the top meeting facilities in the region, as well. According to Dave Gerdes, director of sales and mar- keting for the Central PA Convention and Visitors Bureau, while it’s true that being budget-friendly is important in attracting meetings to an area, even more so, the biggest factor is about where a destination is sit- uated when it comes to attracting group business.

“Location, location, location still rules,” Gerdes explains, “but price and value is still very important. Groups go where they need to be. No matter the func- tion, there is a reason why most groups meet in a par- ticular location. But spending is always watched with a keen eye.”

Central Pennsylvania, which includes the town of State College, Happy Valley and the surrounding area, com- bines access, affordability and accommodations about as well as any destination in the state, notes Gerdes. “We are central to so many - over 70 million people live within 300 miles of us, making it very easy to get here from all directions.”

He continues, “We have to be one of the most afford- able locations offering extremely competitive room rates, but for university events (graduation and football weekends), such as free hotel parking, free hotel Wi-Fi, and no ‘bundled services’ fees. Our total tax rate is 11 percent, too.”

What’s more, the properties and accommodations in Central PA are outstanding, even without the presence of any major full-service brands, Gerdes explains. “Almost every property has been updated and renovat- ed in the last three years, and new properties have sprung up like the Hyatt Place and Wyndham Garden Hotel. Graduate Hotels will make its entry into our market in September of this year, too.”

Just about any group could be one looking to save money or keep costs down. Some are more sensitive to excessive expenditures than others. When asked which groups he sees falling into this category, Gerdes observes that, from most sensitive to least are: govern- ment groups (per diems); bus tours (travelers on fixed budgets for the most part); state associations (limited at times by state funding); youth sports (where parents are paying); social events (such as weddings, reunions, etc.); educational conferences; and finally, corporate group meetings.

When it comes to keeping costs down, Gerdes says tried and true methods continue to work for groups on a budget. “The old rule of thumb still applies today: rates, dates, and space. If a planner gets two out of the three, it’s a win-win as long as both parties work toward that solution. Both sides need to be flexible.”

Pocono Mountains, PA

The Pocono Mountains Region offers four seasons of fun and, along with a variety of diversions, properties for hosting group events that range from four-star resorts to quaint bed and break- fasts.

The counties that comprise the Pocono Mountains Region boast resort offerings, natural scenic beauty, 150 lakes (including Lake Wallenpaupack), as well as charming, historic towns. Its varied landscape inspires a range of experiences, from private and peaceful to bold and exhilarating. Planners can offer groups everything from relaxing retreats to waterparks and adventure courses. There is plenty to explore and discover here.

David M. Jackson, CMP, HMCC, is vice president of sales for the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau. He explains that cost is a major decider for planners in search of a meeting destination. “Other than location, I can’t think of a more important factor. We understand budget restraints and try to let planners know ways to get the best value at the best price.”

The Pocono Mountains can help save costs because of where it is located, Jackson explains. “Right off the bat - we are drivable. Guests find it easy to get to the Poconos without having to incur the high price of airfare. We are within a 200-mile driving radius of 20 percent of the U.S. population. Once here, planners find the free parking and free Wi-Fi to be a value-added bonus and

Mid-Atlantic­EvEnts Magazine 35

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