreds of thousands of square feet in other meeting spaces to choose among.
Off the clock: There’s history everywhere in this city, which was founded in 1608. Take it in with a walk along Place Royale and Rue du Petit-Champlain, two of North America’s oldest streets.
Stay longer: No matter what time of year you visit, there will be a festival, carnival, or cultural event to warrant a handful of shoulder nights.
Public transportation: An indoor passageway connects it to the Hilton Québec and Delta Québec hotels if you plan to stay warm and toasty, or venture outside, as the convention center is also only 10 minutes from the Gare du Palais bus and train station. The city’s public transit system makes it easy to get around during a business stay—pick up a pass for unlimited travel for five consecutive days.
Cost efficiency: If you want to feel like you’re in Europe—without heading across the Atlantic—then Québec City, it is.

For more details:
Québec City Convention Centre
Québec City Business Destination
Destination Canada

Winter destinations have just as much to love

And, smaller cities check all the same organizer boxes as their larger counterparts:

• Flexible meeting spaces
• Hotel accommodations
• Post-event activities

The main attraction, though, as we’ve found (besides skiing), is a celebration of heritage embedded within some of the best scenic views. If a wintertime group event is up for consideration, you can’t miss.

It’s finally here: Instant booking for groups

It’s finally here: Instant booking for groups

As published in BizBash

Discover the industry’s first integrated online booking platform for real-time group hotel rates and availability

Planners have long been frustrated with the absence of transparency in rates and availability when sourcing for their programs. The lack of sufficient data to make informed decisions results in the need to send out dozens of RFPs just to secure initial information from prospective hotels.

In 2020, when Groups360 asked thousands of meeting planners if they could wave a magic wand and conjure anything they wanted from a sourcing platform, these professionals said they wanted access to more information and the autonomy to book on their own.

Technology that facilitates online purchases has been part of our everyday lives for decades. We can now buy everything from clothing to groceries to cars—and even houses—online.

But when event planners start their sourcing process, they find themselves working a process that hasn’t changed in decades.

Leisure travelers don’t have to make phone calls and send emails when planning their vacations. They can book flights, rental cars, and hotel rooms online quickly and easily. So why has it taken so long to be able to book group rooms and space online?

The missing key to unlocking this capability has been systems integration.

Though other meeting and events platforms may claim to offer instant booking for groups, GroupSync is the only truly integrated platform that facilitates group hotel booking at scale, globally.

Here’s why that matters when you’re seeking to book meetings online:

An Outdated Industry Paradigm

Hotels and technology companies have previously attempted to create systems that would facilitate online group bookings. A key flaw in these platforms was the lack of integration into the hotels’ reservations and property management systems.

These online booking platforms instead relied on individuals at participating hotels to upload—and maintain—their rates and room availability. This time-consuming process resulted in either a lack of adoption or inconsistent, often outdated data.

Without inventory, an instant booking system is like a brand-new grocery store with no products on the shelves.

For years, only global distribution systems (GDSs)—such as Amadeus or SABRE—have provided real-time access to hotel rooms. GDS technology gives online travel agencies (OTAs) access to inventory such as flights, hotels, and rental cars. Travelers love OTAs for conveniently showing multiple hotel options and room rates in one place.

The well-known limitation of an OTA, however, is the inability to book more than nine rooms at a time. Not only are planners restricted from securing enough rooms for their groups on an OTA, but they also don’t have access to group room rates.

That’s why room blocks have required RFPs, oftentimes just to get initial information like rates and availability. It’s an old industry paradigm that doesn’t allow planners to buy the way they want to buy.

Planners should have the ability to decide whether they want rooms, space, or both while reducing unnecessary steps such as sending an RFP just to confirm rates and availability.

True Integration for Instant Group Booking

The world’s leading hotel brands—Marriott, Hilton, IHG, and Accor—along with other partners have invested $85 million into Groups360 to date to collaborate on an effective solution to this longstanding problem. The result is GroupSync.

What sets GroupSync apart is its direct integration into hotel reservation systems and property management systems to offer real-time rates and availability for group room blocks and meeting space, as well as ancillary services such as catering and AV.

