Savannah's rich history, wealth of meeting spaces, and walkability make it an attractive choice for groups. The Historic District is laid out in a grid pattern with 22 park-like squares throughout 2.5 square miles. Attendees are able to move easily between hotels and meetings venues, with beautiful scenery and architecture to admire as they go. Because it's a place that people really want to visit, meetings attendance is usually high when gatherings are held here and attendees may want to add a couple of days to their trip to further explore the city.
The numbers tell the story. Visit Savannah's sales team recorded 219,524 meeting- and convention-related room-nights last year, topping its 2015 totals by almost 20,000 room-nights. Projected visitor spending revenues from this new business could exceed $65 million.
"Savannah's growing popularity as a visitor destination goes beyond simply attracting leisure travelers," says Visit Savannah President Joseph Marinelli. "With the evolution of the product in terms of its diverse lodging options and our exploding retail and restaurant scenes, more conventions and groups want to bring their business to our city."
Visit Savannah also found great success in 2016 by helping smaller groups that needed rooms at only one hotel, as the number of single-hotel groups booked by the Visit Savannah team more than doubled year-over-year.
Robert Hollon, the executive director at the Association for Science Teacher Education (ASTE), booked the 351-room Hyatt Regency Savannah for the group's 2019 meeting. "It is a great venue and city for a group like ours. Our members like to get out and explore conference cities and take advantage of the local culture," explains Hollon. "Savannah is really attractive because the downtown area is compact yet filled with restaurants, shops, music venues, and lots of local culture. Plus, you have the riverfront area with ships passing by, lots of small shops and eateries, and an energetic vibe."
From museums and historic-house tours to art galleries and theater performances, Savannah has a great deal to offer -- not to mention the Southern hospitality. "The greatest attraction is the people. Everyone we worked with, from the CVB, the hotels, and even the bus/trolley tour managers, were genuinely friendly and interested in making us feel welcome," adds Hollon. "Part of their warmth comes from the fact that they are locals, born and raised in Savannah. Melissa Hayes from Visit Savannah, Dawn Ryan from the Westin, and Katie Crow from the Hyatt really stand out as advocates for the city and region. They are proud of their city."
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This article appears in the April 2017 issue of Successful Meetings.