100 Years of Advancing Destinations

What do meeting planners want anyway?

Author: Guest Kelsey Waite, STR Business Development Associate, Destinations
Posted: November 16, 2015
Blog Topics Covered:

We’re all competing for group business, that’s a given.  And it could be said that meeting planners hold the key to that kingdom, so how do you get them to let you in?  Do you need a secret password or handshake?  It can seem that way sometimes, but no – destinations with the best meeting planner relationships simply understand them.  They know their needs, their processes, and their influencers; and they get this information from the biennial DestinationMAP study.  So here is the Who, What, When, Why and How of DestinationMAP to give you the insights needed for your greater share of group business. 


DestinationMAP is a comprehensive syndicated survey conducted every two years examining the factors, perceptions, trends and conditions that determine sites selected by meeting planners. 

DestinationMAP survey topics include:

  • Site selection 
  • Economic conditions
  • Technology
  • Digital communications & social media 
  • Destination perceptions 
  • Future meeting locations
  • RFP process


For this study, STR polls meeting planners across the United States on a multitude of planning-related topics, including their perceptions on each of the top 40 North American meetings markets determined by STR. 


Meeting planners’ opinions are important. According to STR data, Group Business contributed roughly 27% of the total U.S. hotel room revenue in 2014.  This significant share of revenue makes meeting planners a vitally important audience for hotels and DMOs alike.

DestinationMAP provides destination organizations with the intelligence and insights needed to determine where to focus their efforts when trying to attract meeting planners.  The report is particularly useful for establishing customer perception benchmarks and developing marketing and strategic plans designed to attract large conferences and conventions. 

Case in Point: Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

For the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, research is a fundamental step to their evidence-based decision making process.  So, when setting the organization’s sales and marketing strategy, they use DestinationMAP as the basis for their plan. 

The report revealed the following key findings: 

  • Perception:  Large gap in “Variety of Things to Do”
  • Awareness:  Effectiveness of promotional efforts
    • Most Effective: Trade book ads
    • Least Effective: Social media outreach
  • Communication:  Delivering exceptional experiences and word of mouth far outperform trendy new sales techniques 

“The information that we receive from DestinationMAP provides us with insight into the changing trends affecting meeting planners and where we have strengths and weaknesses in their most important site selection criteria. Based on these insights, we’re able to plan future messaging and focus our product development in the areas that matter most," stated Heath Dillard, CRVA Director of Business Insights & Research.


Reports generated from the DestinationMAP study are offered in two volumes and an additional custom option.  Volume One is an overview of what meeting planners are looking for from any destination when it comes to site selection.

Volume Two is a benchmarking report serving the top 40 markets.  DMOs in these markets can select four competitive markets to include in their report.  This allows DMOs to see how they stack up against their competition in the eyes of meeting planners.  Destinations can compare how clients and prospects view their destination’s strengths and weaknesses against the national sample. This provides an understanding of your destination’s competitive advantages from the perspective of those who know your destination best.

For destinations with specific areas of interest, a DMO can commission a Custom DestinationMAP, which allows the organization to develop custom questions that can supplement the findings from the original DestinationMAP.  

Custom DestinationMAP typical areas of focus include:

  • Brand/image perceptions
  • Familiarity with facility expansions/renovations
  • Amenity additions which might improve the likelihood of selecting the destination, etc.
  • Detailed perspective on national results from Volume I & II


DestinationMAP 2015 was released this fall.  Contact me for further details –  Kelsey Waite, STR Business Development Associate, Destinations
Email: kwaite@str.com
Tel: +1 (615) 824 8664 x3458