While other meeting and events companies may tout an ability to book group rooms online, they may simply be pulling disparate bookings from a GDS. The only way to offer true rates and availability, as well as the ability to purchase online in a single transaction, is to book through a fully integrated platform.

A More Efficient Planning Process

As the hospitality industry rebounds from the effects of the pandemic, smaller meetings make up the bulk of in-person meetings and events. Many planners are currently juggling the logistics of multiple smaller meetings that have taken the place of larger gatherings. But searching and sourcing for a simple meeting can take just as much time as a larger event does.

More than ever, meeting planners need an efficient way to organize these small programs—and hotels need a less complicated and time-consuming way to sell their rooms and space.

GroupSync Instant Booking currently connects you to live room inventory at over 7,000 leading hotels—including Hilton and Omni—as well as a growing number of IHG properties. GroupSync is also the booking engine behind Hilton’s meetings and events website.

More and more hotel brands such as Marriott, Accor, and other independent properties are connecting their inventory to GroupSync and publishing their real-time rates and availability. With GroupSync, you will soon have access to several million rooms, as well as meeting space at thousands of properties in the coming months.

GroupSync’s search algorithms produce customized results at a glance that show which of the preselected hotels offer Instant Booking.

For larger events that require customized proposals, GroupSync Instant Booking provides access to real-time group rates and availability so you can know before submitting your RFP whether a hotel can accommodate your room block. Thanks to better, more complete data, you can send an informed RFP to a shortlist of hotels that are a good fit for your program.

Instant online booking is also ideal when you need to see if a hotel has immediate availability for short-term bookings.

 

Book Your Next Meeting Online

Through GroupSync, hotels benefit from a streamlined sales process, and planners benefit from immediate insights into essential data along with the option to secure rooms and space in a single online transaction.

Buy the way you want to buy through a process as intuitive as shopping at your favorite online retailer. With the time saved, you can focus on creating an ideal experience for your attendees and guests.

Get started with your free GroupSync account.

3 ways GroupSync is better than other group booking systems

3 ways GroupSync is better than other group booking systems

From the start of GroupSync, our goal has been to bring simple and transparent solutions to booking group travel. Through our technology, we’re helping our customers save time, build trust, and accelerate revenue.

But, hey, we get it…change is hard.

The presence of technology and stylized new software has us constantly adapting for convenience. It’s formed a habitual, first thought: “Is this worth the time it takes to learn something new?”

With GroupSync, you have a better way to source and book hotels for groups, and an opportunity to experience simplicity in an overcomplicated process.

So, why stay in the lengthy cycle of antiquated methods?

Look at it this way: We aren’t changing your process, we’re improving it.

GroupSync exists to facilitate an easier experience for both group organizers and hoteliers. So, we’re explaining — directly, simply, and transparently — the top 3 ways we are better for your business and different from our competitors.

1. No Paid Placements

It’s both lucrative and widely known for advertisers to bid payments on a search engine with their brand predominantly displayed among the results of a keyword search.

Some legacy systems promote a ‘pay-to-play’ system where hoteliers can buy the opportunity to show up high on search results, regardless of how irrelevant they are to a group need or event.

And while this approach may be favored by hoteliers, we’ve always felt that they’re a source of friction in the group booking process and typically end up wasting more of an organizer’s time.

As a result, GroupSync has always been an advocate of no paid placements.

What that means for group organizers and meeting planners:

We position properties that are useful and relevant to your program needs according to your search criteria. With a trusted search, your results fit your search, with zero bias, and no distractions.

We don’t waste your time with irrelevant results. You can choose to filter for specific hotels, but we don’t decide that for you. You are in control of your search journey with access to the most robust data content and information for everyone.

What that means for hoteliers:

Paid placement simply puts you in front of the current customer, not the customer searching for you. Hoteliers are paying a lot of money to show up on an irrelevant search. Those marketing dollars don’t pay to narrow down the relevancy for guests to find you.

Our take: Don’t waste time or marketing dollars on clients that don’t match the accommodations you can provide.

GroupSync employs equal opportunity for both small boutiques and large hotels. All hoteliers have the same access to reach and book relevant group customers, which means all properties on GroupSync are on a level playing field where the best fit and deal win.

