"Indy’s hospitable nature is just in our DNA, it is part of the fabric of our city."
Daren Kingi, Senior Vice President of Sales with Visit Indy provides some great insights to Suzzanne Ravitz of Destination Marketing Association International into just what makes Indianapolis a unique destination to hold a meeting. With a wealth of experience in the hospitality industry, it’s obvious how much he loves representing Indianapolis and sharing all that the city has to offer its visitors.
SUZZANNE: Where would we find you on a typical Saturday?
DAREN: I try to spend as much time with family as possible on the weekends. Once in a while, you’ll find me driving to the coast to catch some waves. Really! Not too long ago I drove to New Jersey and back in a day just to surf.
SUZZANNE: Outside the industry, what is your dream job?
DAREN: Although motivating is a part of my role as a sales leader, I would love to be a motivational speaker, encouraging individuals to find and follow their passions and achieve their goals. Or to be a professional surfer, which I almost did back in the day.
SUZZANNE: First, tell me a little about yourself and your background in the CVB industry.
DAREN: I began my career in the hospitality industry nearly 30 years ago, most recently serving as vice president of sales, Western Mountain Pacific Area, for Marriott International, where I was responsible for 65 hotels in five states. When I joined the Visit Indy team in 2014 as Senior VP of Sales, it was my first sales leadership position with a CVB/DMO, but selling and marketing the destinations where my hotels were was part of my responsibility while at Marriott, as well as during my time with Hilton, so it was a natural fit.
SUZZANNE: What makes Indianapolis a great meeting destination?
DAREN: This city was designed for meetings and events. Everything a planner or attendee could want is within walking distance of 7,100 hotel rooms and 749,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space at the Indiana Convention Center & Lucas Oil Stadium. We also offer more hotel rooms connected to the center by enclosed walkways than any other city, which eliminates shuttles, improves networking, and enhances attendee engagement.
Indy is also easy to get to, easy to get around, and has earned a reputation for being exceptionally welcoming and friendly to visitors known as Hoosier hospitality.
SUZZANNE: What is the ONE THING planners are always surprised to learn about Indy?
DAREN: How much our city has to offer in such a convenient package. Although we host major conventions and events all the time, our infrastructure and capacity to host, as well as our restaurants and cultural attractions, surprise many who are visiting for the first time.
SUZZANNE: How do you see the value you provide to planners as a CVB?
DAREN: We are a one-stop-shop for Indianapolis resources to make planning easier and save planners time. We all know planners wear many hats and juggle numerous responsibilities, and we are here as Indy experts to assist with everything from site visit itineraries and sourcing hotel blocks to identifying event space and contracting caterers.
SUZZANNE: What do you think are the advantages to reaching out to a CVB first when planning a meeting?
DAREN: Visit Indy has a pulse on events going on in the city and can be a great resource for managing event dates, finding space, sourcing hotel availability, and all other event needs.
SUZZANNE: What size/type of meetings best fit in your destination?
DAREN: Indy is a great host city for conventions and events of 75,000+, but we also excel at board meetings and executive retreats, and everything in between. We have 33,000 hotel rooms in the metro area and experience hosting a Super Bowl, seven NCAA Men’s Final Fours, and the world’s largest single-day sporting event – the Indy 500, which welcomes over 250,000 visitors each May. If we can host these blockbuster events, we are confident we can host your meeting!
SUZZANNE: What are the latest developments/happenings/events in your destination you’d like to share with our readers?
DAREN: Indianapolis is always changing, it’s truly a city on the move. We have $130 million in hotel product in the pipeline, including a 21c Museum Hotel that will incorporate a renovation of our grand Old City Hall. This hotel will anchor Indy’s new $225 million Market East district development, which also includes 150,000 sq. ft. of new office space, 100,000 sq. ft. of new retail space, 800 residential units, and the city’s new public transit hub.
SUZZANNE: What motivates you to provide the excellent service you are known for?
DAREN: Based on the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed by Indiana’s lawmakers in March, which we were relieved was amended April 2, we are motivated to ensure all are welcomed. This amended law now aligns with Indianapolis’ longstanding Human Rights Ordinance, protecting gender identity and sexual orientation. We’ve been working hard to make sure planners know the bill was amended and that Indy welcomes all.
Indy’s hospitable nature is just in our DNA, it is part of the fabric of our city. Our hospitality community, volunteers, and residents all take great pride in the city and enjoy the opportunity to showcase it to visitors. We strive to make sure each and every visitor has a memorable time here and wants to return.
SUZZANNE: What would you like all planners to know about Visit Indy and Indianapolis?
DAREN: If you haven’t been to Indianapolis, you need to see it first-hand! When I host visitors for the first time, they are always amazed at everything Indy offers. Our convention center, hotels, restaurants, entertainment, and attractions are all within walking distance of each other. It’s an unbeatable combination of connectivity and convenience.