January 2019

Our January 2019 cover story takes planners inside NGALA Wildlife Preserve, located on a private, wooded 42-acre property outside Naples, Florida. NGALA caters to corporate events and is a home for a variety of rescued animals that cannot be reintroduced back to the wild. Digital Edition >>


2019 Meetings Today Trends Survey

A number of issues impacted the meetings industry in 2018, from strikes and other labor actions in various destinations across the U.S. to major hotel chains cutting their traditional commission level for independent planners. Meetings Today polls its readers every year on how their jobs and programs fared, how they expect their budgets  will shape up, the sites they typically use for their programs and other questions that help shine a light on the state of the profession. 361 meeting planners answered the call. Following are some highlights.

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Donovan Smith Shares Stories of Perseverance and Survival in Running NGALA Wildlife Preserve 

NGALA Wildlife Preserve, located on a private, wooded 42-acre property outside Naples, Florida, caters to corporate events and is a home for a variety of rescued animals that cannot be reintroduced back to the wild. NGALA, which translates from Swahili to “Place of the Lion,” was founded by Donovan Smith nearly 20 years ago and is currently home to about 45 animals in addition to over 100 venomous reptiles introduced to the preserve by Smith’s “better half,” Khara Geders.

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3 Dream Drive-to Bleisure Destinations: Asheville, Valley Forge and Boise

With everything from the high cost of airfare to the popularity of bleisure travel and direct access to local experiences, drive-to meetings have become increasingly favored among attendees in reasonable proximity—from 90 minutes to a few hours. Find out why Asheville, Valley Forge and Boise made our list.

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4 Healthy F&B Strategies to Infuse Into Meeting Agendas

From plant-based and hyper-local to gut-friendly and booze-free, culinary wellness is here to stay, and it’s having a huge impact on attendee expectations at events. In the coming year, planners should prepare for healthy, innovative food and drink to be exceedingly popular at gatherings, according to Christine Couvelier, global culinary trendologist, chef, educator and speaker.

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Cultural Venues in Hollywood, Pasadena and the Valleys

With its impressive array of film studios, performing arts centers, theaters, museums and distinctive architecture, Los Angeles plays a starring role on the world stage of art and culture. For planners seeking group-friendly venues with an artistic or entertainment-oriented vibe, the city can deliver on these as well or better than any other destination, according to Darren Green, senior VP of sales for the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board.

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After Hurricane Florence, the Coastal Carolinas Are Riding a Wave of Optimism

In September 2018, Hurricane Florence deluged parts of the Carolinas. Hardest hit was North Carolina, with an estimated $17 billion in crop, infrastructure and other losses. Florence went easier on South Carolina, which reportedly saw some $607 million in damages. Experiencing varying impacts, from minimal to destructive, the region’s coastal destinations have made significant recovery efforts.

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Asheville, N.C., Is an Artistic Mountain Meetings Magnet

Meeting and event planners could be hard-pressed to find  a destination that offers as many arts and activity options as Asheville, N.C., in such a tight package. A center of arts and culture, the Blue Ridge Mountains town located a couple hours’ drive from Charlotte, N.C., also boasts a bounty of culinary and brewery options, all set in one of the most scenic areas in the U.S.

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Pacific Northwest Sports Venues Rack Up Points With Meeting Planners

The Pacific Northwest is a winning choice for adding some team spirit to any function, from attending a game with your group or hosting an event at a sports facility.

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Arts Event Venue Highlights in Dallas-Fort Worth

Issued every five years, the latest “Arts & Economic Prosperity” study from leading advocacy group Americans for the Arts found that between 2010 and 2015, economic impact from the arts in North Texas tripled from $500 million to almost $1.5 billion. With Dallas, Fort Worth and Irving among the study’s principal participants, contributing factors included expanded public programming; multiple new or renovated cultural venues; and increased spending on hotels, restaurants, parking and more by event attendees.

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Rochester, N.Y.: Custom Corporate Events, Smooth Travel and Distinct Hospitality

Combining an intentional service-driven, client-first approach with major infrastructure redevelopment, Rochester, N.Y., continues to establish a ROC-solid position in the Northeast and broader group market. Visit Rochester President & CEO Don Jeffries discussed how the positive momentum from 2018 is carrying New York’s third-largest city forward in 2019.

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Nashville’s New Meetings Tune Is Music to Planners’ Ears

Roughly 80 to 90 people per day are moving to Nashville, according to recent statistics, and it’s no wonder. Nicknamed “Music City,” this Tennessee melody maker has long tugged at the heart strings of those into country and every other musical genre—from rockabilly and jazz to pop and hip-hop. Today, visitors, including meeting attendees, as well as new residents, are drawn to this city for the endless tunes and then some—a hotel boom, a burgeoning culinary scene that is adding hundreds of restaurants and an ever-creative vibe.

