Las Vegas, New York City, Paris and other perennial favorites were among the world’s top meetings destinations in 2016, but several other locations significantly enhanced their appeal largely due to major expansion and renovation projects.
Here are 15 of the leading meetings cities in 2016.
Atlanta: One of the hottest destinations in the Southeast, Atlanta attracts 43 million visitors per year. It provides more than 10,000 hotel rooms and nearly 300 restaurants and major conference venues, including Georgia World Congress Center and Atlanta Convention Center at AmericasMart.
Lonely Planet selected Atlanta as the sixth-best destination to visit in 2016, noting that the city’s neighborhoods are in the midst of a boom that includes new brew pubs and innovative restaurants. And the momentum will continue in 2017 with the opening of two stadiums, Mercedes-Benz Stadium and SunTrust Park, and the addition of a new Major League Soccer franchise, Atlanta United FC.
Austin: This lively city is best known for its 250 live-music venues, but that only begins to tell its story. Its growth as a major technology hub—in 2015, Forbes named it the top city for tech growth in the United States—has gone hand-in-hand with its expanded food and beverage options, and several attractive new hotels, including the 1,012-room JW Marriott Austin, which has 112,000 sq. ft. of event space.
All of this has led to Austin’s emergence as a leading national and international meetings destination. It was ranked the top city in the Southwest region in the J.D. Power 2016 Destination Experience Satisfaction Study, which measures customer satisfaction. Austin received particularly high marks for infrastructure and activities.
Chicago: This city along the shores of Lake Michigan keeps attracting meeting groups due to its excellent dining, exceptional cultural offerings, urban recreation and world-class entertainment.
Chicago, ranked by Cvent in 2016 as the second-best U.S. meeting and event city, also offers outstanding hotels and convention centers, including McCormick Place, the largest meeting and convention center in the United States. It features 2.6 million sq. ft. exhibition space, 600,000 sq. ft. of meeting room space, six ballrooms and assembly seating for 18,000. McCormick Place attracts close to 3 million visitors each year.
Las Vegas: Often referred to as the Entertainment Capital of the World, Las Vegas occasionally reinvents itself and consistently serves up what meeting groups want and need. MGM Resorts International has been especially busy, opening The Park, T-Mobile Arena and the Park Theater in Las Vegas this year.
The city was ranked as the top U.S. travel destination for business and leisure this year in the J.D. Power study, performing particularly well in the travel, lodging, infrastructure, and lost and fees categories. Also, this year Cvent ranked Las Vegas as the third top meetings and events destination in the United States, based on statistics from the previous year.
London: Chosen as the world’s top destination in TripAdvisor’s 2016 Travelers’ Choice Destination awards and Cvent’s top meeting city in Europe in 2016, London also is the most talked-about travel destination on Twitter and London Eye observation wheel, perched on the River Thames, is its most tweeted attraction.
More than 65 million people visited London in 2015, an increase of 1.61 percent from the previous year. The city was a particularly hot meeting and tourism spot in 2016 due to celebrations of Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday, 400 years of William Shakespeare’s legacy and the first-ever Rolling Stones art exhibition, at Saatchi Gallery.
Los Angeles: Many planners find the City of Angels ideal as a meetings destination due largely to its warm climate, abundance of attractive meeting facilities, fantastic beaches, fabulous entertainment options and cutting-edge restaurant scene.
The city is experiencing a surge of new hotel development, including InterContinental’s recently opened Hotel Indigo Downtown Los Angeles, with 350 guest rooms and 21,483 sq. ft. of meeting space. The always-evolving L.A. Live, located steps from Staples Center and Los Angeles Convention Center, added several event venues, including the newly rebranded Microsoft Theater.
Nashville: Country music remains the heart and soul of music city, but new sounds—including the clanging of construction work and the excited chatter of patrons at new attractions and businesses—also are filling the air.
It’s one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States and Lonely Planet named Music City as one of the top 10 worldwide destinations to visit in 2016. Creativity abounds in this vibrant city, particularly popular among younger attendees.
New York City: The Big Apple ranked as the top city in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic region of the United States in the J.D. Power survey. The city, with its abundance of world-class hotels, restaurants, attractions and more, seems to offer something to every attendee.
