It has been a very busy travel Autumn with the various regional events and three international events. Mixed into all of this travel are the all important future site selection visits for the Alliance 2019 conference. Yes, 2019! In order to ensure we hold our conference in March with the largest number of options for selecting a venue that can hold a conference of nearly 5000 with over 500 breakout sessions we must schedule 5 years in advance.
This year after sending Request for Proposals to nearly 10 potential venues, and receiving responses from over half the visits were narrowed down to 3 primary venues. These are selected based on the proposed price of the sleeping rooms, the required number of breakout rooms, date availability and geographic location. With 2016, 2017 and 2018 all being nearer to the west coast of the United States the emphasis for 2019 was on sites located more easternly. This year it will be a very difficult decision as all three destinations are popular. The future site selection committee made up of the current core conference team, the event planner, the Executive Director and the VP Finance/Treasurer will have visited Philadelphia, Orlando (Disney) and New Orleans by the end of next week. Each location has significant appeal in terms of culture, attractions and location.
Philadelphia - We visited Philadelphia in early October. Philly has been on our radar for the past 10 years but seemed to lose out to more southernly venues. This site visit was an excellent one. The convention center in Philadelphia fits our organization very well. Philly of course has a unique East Coast culture and holds some of the most historical treasures of the United States revolution (sorry UK members), including the Liberty Bell, the earliest surviving draft of the U.S. Constitution. The Constitutional Walking Trail (similar to Boston's Freedom Trail) allows for a tour of early US History. Philadelphia also provides the opportunity for lower room rates and easier travel for a large number of our member institutions.
Orlando - We have been to Orlando several times over the years but if selected in 2019 it will have been 12 years between conferences. Disney World of course is a spectacular attraction for members all around the world. The committee reviewed the Swan and Dolphin hotels, The Yacht and Beach Club as well as Coronado Springs. The meeting facility at the Swan and Dolphin meet most of our needs with overflow meetings at the walkable Yacht and Beach rounding out the meeting space. There are many additional opportunities to brand the conference in creative ways using the Disney Imagination team which were attractive as well. Hotel room rates are currently still being worked on as they were a bit out of line initially but we are hopeful that they will end up competitive.
New Orleans - There is very little we need to say about New Orleans in terms of its level of attraction to US members and members around the world. With its southern location and very unique culture, (Bourbon Street, French Quarter, Beignets at Cafe du Monde, etc.) New Orleans will be another attractive option. And did I mention the food? Po Boys, Jambalya, Gumbo, and so much more! Having reviewed the convention center on several occasions as well as attending several conferences there I am confident it is a fit. We travel to New Orleans next week (December 2-3, 2014) for the site visit.
To make a final decision the site selection team uses a comparison spreadsheet that includes cost of meeting space, price of rooms, cost of airfare, cost of airport shuttle and any additional unique costs. Each venue also offers incentive options such as rebates, commissions, etc., that are considered. They will also consider the logistics of the meeting space to ensure that sessions are easily accessed. And finally discussion regarding what would be attractive to the members in terms of the site's geography, culture, food and entertainment are considered.
Again this will be a very difficult decision as all three locations are highly desirable. The committee will make a recommendation to the Board of Directors during the board meeting December 9-10!