Survey Shows That Your Attendees Probably Prefer Driving

Author: David McMillin       

Forget flying. New research reveals that most Americans actually find driving to be more fun, comfortable, and affordable than boarding an airplane.

Airlift is one of the first questions on many event organizers’ minds when considering host destinations. Since most professional attendees have packed schedules, it’s important to weigh how many nonstop flights to and from a potential host city are available. If they’re going to take time away from work to participate in a conference, won’t they want a speedy route through the sky? Not necessarily. The findings from a new survey conducted by data firm Morning Consult indicate that most Americans actually want to be in the driver’s seat.

Cars outpaced planes in every category in the research: how fun the trip is, the level of comfort, affordability, efficiency, and the amount of hassle involved. While the survey focused on vacation travel patterns, the findings can connect to traveling for meetings and conferences, too. Even if the company is covering the cost of the flight, many prospective attendees may think about what’s in store — a long TSA line, a middle seat with minimum leg room, and taxi in a traffic jam to the downtown hotel — and opt to stay home.

Focusing on Regional Attendance

For meeting marketers, it’s a clear signal that, despite the rising price of gas, the ability to drive can play a major role in the decision to attend. Naturally, that should fuel plenty of promotional campaigns that focus on prospective attendees within a four- or five-hour drive of the host destination. Perhaps the industry will see more on-site efforts like the International Woodworking Fair’s social media push to encourage last-minute participation.

An increase in attendance — regardless of where those attendees are coming from — is good news. However, a rise in the number of attendees taking an on-the-ground route to a conference has clear implications for the typical registration cycle. Without the need to find the best window for booking an affordable flight, regional attendees can delay their decisions to attend until the week of the conference or trade show. If the early-bird discount is long gone, those attendees might scoff at paying a steep price tag for the registration fee. Event organizers may need to experiment with pricing to motivate last-minute attendees to fill up their tanks.

While it’s clear that driving carries plenty of weight in the decision-making process, there does seem to be one big exception: The survey shows that Hawaii is the number-one destination in the U.S.

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