Hyperlocal events inspired by undertourism provide a break from the norm, creating authentic experiences within the host city.
Travelers want to spend less, seize upon unique cultural experiences and support local businesses. These values line up with a new trend called “undertourism,” a term coined by Skift, a company covering the global travel industry.
Undertourism is a response to overtourism, a frustrating phenomenon in which throngs of tourists swarm a destination. Simply put, there are too many people for the location to handle. The crush can cause environmental harm and stress the local infrastructure. And the crowds and long lines can ruin the pleasure travelers had been anticipating. Venice, Italy, is a prime example. On busy days, 120,000 people visit Venice—home to just 55,000 permanent residents. Half of those visitors don’t spend the night, which adds very little economic benefit to the city. Yet, all those footsteps harm the environment and the city’s fragile infrastructure.
In response to this, a new trend has taken hold in the past few years. Undertourism promotes less-traveled destinations, traveling off-season and seeking out unique cultural experiences. As places promote undertourism, they also often invest in the “orange economy”—the economic sector that promotes culture, the arts and creative endeavors.
Undertourism offers people a chance to take a break from the norm and welcome new and different experiences. It’s a concept that fits perfectly with meeting planning. Meeting planners who embrace undertourism can take advantage of their host cities’ unique food and cultural attractions and non-traditional venues to create an extraordinary hyperlocal event on a budget.
“No matter where they’re traveling, people overwhelmingly want an experience that is unique to that destination,” said Leonard Hoops, president and CEO of Visit Indy. “Destination marketing organizations like Visit Indy understand the need to help deliver on those expectations so that attendees come away with an ‘only-in-that-city’ feeling about their visit.”
Undertourism in Surprising New Cities
Undertourism for meeting planners means focusing on not-so-obvious conference host cities. Places like Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, and Indianapolis are often unexplored and surprising locations for attendees, while offering everything meeting planners and guests want in an event experience.
The undertourism opportunities in Indianapolis are endless. In fact, Forbes called Indianapolis the country’s “most underrated city,” saying the smaller city “punches so far above its weight class for the meeting trade that many planners seem to think it is bigger than it is.”
The city’s connectivity is unrivaled. The Indiana Convention Center is connected by walkways to more downtown hotels and hotel rooms than any other U.S. city, and it’s within walking distance of endless cultural amenities, sports venues, dining options and bars. The downtown area boasts a 250-acre park, White River State Park, which is home not only to trails and waterways, but the Indianapolis Zoo, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, the Indianapolis Indians baseball team’s Victory Field, the NCAA Hall of Champions Museum and National Office, Indiana State Museum, amphitheater, memorials and much more.
All of these cultural locations offer unique spaces for meetings and receptions. Another nearby option is Bankers Life Fieldhouse—home to the NBA’s Indiana Pacers—which hosted nearly 500 meetings and events in 2017–18 and just announced a $270 million renovation to include a new outdoor event plaza. A unique location for both daytime and evening events is the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis—the world’s largest children’s museum that’s fun for all ages.
Meeting-goers will also have no shortage of cultural activities to take part in. Beyond the well-known sports arenas and museums, visitors can enjoy Garfield Park Conservatory, a botanical garden south of downtown; the Benjamin Harrison Presidential site, the Victorian home of Indiana’s only president; and the Indiana Medical History Museum, which includes the Old Pathology Building, the oldest surviving pathology facility in the country.
“The winner of the Indy 500 has to make 800 left turns and I like to say Indy offers a surprise around every one of those turns,” said Hoops. “Surprises like America’s #1 ranked airport and convention city, 12 hotels connected to our convention center, and James Beard-nominated chefs and restaurants, all delivered with ‘Hoosier Hospitality’ and a passion to help event organizers deliver great experiences and ROI.”
Visit Indy proudly serves as the official sales and marketing organization for USA Today’s “#1 Convention City in the U.S.” Learn more at VisitIndy.com