Northstar Meetings Group presents a new editorial series focusing on some of the hottest and most important meetings industry segments. Our in-depth coverage pinpoints trends, provides critical insights and offers expert advice for buyers and sellers in key sectors. Read more in our series here
Accessibility, easy access to a wide range of offsite amenities and post-meeting activities, and local resources for great programming make up the prescription for successful medical, pharmaceutical and bioscience meetings.
“The city itself, and its features, play a role in deciding where to hold our annual meeting and contribute to its success,” says Steve Folstein, M.Ed., director of education at the American Association of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
A meeting planner for a bioscience organization agrees. “When choosing a destination for our meeting, cities are important,” she states. “The city plays a large role in providing affordable housing, ease of access to the convention center, infrastructure, local area restaurants, and more. We look across this full spectrum in our decision process.”
The AAAAI held its 2017 meeting in Atlanta, and the bioscience group is considering bringing a meeting there in the future. Other players in the medical/pharmaceutical/bioscience market that have convened in the destination include the Association of American Medical Colleges, Medtrade, the Hinman Dental Society, the American Society of Hematology and the American Society for Microbiology. The Hinman Dental Society holds the Thomas P. Hinman Dental Meeting, its annual conference, in Atlanta each year, while Medtrade — one of the largest medical equipment trade expositions in the U.S. — was held in the city in 2018 as well as this past year.
Leveraging Healthcare Resources
With Metro Atlanta’s reputation as the “Center of Global Health” — coupled with its leadership position in the areas of cold-chain storage, fill-and-finish hematology and immunology, medical devices, and health information technology (health IT) — it is no surprise that medical and bioscience groups continue to enhance their events by drawing on its spate of healthcare resources. For example, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is headquartered in the city. Anne Schuchat, who at the time was the agency’s principal deputy director, served as the keynote speaker at the American Society for Microbiology’s Microbe 2018 conference, held in June that year at the Georgia World Congress Center. In her speech, Schuchat discussed the need for global solutions to address public health issues.
The CDC is just one of several public health organizations headquartered in Atlanta. The Arthritis Foundation is based in the city, as well, as are Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE), Habitat for Humanity, the Task Force for Global Health, the Carter Center and the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. Six healthcare systems and providers based in the city encompass Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Emory Healthcare, Grady Health System, Northside Hospital, Piedmont Healthcare and WellStar Health System.
Active Bioscience Community
Meanwhile, the bioscience meeting planner notes that the strength of Atlanta’s infrastructure for bioscience and health information technology (HIT) have put it on her list of potential destinations for future meetings. Data from sources such as the Center of Innovation for Information Technology, the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and the Technology Association of Georgia underscore this strength. For instance, the Atlanta region's bioscience community, which has grown substantially in recent years, is highly active and is recognized as the center for global health.
“We want to make attending [our event] as easy as possible for our attendees, in terms of getting to the city, getting around and enjoying the stay — affordably."
Gregg Lapin, American Association of Diabetes Educators
Atlanta ranks third in research-facility space among all U.S. bioscience clusters and fifth among North American metropolitan areas for competitiveness in the life-sciences industry. It is also among the top 20 metropolitan areas in the nation for employment at research, testing and medical laboratories.
In fact, the bioscience industry is firmly rooted in Georgia, with more than 100,000 jobs and an annual economic impact of $23 billion. Myriad bioscience companies call the city home, including Alcon, Allscripts, Baxter, C.R. Bard Inc., CryoLife, Elektra, Ethnicon, Galectin Therapeutics, Kimberly-Clark, McKesson Technology Solutions, Medline, Merial, Phillips Healthcare, Porex, Solvay and UCB Pharma.
On the healthcare information technology side, Atlanta is often referred to as the nation’s health IT capital and is at the forefront of consumer digital health. Georgia’s robust telecommunications infrastructure, healthcare system, skilled workforce and pro-business environment make the state’s HIT sector one of the strongest in the U.S. Statewide, more than 200 related companies generating over $4 billion in annual reported revenues and employing more than 16,000 people. As for Atlanta itself, a solid base of software, biotechnology and telecommunications companies — as well as more than 20 incubators — mean the city can be considered a hotbed of innovation and a hatchery for HIT startups.