2. Instant Booking

We’ve created the first distribution channel to offer real-time group rates and immediate booking availability for both room blocks and meeting space at scale. This key data is imported directly from the hotel into GroupSync. It’s not scraped from other online sources, nor does it come from the Global Distribution Service (GDS) feed for online travel agents—you’re getting the best available group rates and live inventory direct from hotels.

And our lineup of participating hotels is constantly growing — to more than 20k properties in 2023! GroupSync’s Instant Booking is quickly becoming a new norm for group travel.

What that means for group travel organizers and meeting planners:

Immediate booking, real-time rates, and availability. Find properties with Instant Booking options from your search results, “add to cart”, and book your room block. Weeks of work can be done in minutes by skipping the typical RFP process and avoiding the back and forth with hotels.

Group hotel booking in a single online transaction; it’s really that simple.

What that means for hoteliers:

Instant booking and the ability for planners to get real-time rates and availability provide you with a 24/7, 365 online sales engine. Group bookings can be made around the clock, without the spent resources typically used on the RFP process.

You’re also able to offer add-on purchases such as A/V equipment and food & beverage services.

By offering Instant Booking, you’re able to move the smaller group stays and meeting sales online, freeing up resources and time while creating a better customer experience for all.

3. GroupSync is Free!

Yes, really.

Other legacy software will cost you money, while general search engines like Google will cost you valuable time. With GroupSync, you can book properties, via RFP or Instant Booking, at no cost to you.

What it means for group travel organizers and meeting planners:

Free to search over 200,000 properties worldwide. Free to book your group programs. Free to send and receive any number of RFPs. Free to utilize for all your programs.

Find the properties you need, when you need them, all in one place, at no cost to you.

No hidden fees. No fine print.

We promise.

What it means for hoteliers:

Good news, your basic hotel profile is free, making your hotel visible to group travel organizers and planners 24/7, 365.

You’ll even receive RFPs from GroupSync for free.

Not only does GroupSync increase visibility through user discovery, but it also has the potential to increase direct bookings and brand awareness.

If that sounds like free marketing, it’s because it is.

We’re helping groups, planners and hoteliers improve the way they do business—all while building the future of group travel.

Learn more about GroupSync for group travel organizers>
Learn more about GroupSync for hoteliers>

The biggest fears among professional planners and how you can overcome them

The biggest fears among professional planners and how you can overcome them

For 6 consecutive years, event planning was ranked as one of the most stressful jobs on Earth.

That’s scary. But you already knew that.

After hearing the horror stories of many professional planners, similar themes appeared to be woven into the web of various tasks, budgets, preparation, and more.

Luckily, we have a comparable solution to each common fear we’ve often heard as it relates to booking hotels for groups, meetings and events.

Fear #1: Wasting time searching and sourcing hotels for your group

Booking a hotel for your group or event can be a time-consuming and challenging process for a variety of reasons. You want the best possible deal on every detail; rooms, meeting space, amenities, travel accommodations, and the list is always varied. Plus, where you find your group-focused hotel information can be tricky and scattered.

Getting your information from a single resource that’s not named Google is a major aspect of streamlining your planning process. When you’re managing something so large, with various parties, having clear options and quick access to your information is the easiest way to organize, manage, and make decisions.

Solution

GroupSync Marketplace is a one-stop shop where you can find hotels and meeting spaces that can accommodate your event’s criteria.

Search and compare over 200,000 properties worldwide without irrelevant paid placements or ads. Get market forecasted as well as real-time rates and availability from hotels (without sending an RFP), plus see which hotels offer Instant Booking options for those smaller meetings that can take up too much of your time (spoiler alert).

GroupSync saves you time because it focuses on the needs of group travel organizers and event planners. From one simple online platform, you can book room blocks, a meeting space or both.

Fear #1, conquered!

Fear #2: Bored attendees during off hours

Any host would agree there’s no feeling worse than seeing your attendees yawning, binge-scrolling, or looking for the nearest exit. As a professional planner, it’s simply part of the job to prevent guests from being visibly bored. Sometimes all it takes to excite people is to give them something to look forward to or talk about.

