Wish You Were Here
Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: January/February 12
Meeting The Needs Of Your Meeting
By: Darlene Donloe
It’s time to decide which destination and venue to book for your next event, conference, convention or board meeting.

Back in the day, organizing those occasions was more of a routine task - make some phone calls, prepare an agenda, assemble the minutes, reports and documents and put them all in a neat little binder.

That was then, this is now. Meetings have taken on a life of their own. A lot more details are involved in making them a success. Bells and whistles aside, what meeting planners need to be armed with is information, information and more information.

This column aids meeting planners in their decision-making process by providing vital information on specific destinations.

Highlighted in this column are Toronto, Canada; Cleveland, Myrtle Beach, SC and Potawatomi Bingo Casino.



POTAWATOMI BINGO CASINO

A casino isn’t a typical meeting destination consideration. That being said, sometimes looking and working outside the box makes a world of difference in a meeting’s success.

The Potawatomi Bingo Casino, located in the heart of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, makes for an atypical destination. Like any other casino, Potawatomi has table games, slots, bingo, poker and off-track betting. There are also five restaurants and a 500-seat theater.

If you stay in one of the following hotels in Downtown Milwaukee, there will be access to a shuttle that travels to and from the casino. The hotels include: Comfort Inn & Suites, Milwaukee Athletic Club, Hampton Inn & Suites, Best Western Inn Towne Hotel, Hyatt Regency-Milwaukee, Courtyard by Marriott, Ramada Milwaukee City Centre, Double Tree by Hilton Hotel Milwaukee Downtown and Hilton Milwaukee City Center.



“We’re known for our food,” says Kaelyn Cervero, catering manager. “That’s what I would tell anyone considering us as a destination. We’re only a few minutes from downtown. We’re also known for being the best entertainment venue. We’re considered a one stop shop.”

Venues and meeting space within the casino include: The Woodland Dreams Ballroom (500 persons, 9,000 sq. ft.); the Tribal Room (100 persons, 1,800 sq. ft.); the Wild Earth (150 persons, 2,200 sq. ft.) and the Expo Center (1,200 persons, 30,000 sq. ft.)



Cervero pointed out that most meeting planners think they have to go to a 5-star hotel in order to meet their needs. “You don’t,” she says. “You can get everything you need right here. We’re convenient, right off the freeway, we have free parking and we’re one mile from hotels. We have a saying here, ‘we don’t want to fulfill your expectations, we want to exceed them.’”
For more information, visit www.paysbig.com.

TORONTO, CANADA

Our neighbors to the north are rolling out the “meetings” red carpet. “Toronto is the ideal meeting site for organizations looking to gain international exposure,” says Jonathon Hixon, CMP director of sales, U.S. Association, Tourism Toronto. “In this shrinking global world where better to meet than the United Nations’ designated “most diverse city on the planet?” With fantastic access to Europe, Asia and the rest of the world not to mention being a 90 minute (or less) flight for 60% of the U.S. population, Toronto provides that growth opportunity into international meetings for U.S. organizations without many of the fears or concerns that come with leaving North America.”



The Greater Toronto area, which has a population of 5.1 million, boasts 40,000 hotel rooms and a number of attractions.

Highlights include: Art Gallery of Ontario, Bata Shoe Museum, Black Creek Pioneer Village, Casa Loma, CN Tower, Gardiner Museum, Historic Fort York, Hockey Hall of Fame, Ontario Science Centre, Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and the Toronto Zoo.

The Metro Toronto Convention Centre, located in the heart of downtown Toronto is, reportedly, the largest convention centre in Canada. The kitchen catering has the capability to serve up to 7,000. Parking can accommodate 1,200 cars, and trucks can be driven onto the exhibit floor. There is also the convenience of an on-site bank for foreign-currency exchange and a customs office.



Space includes a large selection of meeting rooms and reception halls and a 200,000 sq. ft. exhibition hall. The expansion to create the south building has added another four exhibit halls, more meeting rooms and a Ceremonial Entrance beside the CN Tower.

The Centre is close to major roadways and Union Station for the out-of-town traveler. Located in Mississauga, just outside of Toronto, Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson International Airport, also known as Toronto Pearson International Airport, is 25 miles from downtown Toronto, or 30-40 minutes by car. “Toronto is a world within a city,” said Hixon. “I love walking up a street and hearing a multitude of languages, passing a wild variety of restaurants featuring ethnic cuisines, seeing different cultures represented in people’s attire. For me Toronto is what a multicultural city should be: a beautiful mosaic of diversity.”



