Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

February 01 2016

Redefining The Destination Experience

Jeanna Hofmeister

Successful meetings are made up of equal parts professional education, peer networking and destination experiences. When all three parts come together well, they can help to ensure robust attendance at future conferences and events. While conference and meeting planners are primarily responsible for the first two parts, destinations like Houston, Texas are upping the ante on the third with improvements to their convention center district and throughout Houston at large.

“The destination experience is critical to provide an enjoyable, unique, and convenient event. Our members like to travel to cities that offer unique entertainment and culinary experiences. Networking with colleagues occurs throughout the day and evening,” says Patricia Smith, Executive Director for the Texas Library Association.  Their conference will bring nearly 7,800 attendees to Houston in April. “A city offering attractive and close-by options is very important in persuading members to invest in a multi-day event."

Houston is decidedly worth the investment.  It’s a true modern-day boom town, where the offerings for conventions and their attendees are nearly endless. The $1.5 billion investment in Houston’s state-of-the-art Convention District is creating new and more dynamic conference opportunities both inside the convention center and outdoors, fronting Avenida de las Americas. The avenue itself is being narrowed to accommodate a pedestrian plaza that will run the length of the building with outdoor seating, public art, performance spaces and more. Meanwhile, a 1,000-room Marriott Marquis is rising next to the convention center and will be connected via a skywalk.

According to Elizabeth Wells, Director of Meetings for the Snack Food Association, Houston is the perfect choice for her upcoming March conference. “The city has been working hard to become even more attractive to conventions by adding restaurants, the 12-acre Discovery Green park area and by renovating the George R. Brown Convention Center.  Great strides have been made to make the downtown attractive by offering a variety of restaurants and places to enjoy the outdoors.”

In fact, within just five blocks of the center, meeting attendees can discover more than 250 restaurants and nightspots.  The Houston Space Center in Independence Plaza opened a full-scale replica of the space shuttle and its NASA 747 ferry aircraft in January. Both the shuttle and carrier will feature interior exhibits featuring the flight deck and cockpit of the shuttle, astronaut living quarters, history on the development of the shuttle program, and how the carrier aircraft docks with shuttles.  

As an interesting off-site conference option, The White Oak Music Hall, in Houston’s Near North Side neighborhood, will open with a small indoor concert space, a larger, two-story concert hall with tiered seating and an outdoor space called “The Lawn” that will accommodate up to 3,000 people.  

And shoppers will delight in the trendy new River Oaks District, home to outstanding restaurants and upscale retail offerings including Chopard, Dior, Etro, Canali, Roberto Cavalli and Tom Ford - Houston’s answer to Rodeo Drive and 5th Avenue.

“Our members are very excited about the TLA Conference in Houston, because they appreciate being close to shopping opportunities and area museums,” says Patricia Smith. “They’ve developed a wonderful entertainment and eating district in downtown and around the convention center. We appreciate the ease and diversity of options. The great layout of the convention center and the developed city center are big pluses.” Liz Wells couldn’t agree more. “Great strides have been made to make the downtown attractive by offering a variety of restaurants and places to enjoy the outdoors.”

But space renovations, new museums and venues and abundant new shopping, dining and entertainment offerings are just a part of the big Bayou City picture.  Later this spring, March Madness comes to its heart-pounding climax as the NCAA Men’s Final Four lands in town the first weekend of April.  Top that off with pro sports teams like the Astros and Rockets. As if you’re not already excited enough to visit, the biggest game in football comes to Houston in 2017 for Super Bowl 51!

It’s simple to book a site tour and discover why Houston might be your next best convention city. Just contact the sales team at VisitHouston.com to make it happen.

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