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Milwaukee Nightlife Offers Fun Corporate Event Ideas

The Milwaukee region sets itself apart with one-of-a-kind museums, off-site outlets and entertainment offerings. And for groups, the only thing better than experiencing these venues during the day is to do so after the sun goes down.

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San Francisco and the Bay Area Anticipate Event Uptick Following Moscone Center Expansion

Anticipation is high in San Francisco and throughout the Bay Area as the city’s Moscone Center introduces its long-awaited $551 million expansion, with the official debut on January 3, 2019. According to Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of the San Francisco Travel Association, 2019 is the city’s busiest year in history in terms of group bookings at Moscone Center.

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6 Off-Site Event Venues That Shine in Inland Mississippi

The cities comprising the Inland Mississippi region impress attendees with everything from great food and music to unique off-site venues for receptions, sit-down meals and more. From the state capital of Jackson to Vicksburg, home of action-packed casinos, as well as the university towns of Oxford and Meridian, the interior of the Magnolia State provides a wealth of intriguing meetings options.

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Oklahoma Entices Groups With Hotel Expansions and Growing Food Scene

The meetings infrastructure in Oklahoma is leveling up with major convention center and hotel expansions in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Meanwhile, Oklahoma's growing food scene provides an abundance of group dining and culinary teambuilding opportunities. Following are some delicious ideas for groups.

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Northwest Florida Scores Big With Teambuilding Adventures

Northwest Florida—or Florida’s Panhandle—which includes the Emerald Coast, Pensacola, South Walton, Panama City Beach and Tallahassee, among other beach towns—features a host of teambuilding activities for groups, from outdoor pursuits like stand-up paddleboarding to painting in an art gallery.

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More Headlines

2019 Meetings Today Trends Survey Results Signal Shift [Editor Insights + Bonus Content]

While many of the logistical challenges of the meeting- and event-planning world change very little year-over-year, some key results from our Meetings Today Trends Survey point to a major shift in some of the more personal issues of meeting planners.

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Hyatt Regency Hill Country Teambuilding Options Include Armadillo Races

Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa, located only 20 minutes from downtown San Antonio, debuted its Rodeo Olympics for groups in collaboration with Goen South Events. Through the teambuilding program, attendees can take part in a variety of Texas-themed activities and a few others they might not associate with Texas, including roping exercises with calf replicas, stick “horse” races, cow chip toss competitions, and even armadillo races.

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Mulberry Development CEO Michael Buono Discusses Modern Hotel Design

With a background in financial analytics, one could argue that Mulberry Development Principal & CEO Michael Buono was as equipped as anyone to weather the economic collapse of 2008 that tore through the construction and real estate industry like a Category 5 hurricane.

One thing is undeniable: The close-shave timing of his entry into the hospitality development business couldn’t have been worse. “The word on the street was we were the last project that was funded [as a lender] in Manhattan by HSBC before the financial meltdown took place,” Buono said of his Ace Hotel New York project. “What I saw was fear and lots of instability because the market just imploded.”

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Executive Chef David Belknap Brings His Experiences Home

Like other top chefs, David Belknap had to venture out in the world before finding a home, which happened to be where he began. The executive chef of AC Hotel Columbus Dublin’s Spanish tapas-inspired lounge and restaurant VASO was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, but his career trajectory and love of his family brought him back home to Dublin, a nearby suburb.

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Independent Life: Independent Event Planners Must Clearly Define Their Market Position

What is it that you want your clients and prospects to remember about you? Which category, product, service or niche do you want them to associate you with? What is the positioning you want to have? How will your prospects and clients remember you? Clearly define your market position!

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10 Essential Event Budget Tips for Better SMM and a Better Bottom Line

Meetings are big investments. At my company, Meeting Sites Resource, just one of the ways our budget and cost savings strategies add value to meetings and the bottom line is achieved by developing a negotiation plan for each event, an important part of Strategic Meetings Management (SMM).

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Indie Planner Association Offers Healthcare Plan

Meeting Planners Unite, an association of independent meeting planners that was formed in the wake of the Marriott International commission cuts in early 2018, announced it is offering a healthcare plan for members.

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Sweetheart of the Rodeo: A Love Letter to California’s Cow Palace and the Grand National Rodeo

Meetings Today Chief Content Director Tyler Davidson shares his personal stories and fond memories of California's the Cow Palace—a quirky and sometimes smelly venue for conventions and other major events—that also serves long-running home of the Grand National Rodeo.

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Cybersecurity Musts for Meeting Planners

While security threats in the physical world understandably grab most of the headlines, cybersecurity breaches have also impacted the meetings and events world, from corporate espionage over insecure Wi-Fi networks to credit card hacks and data theft at major hotel chains.

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