Salt Lake Sees Demand for Meetings of all Sizes
A financial incentive program created by the Utah Office of Tourism paid off with the booking of 30 events to be held in Salt Lake City in 2021. Visit Salt Lake projects that the events will fill 28,000 room nights, a remarkable feat as the country battles through the pandemic.
The bookings include myriad meetings and events among all sectors of the industry. While quite a few are sports competitions, including returning clients like USA Fencing and USA Weightlifting, there are also large expos, association meetings and medical/pharmaceutical gatherings on the books.
“I was surprised we had significant interest from large groups, because there has been so much uncertainty related to laws, and how people will feel about traveling,” said Tyson Lybbert, managing director of sales for Visit Salt Lake. “There is still demand for meetings of all sizes but planners are facing challenges unlike they have ever experienced before.”
Feedback from planners indicated tight budgets and general uncertainty were holdups in contracting new business. The statewide initiative, dubbed Meet in Utah, sought to incentive groups to set dates in destinations with a convention center.
“The promotion allowed planners to get money now and have the needed flexibility so they could book business,” said Lybbert.
Salt Lake, home of the 2002 Winter Olympics, is a popular destination for group business due to its amenities and overall community safety. A testament to the region is that the CVB booked nearly 750,000 future room nights amid the pandemic in 2020, the third-highest total in the organization’s history.
Lybbert has found sports organizations are having an easier time putting together events due to their regional nature and because they don’t face the same restrictions as associations and corporate groups when it comes to in-person gathering. Nevertheless, the CVB is expecting a fair amount of its out-of-town attendees to fly, especially when the country is farther along with COVID-19 vaccinations.
Meanwhile, the destination is already making plans for large-scale events that will blend in-person attendees with remote audiences. A media center has been installed at the Salt Palace Convention Center to serve as a broadcast studio to create live or prerecorded content. The convention center is among the many to be GBAC Star accredited.
Just as the venues and the CVB are working to make it easier to host events, Lybbert said the same is true for planners. The spirit of cooperation is vital to successfully holding in-person meetings and events across the board, and not just in Utah.
“It has been refreshing to see more flexibility and collaboration between planners and suppliers who are genuinely trying to resurrect an entire industry,” Lybbert said.
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