For meeting planners in search of an ideal walkable meeting destination, Knoxville is that place. Knoxville supplies attendees a steady stream of culture, meeting venues, and cuisine rooted in history and Southern hospitality. Today, we hear from Sarah Rowan, Senior Director of Sales with Visit Knoxville about unique spots to grab a meal or drink, what’s new in the destination and how they are putting together a fantastic convention package that is sure to wow.
SUZZANNE: What makes Knoxville a great meeting destination?
Knoxville is a great meeting destination for many reasons, but one of the best reasons is because of the people. Not only will you experience Southern hospitality in our hotels and at the Knoxville Convention Center, but the people are genuinely nice wherever you go! From a restaurant server to cab driver, our folks love visitors and go out of their way to make sure they enjoy their overall experience of Knoxville!
SUZZANNE: What is the one thing planners are always surprised to learn about the Knoxville area?
Planners are often surprised to learn how walkable our downtown is. With more than 75 restaurants, shops and entertainment options located all within one square mile of the Knoxville Convention Center, our downtown is safe and offers a variety of things to do. You can enjoy outdoor recreation at Volunteer Landing along the Tennessee River, walk to a downtown theater, and then enjoy a fun bowling experience at a brand-new boutique bowling alley all within blocks of each other.
SUZZANNE: What might we find you enjoying in the destination on your day off?
I love all the local shops and boutiques in our destination. You can find clothing and accessories, antiques, unique home goods and numerous art galleries throughout downtown. A perfect Saturday is spent grabbing coffee at one of our local spots, perusing downtown shops and visiting the Market Square Farmer’s Market, one of the largest markets in the Southeast.
SUZZANNE: What are a couple of your favorite places to dine or get a drink?
One of my all-time favorite downtown spots is the Peter Kern Library at the Oliver Hotel. The speak-easy style lounge has some of the best hand-crafted cocktails in the city. The secret entrance and creative cocktail menus strategically placed inside of old library books adds to the fun of this bar.
SUZZANNE: What do you see trending in the meeting’s market? How is your CVB proactively addressing this trend or staying current?
One of the trends we have seen here is a group’s need for an overall convention package that simplifies the process of contracting our convention center and multiple hotels for one program. We are assisting many groups that may be accustom to signing only one contract with a larger convention hotel in a tier-one city, but are now looking to mid-tier cities to place their programs.
We are streamlining the process here in our destination by working with planners to address all variables on the front end of the RFP process and to let them know what a convention center and 2-3 hotel event looks like in our city. We are constantly working with our center to offer realistic food and beverage minimums to keep space costs low, in addition to working with our hotel partners to offer rebates while still ensuring room rates are competitive to further offset expenses.
SUZZANNE: What is an innovative service offering at the CVB?
In 2016, Visit Knoxville launched an internal housing program that will be of value to current and future clients. Our housing system is an added value for conventions, sporting events, local festivals and more and works to assist planners by not only simplifying the process of contracts and management, but allows the best possible value for overall budget as we operate the entire process in house, which saves organizations’ money.
SUZZANNE: What’s the latest news, developments, or events in your destination you’d like to share with planners?
On April 1st, The Tennessean Personal Luxury Hotel opened its doors here in Knoxville. The 82-room hotel offers oversized guest rooms, fine linens, pillow-top mattresses, and marble floors; not to mention that 100% of the furniture in the hotel was sourced and made locally here in East Tennessee. The hotel also offers an impressive Governor’s suite with more than 1,600 square feet of space, complete with gas fire place, baby grand piano and 24-hour butler service. This is a fantastic new product for Knoxville, and on the group side of things, we see this filling the need for VIP or Board accommodations, as well as offering more options for hospitality and entertainment suites. This makes the third hotel connected to the Knoxville Convention Center via covered pedestrian walkway.
We are also very excited about the Fall 2017 opening of a 165 room Hyatt Place, located on Gay Street in the heart of the dining, entertainment, and arts districts. The hotel will combine history with modern amenities in the historic 100-year old Farragut Hotel building.
SUZZANNE: What size/type of meetings fit best in your destination?
Ideal size groups for Knoxville range from 250 attendees up to 2,500. Most of our full-service hotels have ample meeting space and sleeping rooms to accommodate groups up to 400 people. The Knoxville Convention Center serves as the cornerstone meeting facility of East Tennessee and sits adjacent to the picturesque World’s Fair Park. Offering 500,000 sq. ft. of total space, including a 28,000 square foot ballroom and 120,000 sq.ft exhibit hall, an additional 15+ breakouts allow for flexible options for many different setups and programs. With in-house catering, A/V and decorator services, planners truly have a one-stop shop for all their event needs.
There are a lot of connections here in Knoxville and East Tennessee that make us the ideal destination for educational, scientific and agricultural conferences. Knoxville is home to the University of Tennessee, Oak Ridge National Laboratories, Pilot Flying J, Scripps Networks Interactive, Tennessee Valley Authority and many more corporations that keep the economy booming. Planners often find great local speakers and off-site tour opportunities when hosting conferences here in Knoxville.
Thank you Sarah for talking with us today about the wonderful meeting opportunities that is available in Knoxville. For more information on Knoxville or 150+ other top meeting destinations, visit www.empowerMINT.com.