If you want to get the most engagement from your audience, offer them some personalized touches. Even something as simple as convenient, walkable recommendations feels like an emersion in the local culture. People want to experience more today — use that as a motivating tool to get your attendees to participate and enjoy their time.

Solution

Get the most entertainment value when choosing properties. GroupSync allows you to search the proximity of your event and find the perfect hotel near the sights and attractions that can enhance your attendees’ experience.

Get creative early with the ability to locate the jewels and hidden gems of the city beforehand. Explore the local flare within your destination and suggest or plan additional activities to enhance your guests’ experience. GroupSync makes it easy to give you hotel options for where you need to be.

Fear #2, buried!

Fear #3: An overwhelming number of small meetings and short timeframes

One of the recently-formed behaviors proving to be consistent is the size of group bookings.

The encouragement of smaller groups has spiked the volume of group travel and the number of bookings. With smaller group travel requests, professional planners are finding they also come with much shorter timeframes to work with.

Planners want speed in RFP responses, but the fastest way to handle RFPs is to not handle them at all. For smaller groups, don’t waste time sending RFPs when you can book your small groups instantly.

Solution

Smaller room blocks can be booked in minutes with Instant Booking. It can often take the same amount of time to book a smaller group as it does a larger one, but with fewer guests or attendees, you’ve got options.

More than 7,000 hotels on GroupSync Marketplace are able to offer Instant Booking with real-time rates and availability for your set of dates.

Real-time hotel information is fairly new to group travel, though it’s been a much-needed feature for planners. Not only does Instant Booking provide immediate transactions for a faster and smoother booking process, it also allows you to eliminate the time involved in an otherwise slow, dreadful back-and-forth communication process with hotels.

Fear #3, vanquished!

It’s common for new, digital tools to scare planners away, but GroupSync condenses your challenges without over-complicating your profession. With one technology solution, you can conquer your most daunting fears with every group travel event.

When planning large events, the hotel RFP process shouldn’t be difficult

When planning large events, the hotel RFP process shouldn’t be difficult

The larger your group event, the more complicated the planning. When it comes to complex hotel group stays, special requirements, and event spaces with multiple configurations, an event planner can feel like Goldilocks, seeking the solution that’s just right.

The right fit is out there—and, more than likely, a handful of venues would work out nicely—yet sourcing and booking can often feel like a full-time job. The involved variables often can’t be easily handled in an instant, online transaction. And you’re left wondering if you’re getting the best deal.

Plus, almost all options for big events require an RFP.

 

The 411 on hotel RFPs

Event organizers submit an RFP, or a request for proposal, when sourcing a venue with which they don’t already have an established relationship so they can find the best, most strategic deal. The thought is that by varying the venues they work with, planners stay on top of market value instead of becoming complacent or possibly being taken advantage of.

An RFP is used to request and gather relevant information in the booking process, and then each returned proposal is compared and contrasted to determine the preferred venue.

If it sounds like a long, arduous process, it can be: on average, traditional hotel sourcing takes 75 days. (More later on how we can get that down to 12 days.)

Myrtle Beach

Booking for large vs. small events

Eliminating the effort spent on crafting individual hotel RFPs means there’s more time for an event planner to examine other ways to level up their gathering. Large and small events aren’t the same beast; each has a unique set of requirements.

Here’s where, in general, planners see the two differ:

 

Large event Small event
Venue capacity Multiple meeting spaces and configurations One room and configuration
Time to book Need more advance notice for room/space availability Can book closer to desired date
Meal/food offerings More attendees come with more complex dietary needs Simple refreshments may suffice
Transportation Can become a logistical issue with larger groups Easier to coordinate with a smaller group
Space consideration May need broader health and security requirements Flow of people is more painless
Add-on needs Could require audio/visual tools from the venue Likely already has its supplies

 

A note about Instant Booking

While GroupSync’s Instant Booking is a real game-changer for group travel planners, it can’t yet replace the RFP for large, complex events. And although Instant Booking is perfect for the planner with smaller group accommodations to book or less involved meeting space requirements, RFPs will still have their place.

But the process to create and manage RFPs should be a better one. One designed with the event planner in mind.