All About Accessibility, Affordability
While healthcare and biomedical resources are a draw for medical and bioscience groups, factors like accessibility and affordability have a bearing on destination selection. This rings true for the American Association of Diabetes Educators, which will hold its AADE 2020 annual meeting at the GWCC in August next year.
“We want to make attending AADE as easy as possible for our attendees, in terms of getting to the city, getting around and enjoying the stay — affordably,” states Gregg Lapin, director of meeting services.
Atlanta lies within a two-hour flight of 80 percent of the U.S. population and 7 miles from downtown, the hub of the city’s meeting and convention activities. Airports Council International’s world air-traffic report, released in September 2019, pegs Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport as the world’s busiest, with more flights to and from more locations (approximately 2,700 daily flights) than any other airport in the world.
Traveling from the airport to the convention and entertainment district takes less than 20 minutes. Airport shuttle and taxi service is widely available, but public transportation via MARTA, Atlanta’s rapid transit system, is a good alternative. MARTA offers a direct connection from the airport’s baggage-claim areas, with six stations servicing the downtown convention and entertainment district as well as other areas of the city where medical and bioscience groups might convene, including (but not limited to) Midtown and Buckhead.
A $6 million improvement initiative designed to modernize the airport is underway. The project will add protective structures over the upper roadway terminal’s curbside pick-up and drop-off areas, as well as an extension of the ATL Plane Train system that transports passengers between the airport’s terminals, some parking deck replacements, and the development of a four-star hotel and travel plaza.
The city’s compact convention and entertainment district features the Georgia World Congress Center Authority campus. More than $360 million has been invested to improve connectivity between the campus’ facilities — which include the Georgia World Congress Center, Centennial Olympic Park, and the state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz stadium — and the surrounding entertainment district. Highlights of these improvements encompass the $55 million GWCC Exhibit Hall BC expansion project, and the addition of two new parking facilities, increasing capacity to more than 7,500 connected spaces.
Also part of the enhancement initiative is a new pedestrian gateway that will allow meeting attendees to travel easily from the surrounding hospitality district through Centennial Olympic Park to the front door of the convention center, stadium and a Signia Hilton hotel now under construction. More than 12,000 hotel rooms can be found within walking distance of the GWCCA campus, eliminating or minimizing the need for shuttle buses or expensive cab rides to and from the GWCC. The campus also gives meeting attendees a walkable, park-like experience in a downtown environment where they can visit some of the city’s most popular attractions and acclaimed restaurants.
Medical and pharmaceutical groups are availing themselves of all that Atlanta has to offer in terms of proximity to and affordability of attractions and offsite event venues. Programming for the American Society of Hematology’s 59th Annual Meeting & Exposition, held at the GWCC in December 2017, included a gala reception at Georgia Aquarium, which is in the convention and entertainment district across from Centennial Olympic Park.
Attendees of AADE 2020 will have the option to purchase an Atlanta CityPASS booklet of tickets to Atlanta's top attractions, at a 40 percent savings off regular admission prices. One option in the booklet features a choice of admission to Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, CNN Studio Tours, Zoo Atlanta, or National Center for Civil and Human Rights. The other ticket can be redeemed for admission at Fernbank Museum of Natural History or the Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame.
The Booming Health IT & Bioscience Industry of Atlanta
The home of the largest combined convention, sports and entertainment campus in North America is also the birthplace of the largest Health IT conference in the country—the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society — and boasts the reputation as the nation’s epicenter of Health IT.
At the forefront of consumer digital health, Atlanta ranks third in research facility space among all US bioscience clusters and is the No. 5 North American metro area for competitiveness in the life sciences industry.
With a network of senior healthcare leaders and executives, entrepreneurs, developers and engineers, the city has an abundance of talent and event speakers. Many leading national and global health organizations are Atlanta-headquartered, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Cancer Society, Arthritis Foundation, The Carter Center, the Task Force for Global Health and more.
Contact Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau for more information or start your RFP today.