Think New Hampshire
You’re responsible for a strategic planning meeting for 15 executives or you’re helping select the site for your association’s 2005 annual meeting. Your first step? Deciding what geographic location makes the most sense for your group. For New Hampshire-based businesses and associations, there’s no need to look beyond our borders. Our own state offers a wealth of site options in a wide variety of settings, from quaint lakeside or mountain villages to Seacoast resorts and small-city venues. Depending on the size of your group, your objectives, and your meeting requirements, there can be dozens of facilities within the state from which to choose. Many of the people who work in New Hampshire’s hospitality industry have made a conscious decision to remain, return or relocate here for the same reason that makes our state such an attractive tourism destination: quality of life. People tend to stay in one place for years so that New Hampshire hotels, for the most part, don’t see the kind of constant turnover that plagues the industry elsewhere. For you, the planner, that means an experienced, committed and knowledgeable work force that can make your job much easier. Eager to help Because suppliers here know each other, they can serve as an invaluable resource, not only for on-site needs but when it comes to planning off-site functions and events, too, which includes coordination with local vendors. Recommendations from hotel staff based on years of working relationships can mean big savings for you, both in terms of money and preventing potential headaches. In my experience, and based on regular feedback from happy clients, our suppliers are eager to go the extra distance to ensure a program’s success. You’ll rarely hear, “I don’t know,” or, “Sorry, we can’t help you with that,” or - worse! - have your request for assistance met with indifference or disinterest. Through good economic times and bad, New Hampshire properties want and appreciate your business, and they’ll work with you every step of the way to ensure your program’s success. New Hampshire is primarily a drive-to destination, but even New Hampshire-based groups need to fly in speakers and colleagues from other parts of the country. As we all know, Manchester Airport has expanded significantly in recent years, with a growing schedule of non-stop and direct airline service. When flying in guests or VIPs is a consideration, Manchester offers easy access and a convenient - often cheaper - alternative to Logan Airport in Boston. With the economic downturn in recent years, we’ve lost some of our competitive edge over other destinations as hotels, especially in the Boston market, have become more open to negotiate their rates. But New Hampshire suppliers continue to offer real, quantifiable value when it comes to meeting costs, and few destinations can match our wonderful year-round diversity - both in actual meeting facilities and things for groups to do when business concludes. Plenty of activities The compact size of our state means that your group can choose from a wide variety of activities, regardless of the time of year. Winter groups used to think of skiing as the primary activity when attendees sought off-site R&R. While downhill skiing certainly remains popular, and its proximity is often cited as a deciding factor by planners in choosing one site over another, other activities also have gained in popularity in recent years. In addition to downhill and cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, snow-tubing and ice skating are easy to enjoy just about anywhere in the state. During the warmer months, the options for recreation are almost limitless. From golf to hiking and biking to visiting our natural, manmade and cultural attractions, meeting attendees will never have to worry about how to spend their free time in New Hampshire. And let’s not forget shopping. A year-round, weatherproof activity always cited in national surveys as one of the top five most popular activities for groups, shopping in New Hampshire has an added bonus that few other U.S. destinations can claim: no sales tax. Everyone loves a bargain! Creative planners have learned that there are fun and cost-effective ways to incorporate New Hampshire’s recreational and cultural offerings into their programs. Many of our hotels and resorts offer customized team-building activities that inspire greater camaraderie among attendees. For social and networking occasions, a dinner cruise on the Seacoast or Lake Winnipesaukee makes a memorable alternative to yet another hotel function. The White Mountains boasts the largest concentration of tourist trains in the country, and several offer reception and dinner packages for groups that would enjoy an evening on the rails. A cocktail reception at a museum in Concord or Manchester would be an elegant, educational and surprisingly affordable outing for your attendees. For the ultimate off-site experience that’s unique to New Hampshire, you can toast the sunset from the top of New England, with a catered reception on the summit of Mount Washington. Event planning resources Several resources are available online to planners seeking information about meeting sites in New Hampshire. The industry site for the New Hampshire Division of Travel & Tourism Development is www.visitnh.com/gov/onlineplanner.html. In the greater Manchester area, the Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Web site is www.manchestercvb.com. For information on meeting facilities throughout the state, including Manchester, as well off-site venues in all regions, visit www.nhmeetingsites.com, which also includes an easy-to-use, online Request For Proposal feature. There are so many reasons to stay in New Hampshire when you’re planning your next meeting or event. Many of them concern the bottom line -- the cost-effectiveness of your program and its return on investment. Other reasons are harder to quantify but still important. They have to do with supporting the New Hampshire economy, keeping your attendees happy and doing business with your neighbors. The next time you’re in charge of planning a meeting or event, think New Hampshire! Susan Logan is founder and president of New Hampshire Tourism Network & Meeting Sites, a privately-funded group sales and marketing organization representing more than 100 members throughout the state. A New Hampshire native, Logan has almost 20 years of destination experience in the state.