 

Why GroupSync is perfect for large groups

Whether you need hotel group booking for a 200-person annual conference meeting or a vast citywide event, GroupSync has you covered. It allows planners to create, distribute and manage RFPs with ease, giving planners the power to search, source and book hotels in days as opposed to months—no matter how big the bash.

1. No need for RFP variations

We’ve simplified the traditional and often painful RFP process by removing your need to create tailored requests per property: once you build your RFP in the web-based solution, you can distribute it to your highly-matched search results, or any of the 200,000 properties in our database.

2. Immediate matches for specific criteria

Close all browser tabs right now because you don’t need a boatload of Google searches to manually gather your hotel options. GroupSync’s hotel search capability is designed for quicker group sourcing and booking—without paid placements—providing you with qualified search results of venues matching your specific criteria.

3. Get rates and availability ahead of the RFP

The key data a planner needs more than anything when sourcing hotels is cost and availability. GroupSync has both, including forecasted market rates according to industry data, as part of the hotel search and sourcing – before sending the RFP. Real-time rates and availability are also displayed for a growing list of properties, based on your event criteria.

 

Cut months off your venue sourcing and booking time

GroupSync is designed to simplify the booking experience and trim time off the booking process—more than two months, actually. In many cases, we’ve gotten the average RFP booking time down from months to days – reducing the stress that planners often face when securing room blocks and space for large events.

Want to learn more? Connect with us today to learn how GroupSync makes hotel booking for large groups an easier process.

Off the beaten path: Consider these 5 destinations for your next event

Off the beaten path: Consider these 5 destinations for your next event

Orlando might be the top U.S. choice for hosting meetings, but it doesn’t have to be O-Town or bust. There are other cities not commonly considered for meetings and events that might work in your organization’s favor.

But how do you choose from so many unknown destinations? Well, that’s where we come in. Based on GroupSync data and our own travel experiences, the team at Groups360 has selected five cities to shine a spotlight on to get you thinking beyond the destination status quo.

What matters when sourcing a city?
While we will encourage you to think outside the box when picking a host city for your next event, let’s also acknowledge there is a box. A group travel or event planner’s must-have search criteria typically includes:

1. Easy air travel
2. Convention center and meeting room capacity
3. Entertainment opportunities
4. Public transportation

If you know your needs for the above but are stumped when it comes to the destination, the below list offers some guidance. GroupSync’s AI will also make city recommendations suited to your preferences and search criteria.

Our top 5 destinations to consider for meetings and events

Myrtle Beach

Anaheim, CA

We can all agree the hotspot San Diego is beautiful this time of year—no matter which season you’re reading this. Yet take a mostly coastline drive north, and you’ll be in Anaheim in less than two hours.

It’s got theme parks, sure. Plenty of them. (Insider tip: Opt for hotels close to the Anaheim Convention Center if you plan to wear your mouse ears, as they’re still a short drive from the parks while being on the more economical end.)

The Anaheim Resort, which contains the convention center, is your one-stop shop. Disneyland. Meeting space. Hotel rooms. Restaurants. Shops. Hosting more than 25 million visitors a year, it’s still being developed and built out.

Your outdoors-loving group will still enjoy California’s beauty while bonding, as Anaheim GardenWalk is considered an “eatertainment” destination. Its venues accommodate groups from large to small, at 3,300 capacity down to 60.

Don’t miss it: Bringing Fido along? No judgment. Anaheim has dozens of pet-friendly hotel accommodations, and some parks even offer daytime boarding.

Start here: Visit Anaheim

Myrtle Beach

Fort Myers, FL

Fort Myers is so intent on increasing its event capacity exposure that its Conference Services team partners with meeting planners for some of the heavy lifting. That includes touring and inspecting facilities, meeting with local suppliers, and convention registration assistance, all of which is especially helpful for part-time planners.

Lee County also offers grants and incentives to companies booking meetings that are held by a specific date.

You might be here for work, but don’t miss the opportunity to recharge at the beach. A short drive away, Sanibel Island’s beaches are known for their shelling, a meditative and relaxing hobby. There’s even a name for those seen taking part in the practice: the Sanibel Stoop.

In the evening, walk around the downtown core’s River District before showtime at the Florida Repertory Theater, which the Wall Street Journal called “one of America’s Top Repertory Companies.”

