Visit Phoenix

Five Questions to Ask During Destination Selection

Be sure to understand your group’s changing needs, plus what destinations can offer you in today’s market.

Meeting planners have found new ways to navigate nearly every aspect of their operations over the past few years, but one part of the process might still be on autopilot: destination selection.

That’s a mistake. Just as meetings have changed, what goes into identifying the best destinations has changed. Value, experiences, infrastructure, and partnerships all need to be factored in when picking a host city today.

Start by considering these questions.

Which Destinations Can Give Me the Most Value?

Few will dispute that rising costs are a major force in the events industry. Cost per attendee jumped 58 percent in 2022 and was forecast to rise 5 percent in 2023 and 3 percent in 2024, according to CWT and the Global Business Travel Association.

“There can be as much as a million-dollar difference for us between one city and another,” said Kirsten Olean, senior director of meeting planning and design for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. “Obviously it has a big impact on the bottom line.”

It also has an impact on attendees, who are booking flights and hotels and needing to get around. Seeking affordable destinations will go a long way in managing costs.

Accessibility also contributes to value, said Lorne Edwards, chief sales officer at Visit Phoenix. In Phoenix, for example, attendees can land at the airport and take the light rail to their rooms in about 10 minutes, and the downtown area is walkable, saving on transportation.

Which Destinations Create an Experience for Attendees?

The pandemic surfaced two fundamental needs for attendees: a pent-up desire to convene and a premium on personal time.

“We know people are making the investment to leave home and be at a conference, so we have more pressure on us than ever to make that experience worthwhile,” Olean said.

Planners can shape many aspects of an attendee’s experience through programming, but it shouldn’t stop there. “What experiences can the destination offer?” Olean said.

Edwards makes sure that Visit Phoenix brings forward opportunities outside the convention center. “We share the story of place makers, inventors, and local artisans through curated experiences in our museums, parks, coffee shops, galleries, and venues,” he said.

Am I Working With a Current View of the Destinations?

“If you haven’t seen a city lately, you haven’t seen it,” Olean said. “It’s incumbent upon us as planners to understand how much change cities have gone through in the last few years.”

Ask destinations about their updates. “What investments have they made in their convention center, in their hotels, in transportation, in city life?” she said.

Phoenix checked all the boxes for Olean’s organization, which booked for 2020 and was rescheduled for 2023 because of the pandemic.

“I was absolutely blown away by the investment that the city had made,” she said. “They were just finishing up their light rail, and the downtown was even better and more vibrant than it had been when we visited pre-2020.”

Am I Working With a Current View of My Members?

Your members may have new perspectives and priorities that could affect where you host your events.

“What you knew about your group five years ago may not be the same as what you know about your group now,” Olean said. “Constantly being curious and asking those questions to make sure you understand how the needs of your group are shifting is really important.”

You might find that members are more interested now in tacking on a family vacation to the business meeting, so you’d choose destinations with leisure potential.

“When we were in Phoenix,” Olean said, “I can’t tell you the number of people, both attendees and staff, who told me that they were staying on for some vacation time and taking advantage of all the things that they could do there.”

Is the Destination a Partner That’s Invested in My Success?

Many long-standing connections that booking groups had with destination marketing organizations were lost during the pandemic, and sales processes became more transactional. That’s why Olean looks for DMOs with a personal touch.

“We want a city that’s going to be a partner with us in everything that we’re doing, that they’re invested in our success, that they’re with us for the entire journey,” she said. “If we don’t have a partner, then it makes it much harder to do our jobs.”

Olean’s 2023 meeting happened to be the same week that Phoenix hosted the World Series and a NASCAR event—yet the city kept its focus on her group.

“When the mayor and all the city officials met to think about the impact of what was happening, our meeting was its own line item on the agenda,” she said. “It was that important to them that we have a successful meeting. That meant the world to me, and it’s been my experience with Phoenix for as long as I can remember.”

Visit Phoenix is a nonprofit organization that promotes the greater Phoenix community to a global audience of travelers and books conventions into the Phoenix Convention Center and area hotels and resorts. Learn more and connect with the Visit Phoenix team at