As the pandemic situation has caused meetings and events industry to quickly adapt to fewer in-person events, Meeting Expectations’ in-house Site Selection team has been on the front lines, not only supporting our clients, but also working closely with our convention and visitor bureau (CVB) partners across the country. In the second of our series of guest posts, Daren Kingi, senior vice president of sales for Visit Indy, shares how the Indianapolis CVB has pivoted to position the area for success.
Indy’s 2020 was off to a great start. We began the year named to Frommers’ “Best Places to Go in 2020” list, hosting nearly 800 airline decision makers from around the globe for the Routes Americas conference, and celebrating our 83,000 hospitality employees for their exemplary service. In March, the momentum came to a halt and our team quickly shifted gears.
What is Indy doing to support the meetings and events industry?
Like many convention cities around the country, Visit Indy is working with meeting planners to postpone their events to dates later in the year or 2021. Our collective message is that the difference between postpone and cancel means everything to the industry. But then we asked ourselves, how we could proactively help planners keep their meetings? Well, one of the great aspects of Indy is the collaborative spirit between our hotels, and that doesn’t stop in the time of crisis. It’s because of this that we were the first convention destination to offer zero attrition for all new business booked and actualized in 2020. With 22 downtown hotels participating in the promotion, meeting planners can book with peace of mind.
What are some recent Visit Indy initiatives from which other CVBs can draw inspiration?
As the #1 Convention City in America (according to USA Today), we are a community that loves welcoming convention guests. Therefore, we’ve really taken this time, not only as Visit Indy but as an entire community, to simply say thank you to those who have convened in the city and those who plan to. It is important to us that meeting planners and their event attendees know that we care and are thinking of them during this difficult time.
To that end, our team has created unique Indy-inspired ways our customers can not only stay engaged, but also practice self-care. Our Ways to Unwind guide features Indy podcasts, books by local authors, recipes, and more. We also organized a live virtual workout with Beachbody Coach and Indy local Maria Romaine Brace. We continue to share ways planners can get a taste of Indy from afar, including a guide to experience Indy from home and sharing how to host a socially distant Indy 500 porch party.
We are also focused on supporting our local community and the 83,000 men and women who rely on tourism for a paycheck. The first campaign we launched was a fundraiser in partnership with a local t-shirt company, The Shop Indy, to sell $10 Indy logo shirts with 100% of proceeds benefiting two local nonprofits helping hospitality workers in need. In just six days, we raised over $61,000.
While our residents were hunkered down at home, we wanted to ignite civic pride and get them excited for Indy’s reopening. We encouraged residents and Indy ambassadors alike to share the #LoveIndy on social media by filming themselves finishing the sentence, “The first thing I’ll do in Indy when life returns to normal is ___.”
What’s next for Indy?
We are continuing to adapt to the everchanging climate and part of that is staying on top of industry trends. Drivability is becoming increasingly important to travelers when choosing a destination. This puts Indy in a very good position, as the city is within a day’s drive of over half of the country’s population. Attendees traveling on their own terms and in their own vehicles gives them additional peace of mind and increase attendance.
In addition to drivability, travelers are seeking more outdoor activities and green space in the age of social distancing. Indy’s downtown White River State Park offers 250 acres of green space, attractions, and special event venues, and the internationally acclaimed Indianapolis Cultural Trail is a useful amenity that allows visitors to socially distance while walking or biking throughout the city.
Finally, we have assembled a team of local business owners and hospitality industry leaders to compile mandates and best practices for Indy’s reopening. Through this initiative, we will provide resources for our customers on new protocols and best practices for their meetings in Indy. These resources will also include ways to market Indy in a post-COVID world to effectively drive attendance.
There’s no question that our industry has been one of the hardest hit; however, we’re optimistic in Indy’s ability to race ahead.