Don’t miss it: If you’re here for the weather, get the full outdoor experience by chartering a boat at one of 20 marinas.

Start here: Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau

Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach, SC

There’s a preconception about Myrtle Beach that isn’t wrong:

✓ Sandy beaches
✓ Golf courses
✓ Seafood
✓ Hotels galore (425, at last count)
✓ Tourism ($7 billion in annual economic impact)

Yet it’s an ideal conference, trade show, and meeting choice, too. The Myrtle Beach Convention Center—welcoming more than 14 million visitors each year—is connected to the Sheraton and steps away from the beach (which, let’s be honest, remains the main draw).

To take advantage of that ocean breeze, opt for the Events Plaza. The hotel and convention center’s concessionaire provide all food and beverage services, meaning one less vendor for you to book.

Don’t miss it: Visit Myrtle Beach and the Champion Autism Network partner to train staff at hotels and restaurants so they’re autism-aware and experiences are sensory-friendly. The Myrtle Beach International Airport even has a quiet room for decompressing before or after a flight.

Start here: Visit Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

San Antonio skyline

San Antonio, TX

While Austin’s been keeping it weird, San Antonio’s been keeping it beautiful. USAToday called the city’s 15-mile River Walk one of the country’s 10 most attractive sights—and luckily the 1.6 million-square-foot Henry B. González Convention Center sits right on it.

Yet the River Walk isn’t the only gem. There’s LEGOLAND Discovery Center, the Carver Community Cultural Center, and a steady stream of events celebrating the city’s diversity. Book a shoulder stay at one of the hundreds of hotels for extra exploration time.

As for selling your higher-ups on San Antonio, the city’s made it easy to present on the meeting and event destination: Find B-roll, descriptive text, floor plans, and more on its website.

Don’t miss it: As the seventh-biggest city in the United States, San Antonio covers its bases for visitors to easily navigate—by double-decker bus, plane, boat, bike, foot, and public transit.

Start here: Visit San Antonio and Visit San Antonio – Meetings

Myrtle Beach

Savannah, GA

While Atlanta is a perennial favorite due to its plethora of hotel rooms and reasonable average room rate, the very fact that the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the country’s busiest airport is a deterrent. It might feel efficient to fly your team into this major hub, but after navigating through the nearly 200 gates among thousands of fellow travelers, don’t forget you still have post-airport traffic to contend with.

Why Savannah? First, it’s downright charming with its Spanish moss-draped parks, riverboat cruises, and architectural tours. It’s also extremely walkable, due to the city’s grid.

Before you let loose for playtime, though, consider the Savannah Convention Center’s impressive stats:

● A 330,000 sq. ft. complex
● Divisible exhibit space of 100,000 sq. ft.
● 50,000 sq. ft. of meeting space
● A 25,000 sq. ft. Grand Ballroom
● 367-seat auditorium

Don’t miss it: The convention center defines its sustainability practices, and choosing a lesser-known location like Savannah shows you’re already considering your impact.

Start here: Visit Savannah

Bonus Destination

Myrtle Beach

Omaha, NE

Omaha, named after a Native American Tribe, means “Those going against the wind or current.” That’s what you’d be doing by planning a meeting in this unexpected event destination—a city that claims to have invented the Reuben sandwich, cake mix, and TV dinners.

Here’s why we love it:

1. Flight ease: nonstop service to 30 busy airports
2. Convention center: CHI Health Center Omaha (346,000 sq. ft.) is 4 miles from the airport
3. Rooms galore: 15,000+ throughout metro
4. Transportation: taxis, rideshares, hotel shuttle service, rental vehicles, motorcoaches, and pedicabs

Don’t miss it: Also unexpected when it comes to Omaha? Its zoo—known as one of the best in the United States—is home to the continent’s largest indoor rainforest. The zoo’s millions of annual visitors can vouch for it.

Start here: Visit Omaha

Reinvigorate your experience by choosing a unique city

Group travel and event planners can burn out on only having the same handful of options. Opting for a unique city can bring some much-needed change as well as give attendees an experience to look forward to.

While GroupSync will always provide you with alternative destination ideas based on your travel and event requirements, be on the lookout for future blog articles offering up additional recommendations.