. Virtual Destination Tours Help Event Planners Get Business Back on the Books | Northstar Meetings Group

Virtual Destination Tours Help Event Planners Get Business Back on the Books

Convention and visitors bureaus and hotels are designing virtual experiences, so planners can tour meeting spaces from home. 

Atlantic-City-Convention-Center-Virtual-Tour
MeetAC is walking planners through the Atlantic City Convention Center from their homes.

Coronavirus and Meetings
Head here to see Northstar Meetings Group’s comprehensive and continuing coverage of how coronavirus is affecting meetings.

Updated April 29, 2020, 2:00 p.m. EDT

Virtual events might be all the buzz right now, but planners are eager to get back to face-to-face meetings as soon as possible. The Anaheim Convention Center has already rebooked $475 million in meetings business, and the latest findings from Northstar Meetings Group's Pulse Survey show 40 percent of event planners who are still working are currently sourcing and booking events. Meanwhile, 30 percent are not booking at this time but are researching for future events.

To help planners scout potential venues from home, convention and visitors bureaus and hotels are pivoting to virtual so event professionals can vet venues from home. Following are a few of the tours available. 

CVBs

Atlanta

The Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau is taking its southern hospitality online and inviting planners to explore the Georgia capital through an immersive, 360-degree tour. 360ATL goes through the heart of the city's convention and entertainment district. Guests can explore the Georgia World Congress Center, as well as nearby hotels, restaurants and attractions such as the Georgia Aquarium

"Virtual site visits allow our sales staff to guide meeting planners through a complete tour of the city, beginning with their arrival at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport," said William Pate, president and CEO of the ACVB. "Given the state of the industry, this immersive experience shows meeting planners the proximity between special event venues, attractions, hotels and dining options in lieu of an in-person site visit."

Atlantic City

At the Jersey Shore, Meet AC is urging planners take advantage of the CVB's award-winning virtual reality experience. The tour features an in-depth walkthrough of the Atlantic City Convention Center, including its exhibit halls, prefunction space and meeting rooms. Other stops include the Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall, the Atlantic City Marina and the various hotels. A pop-up guide walks visitors through each location, while sharing tidbits like the fact that the Atlantic City Convention Center is one of the largest on the East Coast and has more than 13,000 solar panels on its roof.

"Since Meet AC’s inception in 2014, we have been growing our digital footprint to serve relevant Atlantic City content to the industry," said Karina Anthony, marketing director of Meet AC. "We’ve compiled a library of videos to showcase a variety of Atlantic City experiences to meeting planners, and most recently used virtual reality to allow planners to tour the city from their homes or offices when they are unable to make the trip to Atlantic City. This is a time of uncertainty for the nation and our industry. However, our team is prepared and while we may be working remotely, we are available to answer your Atlantic City related questions."

Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board has a new walking tour that takes guests through the Los Angeles Convention Center and other downtown spots. More than 35 stops are on the tour, which includes promotional CVB videos throughout. In addition, the LATCB's sales team has put together a "getting to know you" series of videos, so planners know exactly whom to reach out to for questions.

"We know planners across the globe are hard at work, planning events and ensuring the continuity of future business. Our team is harnessing the creativity, innovation and cutting-edge technology Los Angeles is known for to help planners navigate the unforeseen challenges brought by the pandemic," said Darren Green, the LATCB's senior vice president of sales.

New York City

NYC & Company, the official destination marketing organization representing the Big Apple, has rolled out a detailed listing of all the event venues in the city that offer virtual tours.

Included in the roundup is the Javits Center, where a 1.2 million-square-foot expansion is expected to debut in 2021. A video featuring Javits Center president and CEO Alan Steel walks visitors through the expansion project and shows off renderings of the soon-to-be-ready event spaces. 

Hotels such as the Andaz Wall Street, Park Hyatt New York and the InterContinental New York Barclay are also offering virtual tours that can be experienced from home. In total, more than 50 venues are listed.

"Despite the current challenges and new guidelines that will define the future of events, it remains clear that face-to-face meetings are essential to conducting meaningful business," said Fred Dixon, president and CEO of NYC & Company. "We are pleased to offer this new virtual NYC site tours resource to assist planners in continuing to book New York City for the future from the security of home."

Orlando

The Theme Park Capital of the World is also home to the nation's second largest convention center. Visit Orlando offers a virtual tour of the city's convention district, so planners can scout out all of the halls and ballrooms that make up the 7-million-square-foot Orange County Convention Center. Tours of the city's theme parks and nearby hotel properties, such as the Rosen Centre Hotel, Hilton Orlando and the Hyatt Regency Orlando, are also available.

"We recognize that now, more than ever, we all want to escape from reality, even if it’s just for a moment," said George Aguel, president and CEO of Visit Orlando. "Whether you like floating down a lazy river in one of our resort pools or immersing yourself into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Orlando's many experiences provide a much-needed break from everyday life, whether online or in person, and the virtual tour helps planners visualize in a first-hand way just how special their next meeting can be."

Rockford, Ill.

In Illinois, the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau held a live virtual familiarization tour last week. During the hour-long session, CVB members introduced themselves and shared information on the midwestern destination. Event venues and hotels, such as the Coronado Performing Arts Center and the Embassy Suites by Hilton Rockford Riverfront, were given the chance to present on their offerings for groups. The tour is now available on-demand here.

"These are tough times, no doubt. At RACVB, we are mindful of what needs to be done to help flatten the curve, but understand that our work continues in new ways," said president and CEO John Groh. "We have to be ready for recovery and we think taking the opportunity to showcase our region now, when event planners are thinking about the future of their events, is ideal. Our region is ideally located, the right midscale size and full of opportunities for event planners looking to host events in a market ready to welcome them." 

Hotel Chains

Marriott

The hotel giant, Marriott International, offers virtual tours for a handful of its properties. An immersive experience invites event planners to explore the guest rooms, meeting spaces, lobby and more of the AC Hotel by Marriott Miami Beach. 

The company also has unveiled 360-degree videos for Marriott Indy Place, a collection of five Marriott hotels that are all connected to the Indiana Convention Center & Lucas Oil Stadium. The series of interactive videos takes viewers through each of the properties and their amenities. The five hotels include the JW Marriott Indianapolis, Indianapolis Marriott Downtown, Courtyard by Marriott Indianapolis Downtown, SpringHill Suites Indianapolis Downtown, and the Fairfield Inn & Suites Indianapolis Downtown.

"Look to the right, to the left, then in front of you," says one of the videos. "Explore the rooms that your attendees will call home for their stay."

Cambria

Cambria Hotels has also turned virtual site tours in an effort to accommodate meeting planners amid travel restrictions. Ten Cambria properties currently offer virtual reality tours, including the Cambria Nashville Downtown and Cambria New Orleans Downtown Warehouse District.

In addition, the hotel chain is hosting a number of live tours. The tours include a live property walkthrough hosted by a seasoned staff member, as well as an overview of the Cambria brand and a real-time Q&A session. In the past two weeks, Cambria has hosted more than 150 clients on 19 tours.