When it comes to planning meetings, Sue Story, CMP, doesn’t take many chances, but she admits it took confidence to take 180 employees of Orenda International to the new Omni San Diego Hotel in its second week of operation in April 2004.

“It’s always risky to book a brand new property because they aren’t familiar with your expectations. But the Omni staff worked as a team to make our meeting a success. For the first time in 18 years of managing events, I didn’t receive a single complaint.”

Orenda International, a 3-year-old consumer products company, made full use of the downtown hotel’s services, including its audiovisual and catering departments, for the four-day training seminar, which was capped by an awards celebration.

“Our attendees said they had never experienced such delicious food at a hotel,” says Story, who worked with the Omni’s concierge to also book off-site activities and events. “The San Diego Padres were playing the Arizona Diamondbacks across the street at PETCO Park that weekend, which was a perfect fit for our attendees, since Orenda is headquartered in Tempe, Arizona.”

She says the Omni’s spacious guest rooms, access to transportation, on-site restaurants, and the baseball-themed memorabilia on display throughout the hotel were a hit with attendees.

From a planner’s perspective, Story appreciates San Diego’s reliable weather and convenient flight service, as well as the closeness of the airport, restaurants, water sports, and major attractions to the city’s hotels. “There are so many wonderful hotels in San Diego,” she says. “It’s just the perfect destination.”

Corporate meeting and incentive planners will also enjoy the ease of online access to the multitude of services offered by San Diego’s convention and visitors bureau and convention center.

One of the CVB’s newest offerings is iService, a program that allows planners to automatically receive customized destination information at specified intervals using criteria that is pre-selected by the planner. Another program, iLead, provides an interactive connection among meeting planners, hotels, and the bureau, allowing leads and proposals to be managed efficiently. Other services offered by the CVB include an attendance promotion online toolkit and a meeting attendee Web site.

Another resource is the San Diego Convention Center with its in-house team of convention services managers. The convention center offers 615,701 square feet of exhibit space; 204,114 square feet of meeting space; 284,494 square feet of pre-function, lobby, and registration space; and the 90,000-square-foot Sails Pavilion for exhibits, receptions, and special events. Story recommends that planners seeking hotels in downtown San Diego book their space as early as possible. “Plan ahead,” she says, “because the Omni, for example, books up very quickly due to its great location near PETCO Park, the convention center, Gaslamp Quarter, shopping, and restaurants. Your attendees will have everything within walking distance.”