The trend toward more regional meetings, which began after September 11, appears to be taking off this year. As a result, places that were never on meeting planners' radar screens before are popping up with new convention centers and hotels.

"Companies have found [regional meetings] cost-effective in the sense that it eliminates airfare from the equation," says Michael Schron, manager of new business development at Robert P. Schron Associates Ltd., New York, a meeting and incentive services firm. "They found that they can save a lot of money.”

This trend is driving business to certain smaller cities and regions. “They’re hungry, they’re building their facilities and infrastructure, and they’re becoming players,” says Tim Brown, president, Meeting Sites Resource, Newport Beach, Calif.

In the Northeast, areas like Southeastern Connecticut and the Adirondack region of New York have seen huge growth in regional meetings. Southeastern Connecticut, home of Mystic, Foxwoods Resort & Casino and Mohegan Sun casino, was the fifth most popular destination in the Northeast in terms of inquiries from meeting planners, according to the Connecticut East CVB. And on the West Coast, the resort town of Park City, Utah, experienced a marked increase in corporate meetings—63% of business in the first quarter of 2004, compared to 48% in the same period last year.

For more, see the June issue of Corporate Meetings & Incentives.