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by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | August 01, 2007

Some cities around the world serve as true crossroads, appealing and convenient enough to draw people from distant lands. Such places are critical to the global meetings industry, as they enable far-flung attendees to meet each other halfway, both literally and figuratively, whether from opposite coasts, cultures or continents.

The cities profiled on the following pages are vibrant, growing meetings destinations, natural gateways that offer entree, infrastructure and all the amenities a planner could hope for.

Miami
Miami: A dynamic
gateway city for
attendees from
Latin America

Miami
Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau
www.gmcvb.com

With three professional sports teams, possibly the world’s largest collection of art deco architecture (more than 800 buildings) and the only everglade ecosystem on the globe, Miami has more than its fair share of attractions. Throw in its sunny climate, vibrant Latin culture and geographic proximity to South and Central America, and this city becomes a natural springboard for organizations hoping to draw international attendees from the Latin American market to their events.

In 2002, the prestigious financial publication America Economia ranked Miami the “Number 1 Best City for Doing Business in Latin America,” no small feat considering it beat out heavyweights such as Sao Paulo, Brazil; Mexico City; and Buenos Aires, Argentina, for the title. In June 2007, Miami ranked 21 on the MasterCard Worldwide Centers of Commerce index, which measures the world’s top 50 cities for conducting financial business.

All of this helps explain why Larkspur, Calif.-based Ad:tech, a leading organizer of conferences and exhibitions for the interactive marketing community worldwide, didn’t bother to solicit other cities’ bids to host its inaugural show targeting the U.S. Hispanic and Latin American markets. “Miami is the gateway of Latin America,” says Andrew Ianni, Ad:tech’s senior global analyst and programming chair. “It has a diverse and growing Spanish-speaking population from across the region, a dynamic that made this city an ideal host for our show.”

Ianni says the first Ad:tech Miami, held in June at the Miami Beach Convention Center, drew thousands of attendees and exhibitors from throughout Latin America, including Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. “Registration and turnout exceeded expectations,” he notes.

The city is bolstering its infrastructure to help support such events. Earlier this year, Miami International Airport, which is in the midst of a $4.8 billion capital improvement program that will add a new terminal, opened its International General Aviation Center. The 14,000-square-foot facility, which operates 24/7, is designed to handle private international jets. The center has an area where customs and border protection agents can process international VIP passengers as well as cargo and crew, giving meeting planners an alternative to commercial travel for high-level company executives, high-profile speakers and attendees.

The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, which handles marketing for the city’s three major convention facilities -- the MBCC, the Miami Convention Center and the Coconut Grove Expo Center -- offers planners a multitude of pre-event and on-site services to assist with international attendees, from bilingual meet-and-greet volunteers to promotional marketing materials and customized event websites crafted entirely in Spanish.

Honolulu
Honolulu:
The Americas
meet the
Pacific Rim

Hawaii

Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau
www.gohawaii.com

For many planners, Hawaii is a shoo-in as the premier American destination for inbound Pacific Rim travelers. It has long been a favorite choice for corporate and incentive meetings, thanks to its luxury resorts, magnificent beaches, championship golf courses and lush, exotic landscape. But earlier this year, the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau decided it was high time to kick things up a notch by aggressively marketing the 50th state as the destination for associations hoping to expand their international base across the Pacific.

In April, the bureau sent a delegation to take part in the inaugural 2007 Incentive Travel & Conventions Meetings China trade show held at the INTEX Shanghai exhibition center -- an event that drew 1,200 Chinese and international business leaders. Two months later, the HVCB and a sales team from the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu headed to the U.S. East Coast in a two-week-long effort that specifically targeted associations with a defined interest in the Asia-Pacific market.

That such efforts are bearing fruit was evident in June, when the Washington, D.C.-based Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers held its 50th annual International Microwave Symposium at the HCC. It was the first time the six-day event, which generated an estimated $23.6 million for Honolulu and drew 10,000 attendees, was held outside the U.S. mainland. According to conference organizers, while registration numbers were typical of past annual conferences, the call for technical papers generated a blizzard of contributions, the second-highest number in the association’s history, with entries coming from as far off as China, Japan, Korea and Thailand.

“The most rapid growth in the microwave industry is occurring in Asia, so Hawaii’s central location was seen as a plus for attracting that segment,” says Dr. Wayne Shiroma, symposium chairman.

In the meantime, in January, the HVCB and the HCC launched Business-
Aloha.com, a new online resource for planners, featuring practical cost-saving tips on holding a meeting in Hawaii, including information on statewide meeting venues and accommodations, as well as special offers by industry partners.

In addition, the HCC has rolled out a number of tactics to help planners build attendance at their events. For example, the facility creates customized online digital videos, lasting from 10 to 45 seconds and featuring client VIPs promoting an event, which then are sent to potential attendees via e-mail.