It’s the first thing most attendees will see when they get to town for your meeting and the last thing they’ll experience when they leave.
It’s the airport—and it needs to be taken seriously as a part of the site selection process.
Chicagoans know this discussion well, thanks to operating two of the most prominent airports in the country, O’Hare International Airport (the fourth-busiest in the world last year, based on passenger count) and Midway International Airport (which celebrates its 95th anniversary this year). Chicago’s airports welcomed nearly 70 million passengers last year—and in 2019, before the pandemic, it brought in more than 100 million.
Those millions of people deserve more than just a shuttle from point A to point B. Having a good experience is key.
“We believe that hospitality begins and ends at the airport,” said Robert Hoxie, chief development officer for the Chicago Department of Aviation, which manages both airports.
With the traveler’s experience in mind, here are a few aviation considerations for determining a host city.
Look for Frequently Updated, Modern Facilities
Ensuring an airport keeps up with the times isn’t as easy as a paint job. It requires lots of investment to meet the needs and expectations of modern travelers. A report from the American Society of Civil Engineers [PDF] states that investing in facilities can be a major factor in flights taking off on time. For large airports such as O’Hare and Midway, the biggest investment needs are in the terminal buildings (46 percent) and terminal access (21 percent).
In Chicago, this is an area where the local, state, and federal governments have invested heavily. At O’Hare, a long-running expansion project that included new runways and air traffic control towers was completed last year, and the next expansion—terminal improvements called O’Hare 21—is already underway.
“We’re really focused on upgrading services and amenities,” Hoxie said. “We’ll be tripling the amount of food, beverage, and retail space in each terminal facility relative to the ones they replace.”