IMEX Group and Skift have published a new mini trend report titled The Rise of Midsize Cities in the Meetings Industry. The report concludes that the future of the meetings and events industry will be driven by midsize cities (defined as less than one million citizens) and secondary markets, especially in North America and Europe. For a state like Colorado, made up entirely of small and midsized communities except for the Denver metropolitan area, it’s a very positive shift that has been going on here for a while.
Key driving factors
The authors point to two primary factors driving this shift. First, many global gateway cities are becoming too expensive for a broader range of meeting decision makers. Second, many cities in smaller markets have invested heavily in developing their infrastructure and local industry networks and are positioning themselves as innovation/knowledge hubs in certain fields. Also highlighted is how midsize cities have been successful in building local partnerships and providing new attendee experiences, becoming “catalysts for lasting change and collision spaces for new ideas.”
I love the idea of towns being a “collision space” for innovation.” Wouldn’t you want to meet in a place like that, also where you can tap into an experience economy? I believe that many Colorado towns are excelling at both! Think of places like Colorado Springs, Boulder, Longmont, Loveland and Grand Junction. Add in mountain towns like Aspen, Vail, Telluride and Steamboat Springs that attract people who can live and work wherever in a destination of their choosing.
How midsize cities are gaining traction
"This is not to suggest that the big, established cities are lacking—they’re clearly not. The big cities of the world all have transport links, infrastructure, support services, and hotel stock that others simply can’t compete with,” emphasizes IMEX CEO Carina Bauer. “Instead, this report reveals why and how smaller cities—defined as less than one million citizens—have started to find new ways to gain traction, add value to their communities, and attract business.”
Greg Oates, executive editor of SkiftX, adds "The big shift today is that midsize cities are leveraging their size as an advantage now, versus something they need to overcome. That's based on the widespread improvements in their downtown cores, the exponential rise of industry sector expertise beyond the big gateway cities, and the demand for more affordable, diverse and unique destinations."
The report points out that one of the biggest challenges is defining what a “midsize” city is, noting that delineation of first-, second- and third-tier cities has become murky. Some in the industry classify a city’s size by population, while others classify destinations by air, hotel and convention center capacity. The report suggest that the meetings industry is transcending these labels and that many smaller and mid-sized towns are “hitting above their weight” to increase global exposure and reach to the next generation of meeting planners.
The tipping point
For a growing number of planners and attendees, there is a tipping point where the added stress and cost of meeting in big cities exceeds the added stress and cost of the extra travel time required to access more regional destinations, the report suggests. Therefore, one of the main strategies for midsize cities has to be convincing planners that an extra connector flight, train trip or bus ride is worth the time and effort.
However, two other key reasons also tie into the rise of midsize cities, and they don’t involve price: attendees are seeking alternatives beyond the same destinations they typically visit year after year and the rise of startups in advanced and creative industries in midsize cities worldwide. These communities now have increased access to industry and academic experts in various fields.
Colorado already is seeing the impact of this trend, and I don’t think it will be going out the window any time soon. Our biggest city, Denver, clearly doesn’t need to worry. In my nearly 14 years as editor of Colorado Meetings + Events, it has been nothing short of amazing to see the transformation of The Mile High City as a leisure and business destination. Check out this free report, it’s worth the read.