The city’s offerings were enhanced in 2016 with the addition of the Westfield World Trade Center and several new hotels, including Four Seasons New York Downtown, The Beekman and Tommie Hudson Square.
Orlando: This city continues to build on its solid foundation as a business and tourism destination. Orlando welcomed 66 million visitors in 2015, a 10 percent increase over the previous year. It also was the highest-scoring city in the South region in the J.D. Power study, and scored particularly well in infrastructure and activities.
Recent development highlights include Universal Orlando Resort wrapping up a large project in September with the completion of The Loews Meeting Complex, with 2,000 guest rooms and 247,000 sq. ft. of meeting space between the new Loews Sapphire Falls Resort and Loews Royal Pacific Resort.
Paris: The City of Light in the midst of a hotel boom, enhancing its reputation as one of the world’s most desirable meetings destinations.
Perhaps the biggest hotel news in 2016 was the reopening of the luxurious Ritz Paris after a renovation that kept its doors shut for nearly four years. The property, which originally opened in 1898, features 142 guest rooms, including 71 suites, as well as eight banquet rooms that can be used for meetings, conferences and receptions.
San Antonio: The Alamo City was already coming on strong as a meetings destination even before the completion this year of a $325 million renovation of Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center added 270,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, bringing the total to 514,000 sq. ft.
Also, a $358.3 million project lengthened the city’s famous River Walk from 3 to 15 miles, connecting downtown with museums, cultural districts and the historic Pearl neighborhood. The largest ecosystem restoration in an urban area, Mission Reach links the original River Walk to four Spanish Colonial missions in South San Antonio. Hiking and biking trails now are available along the river.
This fall, SmartAsset, a New York City-based personal finance technology company, ranked San Antonio as the best U.S. city for conferences for the second straight year, citing its large number of event spaces, affordability and warm weather.
San Francisco: The City by the Bay seems to become a more popular and beloved destination every year. A big part of the appeal is its historic ethnic neighborhoods, including Chinatown, Japantown, North Beach (Italian) the Mission District (Latino) and more.
But San Francisco is also a highly progressive city in almost every way imaginable, from trend-setting designers in Union Square to high-tech innovators South of Market, to cutting-edge chefs throughout the city. It also boasts some of the world’s top hotels and the ever-expanding Moscone Center, a model for green convention centers that provides 700,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, up to 106 meeting rooms and nearly 123,000 sq. ft. of prefunction lobbies. One of the year’s main events was the opening of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, adjacent to Moscone Center.
Seoul: In the early 2000s, Seoul was by no means a meetings hot spot. But in 2008, the Seoul Convention Bureau, a division of the Seoul Tourism Organization, was founded and it spawned the Seoul MICE Alliance, a partnership between government agencies and private-sector organizations that strives to enhance the city’s competitiveness for global meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions.
Seoul ranked third in the world, trailing only Singapore and Brussels, in the number of meeting held, according to the 2016 International Meetings Statistics Report by the Union of International Associations. Seoul held 494 meetings in 2015, an increase of 98.4 percent from the 249 it hosted in 2014.
Seoul is now one of the world’s hottest places to visit—it was projected to rank 10th in the world, with 10.20 million visitors in 2016, an increase of 10.2 percent from 2015.
Singapore: Ranked the top meeting destination in Asia/Pacific by Cvent in 2016, Singapore welcomes 15.5 million visitors annually, and 20 to 35 percent of them are meetings and other business travelers. The city offers 237 meeting hotels and 53,126 guest rooms.
Singapore Airlines has been adding more flights and services, and many venues are focusing on providing more unconventional meetings for attendees, including outdoor gatherings amid lush greenery.
Taipei: This Taiwanese city has been booming as a meetings destination, largely due to a five-year promotional campaign by Taiwan’s MICE events . Taipei now hosts nearly 1,000 meetings annually, with most gatherings based in the capital city’s Taipei International Convention Centre and World Trade Centre Nangang Expo Hall.
One of the newest hotels, the five-star Taipei Marriott Hotel, opened in 2015 near National Palace Museum and the World Trade Center. The 320-room property is the towering anchor of a new shopping, dining and convention center complex. The hotel’s 21,000 sq. ft. of event space, pillarless ballroom and rooftop garden have been transformed into areas for nightlife, garden parties, interactive screenings and company trainings.