Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

March 09 2015

Uber Looks To Cash In On Conventions

By David McMillin

At the end of 2014, the San Francisco-based transportation industry disruptor Uber was valued at a whopping $40 billion. As the tech company works to elevate that eye-popping figure, it’s counting on the convention industry to play a crucial role. While Uber has made headlines for its recent partnerships with Starwood and Spotify, the company is also making inroads with organizations that want to reduce travel expenses for attendees.

For example, at the 2014 Massachusetts Conference For Women, Uber offered a promotional discount of $20 for conference participants who downloaded the app. The company offered a similar deal at the International Council of Shopping Centers’ New York National Conference. Attendees who were new to Uber could save $30 on the car service, and attendees who had already downloaded the app could use a promo code to save 10 percent on their rides during the conference in New York. First-time Uber users attending the Association of Writers & Writing Programs 2014 Conference in Seattle also had access to a $30 promotional discount. The list goes on. In my research, I uncovered a wide range of annual meetings and conventions that highlighted Uber promotional offerings for attendees.

Whether you’re an Uber advocate or not, it’s a smart business strategy. Every convention attendee has dealt with the typical pains of big-city transit. Uber is designed to eliminate the frustrations of long taxi lines, a lack of shuttle busses and the awkwardness of tipping at the end of a ride with its tap-and-your-driver-is-on-the-way convenience.

Uber Is Showing Up Everywhere

Your convention probably won’t be the first time your attendees are hearing about Uber, either. Some of the biggest names in business have already redesigned their mobile apps to integrate the ride service into their own offerings. Going to Starbucks for a latte? You can request an Uber from the Starbucks app. Landed at the airport and waiting for your suitcase? You can request an Uber from the United app before your bag arrives at the carousel. From OpenTable to TripAdvisor to Hyatt, Uber has forged partnerships with some of the most recognized names in travel.

This Convention Destination Presents A Challenge

Curious if Uber is available in the host city for your upcoming meeting? Chances are the answer is yes. From Anchorage to Washington, D.C., the company’s drivers operate in the vast majority of US cities with one big exception: Las Vegas. As Uber has worked to navigate the regulatory landscape, it has encountered some serious hurdles in one of the busiest convention destinations in the world. That hasn’t stopped the company from hoping to leverage the power of one of the city’s biggest groups. During the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Uber asked attendees to sign a petition to make the service legal in Nevada.

Has your organization partnered with Uber? If so, please share your story on Catalyst to let the PCMA community know your feelings on working with the company.

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