SUZZANNE: What makes El Paso a great meeting destination?
BROOKE: El Paso is currently in the midst of a downtown renaissance and is experiencing unprecedented growth and development. The city you may think you know has changed dramatically in the last five years and will continue to do so thanks, in part, to a Quality of Life bond which will give half a billion dollar investment to El Paso. This has allowed El Paso to attract major hotel projects like the current construction of an Aloft, the new Hotel Indigo, a $75 million renovation to the historical Camino Real Hotel, a $97 million dollar Street Car project, new museums, public art projects, new parks including the redesign of the San Jacinto Plaza, a zoo expansion, libraries and even a new skate park!
SUZZANNE: What is the one thing planners are always surprised to learn about the El Paso area?
BROOKE: Most meeting planners do not realize how large El Paso is. We are actually the 19th largest city in the U.S and the 6th largest in Texas! We are also the only city in Texas that is in Mountain Time zone and the only one that has a mountain range in the middle of it, allowing for amazing views from almost anywhere in the city.
SUZZANNE: What might we find you enjoying in the destination on your day off?
BROOKE: El Paso is a mecca for the outdoor enthusiast! People come from all over the world to go mountain biking, climbing and hiking here. We also boast a brand new Triple-A ballpark that has been named “Ballpark of the Year” by baseballparks.com and Baseball Digest. I personally enjoy visiting some of our local vineyards and sampling the unique and savory wines produced in our climate. However, none of this could happen without our incredible year round weather with over 300 days of sunshine!
SUZZANNE: What are a couple of your favorite places to dine or get a drink?
BROOKE: El Paso is a foodie’s paradise! Being the “Mexican Food Capital of America” and “Birthplace of the Margarita,” I love frequenting renowned Mexican restaurants like the famous L&J and Carlos & Mickeys that not only have some of the most authentic Mexican food but also amazing drinks. I also enjoy other incredible restaurants such as Café Central, Circa 1963, and Anson 11.
SUZZANNE: What do you see trending in the meeting’s market? How is your CVB proactively addressing this trend or staying current?
BROOKE: As an industry, we are seeing a shift in what we call ‘The Rise of Independent Social Travel’, or as the rest of us call them, ‘Millennials.’ As we all know, millennials want a completely different travel experience then the Gen-Xers do in almost every way. In the past we would work with people that want you to tell them where to go, eat and stay, and then want it printed out and laminated. We see now that visitors want to know where the locals go, ‘is there an app for that?’ and ‘what are the reviews?’ before they step foot into a convention center, hotel, restaurant or local attraction. With all of this in mind we have changed our marketing strategy to catch the eye of those travelers. We feel that our ‘You Better El Paso Up’ campaign does just that and, in a way, pokes fun at some other destinations idea of authentic or real adventure.
SUZZANNE: What is an innovative service offering at the CVB?
BROOKE: We are very proud of our website and interactive app that has features that no other DMO offers. It becomes your complete guide for a memorable visit to El Paso. We even help you out with features like “Day Trips” and our visitor “tour” tabs that guide you through what to do in El Paso. But our most unique feature on our app allows you to FaceTime with one of our visitor center staff to answer any questions or inquires you may have about your visit. I mean let’s be honest, sometimes we all have questions that only a person can answer, so we provide this service to help you find restaurants, hotels or even if you are lost you can just FaceTime with us and we will walk you through it, pretty cool huh?
SUZZANNE: What’s the latest news, developments, or events in your destination you’d like to share with planners?
BROOKE: El Paso is constantly in the news for being at the top of the list for everything you can imagine! For example we have been recognized for being “#1 Most Affordable City in Texas”-fixr.com/tx, “#4 Least Expensive U.S. Metro City for Conducting Business”- Wall Street Journal, but our most recent accolade was the #2 ranking on Meetings & Conventions “2016 Top Meeting Cities for Conferences.” The list is based on nine factors: the number of hotels in the city, the number of midsize and large hotels; the average room rate, including taxes and fees, from 2015; the average cost of a three-course meal for one person at a midrange restaurant as of October 2016; the distance between each city’s downtown area and the closest major airport, in miles, and how long it would take to drive from each city to the closest airport; the number of violent crimes per 100,000 people in 2014; and the number of restaurants, bars and other entertainment establishments as a percentage of all businesses in the city.
SUZZANNE: What size/type of meetings fit best in your destination?
BROOKE: We are the perfect size for all types and sizes of meetings and do well in the state association market. Our convention center has a total of 133,000 SqFt, including 80,000 SqFt of column-free space. We have the capability of hosting small intimate meetings all the way up to hosting the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships in which we hosted 75,000 individuals and transformed our Convention Center into a bowling mecca. Additionally we offer a number of unique venues all within close walking distance of the convention center. These venues include theaters, beautiful outdoor space, museums, and more! With more than 9,300 hotel rooms, and even more on the way, we can offer the convenience of being walking distance to your hotel room and meeting space, the best of both worlds!
Take note, El Paso is America’s next great meeting hub!