Global Meetings Close to Home

Guest Correspondence

Photo courtesy Pixabay.

April not only brings Spring and April Fool’s Day but also marks a lesser-known yet significant occasion: Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID), celebrated on April 11. This international day of advocacy highlights the invaluable contributions of business meetings, trade shows, incentive travel, exhibitions, conferences, and conventions to people, businesses and communities worldwide.

The impact of the meetings and events industry extends far beyond mere gatherings. Many of us have personally experienced the benefits, from acquiring valuable knowledge and forging important connections to sparking new ideasand innovations at conferences. Moreover, these events serve as crucial economic drivers, boosting hotel bookings, filling restaurants and occupying venues while creating job opportunities.

At Visit Sarasota County (VSC), we deeply understand the significance of these events, which is why we've prioritized attracting them to Sarasota County. While we have had tactics to market to this audience for years, in 2023, our VSC team actively further engaged by attending key trade shows, hosting meeting planners, and launching innovative programs to entice groups to choose our region for their events.

Our efforts have yielded tangible results: 574 opportunities shared with hotel partners, 45 meetings booked, and over $11 million directly injected into Sarasota County's economy. Sarasota County offers many advantages for hosting such events, blending big-city amenities with the coastal charm of Florida’s Gulf Coast. With exceptional venues, top-notch services, delectable cuisine, and rich cultural offerings, Sarasota provides an ideal setting for small groups.

To further enhance our appeal, we've introduced industry-leading programs. Our meeting incentive program offers various benefits, including transportation credits, financial support for offsite dining/events, wellness initiatives, or room night cash rebates of up to $4,000. In the past year, we've also launched a concierge service specifically tailored for meeting planners selecting Sarasota County as their destination. This complimentary service offers personalized recommendations based on the group's interests and needs, catering to groups of any size.

Our commitment to excellence is further underscored by the recent appointment of Suzanne Hackman as the new Director of Sales and Industry Relations for VSC. With her extensive industry experience and regional knowledge, Suzanne will undoubtedly drive further growth in meetings business for Sarasota.

This April, as we enjoy the beautiful weather, let's also take a moment to express gratitude to those who make these meetings and events possible. Whether it's extending a simple "thank you" or sharing a favorite local tip with conference attendees, let's recognize their contribution to our community's prosperity and well-being. Many look at a tourism bureau like ours and think of us for only attracting the leisure market. By diversifying the type of visitor we market to, we ensure our economy stays strong year-round and throughout the weekdays and weekends.

We are excited to share Visit Sarasota County is a nominee in the annual Stella Awards from Northstar Meetings Group for Best CVB/DMO in the Southeast. The voting window is open through May 3 and you can cast your vote here.

Erin Duggan is President and CEO of Visit Sarasota County. 

Photo courtesy Pixabay.

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