Most sports enthusiasts bring along a carload, or even busload, to each event. Along with their very best cheerleaders (aka family and friends), they also bring a busload of expectations. Not only are expectations for a big win, but also to gather together, to reminisce and to review the 'play of the day.' Those expectations include being comfortable, being well fed and well cared for, and of course having a great time enjoying the host city. From the bus driver to the hotel's concierge, everyone contributes to that experience. And, of course, we all want our experiences to be unforgettable...for all the RIGHT reasons.
When choosing a city or destination, we ask if it will be all that we need and want to make our event a 'win-win.' Will the destination be able to support us during the event and entertain us beyond the hours of the event? Because, most likely, those guests in attendance like to play as hard as they cheer!
First, event planners should define what expectations they have for the destination city and determine how high each of those expectations should be. With a clear understanding of needs, a short list of area sports commissions or convention and visitors bureaus can then be surveyed to learn if they can help serve as expected. Service should be a key word and obvious expectation for any athlete and event planner. Take advantage of the fact that destinations, for quite some time now, know their competition, and they know their competitions' strengths. Like an old (and very effective) advertisement has said, "We try harder." This can be a vital point to remember during negotiation and planning.
Bottom line: Determine what you should expect as an attendee of an event or as an event planner.
Some have dubbed Charlotte, North Carolina the 'southern capital for amateur sports,' but the city is not only a place for amateur sports events. Rather, guests in Charlotte would also find it to be a place where mountain biking trails meet expertly manicured greens for golf enthusiasts. It's a city where cheering for the Carolina Panthers NFL team can be followed by tubing along the shores of Lake Norman. And where a day of whitewater rafting at the U.S. National Whitewater Center is best complemented with a stroll through an oak-shaded park. With world-famous public golf courses, pro sporting events that bring fans to their feet, and adventurous attractions clamoring for thrill seekers, a destination should be chosen for their 'extracurricular' activities and opportunities.
Or, what if the destination is Las Vegas? Guests at events such as the upcoming PBR World Finals will have endless options in Vegas. After the Finals, they can experience some of the finest hotels, world-class restaurants and endlessly exciting night life...followed up with a trip to the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam before they leave.
Guests at the BMW Championship, hosted Southwest of Chicago in Lemont, Illinois, were minutes from exciting downtown Chicago. Entertainment abounds. Within a short distance, one could easily find himself shopping the unrivaled Magnificent Mile, savoring a hot dog at a White Sox or Cubs game, contemplating the enormity of the T. Rex at the Field Museum or serenely sailing on Lake Michigan.
Not all events are held in such high-profile metropolises, but with a bit of research using local sports commissions or CVBs, a list of local options should be easily accessed by event guests.
Service with a Smile?
Apart from its all-around hospitality, the chosen destination should work with event owners in securing specific hotel requirements, help partner with area restaurants and local attractions - whatever it takes to make the event memorable and successful. The area's sports commission or convention and visitors bureau should also supply complimentary assistance for finding the appropriate activities for every age and interest group. Tourism departments of area convention and visitors bureaus offer a range of destination information and services for event planners. A vast network of hotels, restaurants, attractions vendors and more is always on hand to provide any services one may need. Transportation services, audiovisual suppliers, florists, event planners, local specialty businesses and so much more can be provided.
The sports commission and/or CVB can assist with:
Age appropriate locations for playing, for savoring the destination's cuisine, for exploring the many attractions that make the destination popular....and locations for just relaxing after an exciting day.
Outlining those places whose ADA requirements meet event/guest requirements and where families and friends can congregate safely and happily.
Publicity - Via PR and marketing assistance, the event can be publicized or promoted to those in the area to help cheer on the athletes. Whether it's the Girls Fast Pitch World Series, the Pan American Junior Synchronized Swimming Championship, the Dart Throwing National Championship, or the NFL Super Bowl, the chosen city and community should be able to embrace the event and even tell the world (ok....if you want them to).
A warm welcome! The local sports commission or convention and visitors bureau can assist with welcome ribbons or banners, the event's own welcome and transportation information desk at the airport, information tables at either the headquarter hotel or the convention center, VIP airport transportation and VIP gifts.
Additional services for larger groups could include 'spouse' or family trips, including transportation arrangements and event services.
A list of venues - There should be a diverse amount of venues throughout the region to accommodate both athletes and supporters.
The CVB should pinpoint the venue locations along with intricate details of accommodations, dining, attractions, services and more.
Itineraries for sightseeing, etc. - Whether it is a group-friendly restaurant or attraction, or meant for a family of three, the destination should be able to provide a jam-packed itinerary for all interests!
Helpful Collateral should be at your Fingertips!
Get to know the destination inside and out before arrival, and let the experts do the walking through the details! Just let the service representatives know of the needs for a successful event, and sit back and let them show you the many ways to explore, to savor and to create a memorable experience. Visitors' guides, meeting planner guides, calendars of events, and so much more should be available and ready for referencing.
ADA Requirements should be a Requirement!
Most hotels and attractions in destinations should be ADA compliant....and in some of the popular cities, venues are fairly new, or about to be completed, and are very current on ADA requirements. Local convention and visitors bureaus can assist you in finding this information.
Helpful Websites for your Planning Efforts
State Division of Tourism offices: e.g. www.visitnc.com, www.enjoyillinois.com or www.visitflorida.com.
Destination Marketing Associations International (DMAI): www.destinationmarketing.org.