Driving Awareness

Drive-to Meetings are Hitting the Gas
By Ruth A. Hill

Given the current climate of rising air fares and hotel rates—as well as companies’ continued efforts to reduce costs—drive-to meetings have never looked better.

A recent annual American Express Global Business Travel Forecast reports travel costs for businesses will continue to increase in 2012 as suppliers grapple with rising expenses like oil prices, which impact air fares and other energy usage.

“Business travel is essential to both global economic performance and business growth, so we expect demand and price management to push rates up across the board in 2012,” says Christa Degnan Manning, director of Expert Insights research, American Express Global Business Travel.

Destinations nationwide with good surface access, affordability and proximity to major urban centers are among second- and third-tier locations that have excellent appeal for groups going into 2012. Meetings Focus recently talked with some destinations that are well positioned to gain meeting business next year.


The famed Texas Hill Country has a lot going for business visitors, and the region’s centerpiece​—Fredericksburg—is within an hour’s drive of both Austin and San Antonio.

Because of the city’s German heritage and World War II attractions, historic lodgings, surprising array of restaurants (for a city of 8,000) and outdoor activity options in the nearby hills, Fredericksburg boasts a cache that’s attracting more groups. Clients such as Dell Inc. and state associations like Texas Bankers Association enjoy diversions such as more than a dozen wineries, boutique shopping and live music spots.

“We are seeing more and more groups that want a small-town, retreat atmosphere,” says Laurie Hartz, senior sales manager for the Fredericksburg CVB. “Others who come to us want to avoid the bustle of a large city when they meet.”

Planner Tracy Brown, director of administration for the Texas Young Lawyers Association, supports that assertion. “When I put a meeting of 80 people in Fredericksburg recently, we found it to be convenient for everyone, whether they flew into Austin or San Antonio, or drove in. It’s pretty direct from either city, with no need to navigate a lot of highways in the process. It was also wonderful to have the small town atmosphere. People tend to stay with the group and don’t wander off as they usually do in the large cities.”

The ideal meetings group for Fredericksburg is around 200 people, Hartz says. The city’s largest hotel, the Inn on Barons Creek, features 90 guest suites and 4,000 square feet of meeting space in its adjacent conference center. Or smaller groups can sleep in the unique 50- room WWII-themed Hangar Hotel at the airport, with an attached conference center for 400 guests.

Excerpt from Driving Awareness – Meetingsfocus.com; Ruth A. Hill, 12/11