Bridging the Gap

These gateway cities allow far-flung attendees to meet each other halfway

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: A dynamic
gateway city for
attendees from
Latin America

Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau

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.

The Americas
meet the
Pacific Rim


Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau

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-, 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.

Vancouver, B.C.:
A Western welcome
for the East

Vancouver, British Columbia
Tourism Vancouver

Toronto might be Canada’s financial capital, but Vancouver is its San Francisco, a bridge to both the East and West. “We are a nine-hour flight from Europe and China, which puts us right in the middle,” says Richard Yore, director of sales, meetings and events for Tourism Vancouver, which represents the Greater Vancouver Convention and Visitors Bureau. According to Yore, meetings and conventions held at the Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre in 2005 (the latest available audit figures) showed a 15.1 percent increase in international attendance.

Others are taking notice of this British Columbia city’s sway on global travelers. In May, the Amsterdam, Netherlands-based International Congress and Convention Association ranked Vancouver as North America’s top destination for international meetings, citing the 50 international events it attracted in 2006, compared with the 28 it drew in 2005. What’s more, ICCA ranked the city 24th in the world, well ahead of Toronto, San Francisco, New York City and Seattle. “The ranking is a testament to our efforts to sell Vancouver as an international meetings destination,” says Yore. “The synergies we’ve developed with the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre have proved very important and really have paid off.”

It doesn’t hurt marketing efforts that the city, surrounded by water on three sides and nestled against the rugged Coast Mountain Range, offers myriad outdoor activities and a mild climate as well as all the sophistication and culture of a major metropolis.

With the growth in demand for meeting and convention business escalating, Vancouver has embarked on a number of projects to boost its ability to play host. The Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre is in the midst of a US$750 million expansion, which will almost triple its meeting and exhibit space to 500,000 square feet when it opens in late 2008. In addition, Vancouver International Airport is undertaking a capital improvement program of nearly US$1 billion to help accommodate the 19 million passengers projected to use the facility by 2010. On the hotel front, planners will find a bevy of luxury projects, including the 415-room Fairmont Pacific Rim and the 120-room Shangri-La, both slated to open in 2009.

Tourism Vancouver has developed a strategy to help planners build international attendance for their events, which has proven very effective, says Yore. Besides providing typical marketing materials touting Vancouver as a destination, he explains, “We sit down with planners and do a lot of marketing strategies, like putting them in touch with local industry that can support them, whether it’s engineering, medical or academic, and we help arrange sponsorship for them.”

Frankfurt, Germany
Frankfurt, Germany:
Easy access from
all of Europe and beyond

Frankfurt, Germany
Frankfurt Tourist+Conference Board

With the presence of more than 400 financial institutions and the Frankfurt Stock Exchange -- continental Europe’s largest -- it’s easy to understand why this western German city often is referred to as “Bankfurt.” It’s also a major transportation hub, with some 40,000 flights by 110 airlines arriving and departing Frankfurt International Airport every week to 109 countries, making Frankfurt a major gateway to both the Eastern and Western hemispheres.

Two years ago, in a nod to the city’s hub dominance, the Frankfurt-based Star Alliance airline network enhanced its Conventions Plus group travel program. Planners now can take advantage of group discount fares of 10 to 20 percent, applied to travel to and from some 755 cities in 132 countries via the network’s 17 carrier members.

There are eight major convention facilities in Frankfurt. The largest, Messe Frankfurt, features more than 3 million square feet of exhibit space. An expansion, which will add approximately 227,000 square feet, is expected to be completed by 2009. According to Frankfurt Tourist+Conference, the city’s convention and visitors bureau, of the 59,149 conferences held in Frankfurt last year, 13,900 attracted international attendees, a 7.7 percent increase over 2005.

Two major properties at Frankfurt International Airport give new meaning to airport meetings. The enormous 1,008-room Sheraton Frankfurt Hotel & Towers offers 56 meeting rooms, and the 573-room Steigenberger Airport Hotel will add two more meeting rooms by year’s end, bringing its total to 38.

Today a major
world crossroads

Singapore Tourist Board

Bustling Singapore is another major portal between East and West. In 2006, it hosted 127 international conferences, earning the rank of top Asian city (and third worldwide) for such events by the International Congress and Convention Association. And now this tiny tiger is poised to roar even more loudly.

According to the Singapore Tourist Board (an offshoot of the Singapore Exhibition & Convention Bureau), meetings, incentive travel, conventions and exhibitions generated 25 percent of the city’s 8.9 million visitors in 2005, a number the board aims to grow to 35 percent by 2015. And to get there, the organization has launched initiatives such as the Corporate Outreach Program, which strives to tap into the more than 7,000 multinational corporations based in Singapore to encourage them to consider staying in the city for meetings.

In addition, the board’s BE (Business Events) in Singapore program is targeting the 60 international organizations based in the city -- Habitat for Humanity International, the International Air Transport Association and WWF International (formerly the World Wildlife Fund), among them -- to promote the city as a meetings destination.

Buttressing the tourist board’s efforts are several major projects, including a US$26 million investment over the next three years to enhance Orchard Road, the city’s premier shopping district. Construction also is underway on the Marina Bay, a complex that will be home to the city’s new financial hub, the Marina Bay Financial Centre. In addition, the 2,500-room Marina Bay Sands is being developed by Las Vegas Sands and will feature more than 1 million square feet of meeting and exhibit space, more than twice the space at the nearby Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre. Opening is set for 2009.

Berlin-based conference organizer Messe Berlin, which hosts ITB Berlin, one of the world’s largest travel shows, is a recent convert. In May, organizers announced the launch of ITB Asia 2008 in Singapore. In explaining the move, Raimund Hosch, president and chief executive officer of Messe Berlin, cited the projects outlined above, as well as the 2.8 billion potential attendees living within a seven-hour flight of the city.