Dear Event Doctor:
Our city has a number of good venues—notably a softball/baseball complex and a separate lighted soccer complex—that have attracted some small events. Our biggest challenges are the factors we have no control over: the distance to our nearest airport and a relatively small number of hotel rooms. How do we position our assets to make our destination more attractive?
—Making the Most
The good news is that you have already identified two of the key challenges that face potential host cities looking to grow from a local destination to a regional or national one: accessibility and services. If your airport is more than 100 miles away and you have only a few hundred hotel rooms within a 90-minute drive, attracting major events will be a challenge. But let’s explore the general characteristics of making a good match between hosts and events because there may be some areas you can take advantage of.
Is there a historic relationship between your sport or event and the region that can be promoted? Cooperstown, Canton and Green Bay are names that most reading this magazine would instantly recognize, and none of them have easy access to a major hub airport or an enormous number of quality hotel rooms. Yet they support facilities and events that are iconic to their sports, and journeys to those towns can be considered pilgrimages. What is there about your region that communicates something special about your sport or event?
The number and quality of hotel rooms in your market will help to determine the demographics and number of participants and spectators you can expect to attract from outside the area. Consider how far a guest or participant will have to travel to the event if accommodations are some distance away. Is there a way to move people in larger groups to help mitigate traffic and reduce delays, such as by point-to-point bus shuttles, park-and-rides or trains? Can you arrange for dedicated lanes or escorts for participant athletes to make their ground transfers more manageable?
Work with the local travel and hospitality industry to provide financial incentives to attract the interest of event organizers considering the area, especially during shoulder and off-season periods. Sometimes offering concessions that accrue to an organizer’s bottom line will help persuade events under tight budget constraints to consider a less convenient market. Try not to schedule events during times when the hotel inventory will already be stressed with existing business.
Remember that bigger events have bigger staffs and more sponsors that have to be accommodated. Be careful of reaching beyond what you can actually execute as a great experience for participants, attendees, the organizer, and of course, your community. And if attracting new events to your facilities seems unwise, think about gathering up the best minds in your market and creating some new ones of your own.
This first appeared in Sports Travel Magazine and appears here courtesy of SCHNEIDER PUBLISHING COMPANY, INC.