For more information, visit www.seetorontonow.com.

CLEVELAND, OHIO

If you’re looking for a destination that offers competitive pricing and lower costs than most major U.S. cities, Lynne Lisner of Positively Cleveland, says Cleveland is the place to go. “The affordable lodging, meals and transportation offered in Cleveland translates into dollars saved,” says Lisner. “And since Cleveland is located within 500 miles of 43% of the U.S. population and serviced by two airports, it is also easily accessible.”



Other highlights include: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and the PlayhouseSquare Theater District, reportedly the country's largest performing arts center outside of New York. University Circle, located four miles from downtown Cleveland, is considered one of the most concentrated square miles of arts and culture in the nation. It’s home to more than 20 artistic and cultural venues.

The West Side Market is the largest indoor/outdoor market in the country.  There are 4,200 hotel rooms in downtown Cleveland and the University Circle area. The Cleveland Medical Mart & Convention Center has a 100,000 sq. ft. medical mart and an adjoining convention center with 230,000 sq. ft. of exhibit hall space. The facility is also set to include more than 92,000 sq. ft. dedicated to meeting rooms and a Grand Ballroom with stunning views of Lake Erie. The $465 million, LEED silver-certified facility will open in downtown Cleveland August 2013.



African-American inspired attractions include: Karamu House, the first African-American theater in the country; The Cleveland Play House, Cleveland Cultural Gardens – African American Garden, African American Heritage Trail, Louis Stokes Museum, Western Reserve Historical Society – Stokes Exhibit, Western Reserve Historical Society – African American Archive Collection.



African American eateries include: Angie’s Soul Café + Zanzibar Soul Fusion, Hot Sauce Williams and Bubba Q’s.  The Cleveland Airport is approximately 10 miles outside of the city.

For more information visit www.positivelycleveland.com.

MYRTLE BEACH, SC

It’s no secret that Myrtle Beach is a happening place. Considered one of the top domestic tourist destinations in the U.S., Myrtle Beach boasts nearly 14 million visitors annually and has earned the title of the number one family beach in the U.S.



Tourist attractions include the T.I.G.E.R.S. (The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species) Preservation Station Tour at Barefoot Landing, Broadway at the Beach – (350 acres of attractions, hotels, restaurants, shops and a bumpin’ nightlife), MagiQuest, a multi-level interactive game and Ripley’s Aquarium.

Along the Grand Strand you’ll find the 400-seat IMAX 3D Theatre.  “The Grand Strand offers a wide variety of meeting spaces and accommodations, as well as world-class golf, a vibrant culinary scene, live entertaining, and exciting attractions, the perfect way to round out a meeting or group event,” said Kimberly Miles, PR Manager for the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce/CVB. “The Myrtle Beach area hosts hundreds of conventions and meetings every year. Myrtle Beach also offers a modern and well-appointed convention center, an international airport, and 60 miles of beaches. Meeting planners, tour operators, promoters, travel agents and wholesalers will be sure to find a meeting facility and accommodations to suit their needs.”

Myrtle Beach highlights include The Carolina Opry Theater, Family Kingdom Amusement Park and Brookgreen Gardens. Restaurants include: Sea Captain’s House, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, Flamingo Grill and Divine Fish House.

A great place to stay in Myrtle Beach is the Caravelle Resort, which has nine buildings and more than 600 units. The resort has more than 4,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, with a 3,900 sq. ft.-banquet/meeting center, a board room, a private dining room and a hospitality room.

If you need more meeting space, the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, located in the heart of the Grand Strand, is equipped to service large groups. The exhibit hall is 100,800 sq. ft. The Grand Ballroom is 16,890 sq. ft. Meeting rooms range from 570-1,200 sq. ft. The Special Events Plaza can be used for small concerts, press conferences or any type of celebration. The space seats up to 100 persons.



“The best part of living in Myrtle Beach is the weather,” said Miles. “A temperate climate and sunny weather, plus a dose of Southern hospitality, make the Grand Strand a great place to live year-round. Plus, as a resident of Myrtle Beach, we have access year-round to the wealth of amenities and attractions offered to visitors. There is always something to do in Myrtle Beach!”

From the west coast, US Airways flies into Charlotte, NC and then on to Myrtle Beach. Other airlines that fly into Myrtle Beach include: Delta, Continental and Spirit Airlines. For more information, visit www.positivelycleveland.com.
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