BE IN THE KNOW

October 09 2012

When Meetings Meet Family Vacation Time

By David McMillin, Staff Writer

Planners focus on every speaker, every education session and every minute of an upcoming meeting experience, but attendees may be placing quite a bit of emphasis on what they can do outside of the program.

A new survey from Wyndham Hotel Group indicates that 52 percent of US business travelers invite family to join them on a work trips. Many of these travelers may be looking for opportunities to turn those trips into full-fledged vacations, too. Forty-eight percent of respondents in the survey indicate that they regularly extend business trips to include personal leisure time.

As your attendees add personal items to their meeting itineraries, here are a few key considerations.

Know Your Focus

The location of your meeting may change each year, so it's important to remember that where it is takes a backseat to what they'll gain from participating.

"Your primary objective is to communicate the knowledge and networking opportunities at your meeting," Carolyn Clark, vice president, marketing and communications, PCMA, says. "Selling the options for attendees or their family members to experience the destination before, during or after the meeting is a secondary message."

"You want to make sure that your attendees mark their calendars for your meeting, regardless of where they'll need to travel," Clark adds.

Boost Your Value Proposition

Still, educating your audience about the benefits of your location can play a role in helping prospective attendees reach the tipping point toward registering for your meeting. The ability to bring their family members along may help justify paying registration fees.

"Some professionals do coordinate their summer vacations with conferences," Clark says. "If you know that a number of your attendees fall into this category, it's important to factor this element in as you choose your location and craft your meeting marketing communications."

Planners will find plenty of help from their host cities, too. Scott Feltman, director of convention marketing, Visit Orlando, says that many attendees bring their families along for the trip to meetings in Orlando, and the CVB arms planners with supplemental online marketing materials to help sell the city.

Be Family Friendly – Wherever You Are

Still, even if you choose a location that isn't known for its family-friendly atmosphere, you can make your own meeting environment inviting for spouses and kids.

"You may want to consider family-friendly activity options as you're planning your schedule," Clark says. "For example, you may want to consider planning an evening of entertainment that's open to your attendees and their guests. If your host city has some type of amusement park, historical site or zoo, you can also consider planning an event at one of these locations where attendees are welcome to bring guests."

For more insights into how business travelers are mixing personal time into their trips, view the entire survey here.

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