Mastering The Medical Industry: Lessons in meeting success from three diverse cities

As the market for medical industry meetings and conferences continues to grow, how are cities across the U.S. taking advantage of this trend?

MeetMed spoke with meeting and tourism professionals in Indianapolis, Baltimore and Pittsburgh to learn how they have found success attracting medical industry groups to their cities.

GETTING THE WORD OUT

Medical meetings and events are held by organizations such as pharmaceutical manufacturers; hospitals; doctors’ and nurses’ societies; and medical technology, device and equipment companies. These organizations have their own special venue and technology needs, and tourism offices are tailoring their marketing efforts to reach these specific audiences.

“Visit Indy partners with our hotels and robust medical community including [pharmaceutical firm] Eli Lilly and Co., the Indiana University Health system, Indiana University School of Medicine and others to attract medical groups to Indianapolis,” says Lisa Wallace, senior communications manager for conventions and meetings at Visit Indy, Indianapolis’ convention and visitors’ bureau.

One of Visit Indy’s national sales managers also has earned MPI’s Healthcare Meeting Compliance Certificate to better understand the transparency, spend and reporting requirements of meetings in this industry.

Baltimore benefits naturally from having a large presence of local medical organizations based in its metro area. “We serve as a conduit to all of the local relevant and intellectual capital in the Baltimore region,” says Amy Calvert, CTA, senior vice president of convention sales and services at Visit Baltimore. “We also are incorporating our ‘Meet Local’ sales initiative to attract local medical institutions such as University of Maryland School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and MedStar and LifeBridge [health systems], to hold
their meetings and corporate events locally in Baltimore.” Meeting planners also can tap into institutions such as the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University to find health-industry speakers for events held locally.

Calvert also points to Visit Baltimore’s “My Bmore” advertising campaign as a recent initiative to attract companies to Charm City. The campaign includes Baltimore personalities such as retired Baltimore Orioles player Cal Ripken Jr.; Kevin Plank, founder of the Under
Armour apparel company; actress Julie Bowen; and musical artist Common to market Baltimore to potential meeting professionals and attendees.

Karl Pietrzak, CDME, CASE, vice president of convention sales at Visit Pittsburgh, said his organization targets several market segments when promoting the city as a destination, but national associations—including many in the medical field—are some of the most productive in bringing meetings to the city.

Visit Pittsburgh also works to attract businesses locally, and has a staff member devoted to this effort. “This person works extensively with local corporations, hospitals, the University of Pittsburgh and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center,” Pietrzak says. “Through her efforts, we work to meet local residents who are members of corporations and large associations, and we work with them to promote Pittsburgh for future meetings.”

To attract new business, Visit Pittsburgh’s team invests in print and digital advertising, and team members attend about 25 trade shows and industry conferences each year, where they meet in person with meeting planners.

MEDICAL MEETINGS MATTER

The annual economic impact of medical meetings and events is significant. According to MPI data, about 1.8 million total meetings and events take place in the U.S. annually, accounting for about $280 billion in spending. And the health-care sector makes up about one sixth of the American economy, so its meetings carry significant weight in the industry.

Calvert of Visit Baltimore says that since 2011, that city has hosted 40 to 60 medical meetings each year. “Baltimore is and always has been a strong draw for medical and health care-related meetings due to the international and national recognition of our medical institutions and universities,” she says. “According to the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore (EAGB), more than 189,000 people here are employed in our health-care services industry,” so that creates significant opportunities for medical meeting business.

Calvert notes that the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan region is among the top five “BioHealth Hubs” in the nation, meaning it ranks highly in medical employment, number of health science firms, and life science venture capital investment. The EAGB also ranks the state of Maryland fourth in the nation in research and development expenditures at colleges and universities, in the amount of $3.41 billion. “Local hospitals and research facilities also have convenient, daily access to key federal agencies to facilitate the drug approval process,” Calvert says, so the region is conducive to research and development.

Visit Pittsburgh’s Pietrzak says that city has hosted an average of 25 medical industry meetings each year for the past five years, ranging in size from 20 to 3,000 attendees. Organizations that recently have met in Pittsburgh include the American Association of Immunologists, National Student Nurses Association, American Cancer Society, Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals, and the Medtronic Inc. medical device firm.

“Medical groups are important to the Pittsburgh region because they bring recognition to our area and to the hospitals, universities and medical facilities here and the work they are doing,” Pietrzak says. “They are also a major source of economic impact to our region, and help to support thousands of Pittsburgh residents who work in our hotels, restaurants and attractions.”

Indianapolis has seen similar impact from this market segment. “Visit Indy’s mission is to increase the economic growth of the city by selling the destination for conventions, meetings, Indianapolis has seen similar impact from this market segment. “Visit Indy’s mission is to increase the economic growth of the city by selling the destination for conventions, meetings, events, and leisure travelers – and
medical meetings play a key role in that growth,” says Visit Indy’s Wallace. “We have seen increased interest from medical groups looking to meet in Indy, and our pipeline in this sector is very strong.”

Groups that Visit Indy hosted this year, and that have booked into the future, include the American Academy of Physician Assistants, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Association for Respiratory Care, American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses, American Academy of Audiology, and others. Many of their gatherings are flagship events including annual meetings and conferences, and their group
sizes range from 200 to 13,500 attendees.

CULTURE AND CONVENIENCE

As in other industries, the availability of local meeting facilities, lodging options, cultural attractions and cuisine plays a role in attracting organizations from medical fields.

“Baltimore has a long-standing reputation as an ideal destination for this segment,” Calvert says. She described a recent event for the American Association of Medical Society Executives (AAMSE), in which attendees experienced an authentic crab feast held in the newly renovated Baltimore Visitors Center in the city’s Inner Harbor district. “This special event was a unique opportunity to welcome executives
and showcase Baltimore before the organization’s 2016 annual meeting, which also was held here,” she says.

Calvert cites the area’s many cultural attractions as additional reasons companies are drawn to the city. These include the Walters Art
Museum, Baltimore Museum of Art, and the American Visionary Art Museum, as well as diverse historical neighborhoods and a growing culinary scene with James Beard Award-caliber chefs.

“Pittsburgh recently was named the ‘No. 1 Food City in the U.S.’ by Zagat,” says Pietrzak of his city, whose downtown area counts more than 200 restaurants. Additional amenities in the area include a downtown cultural district with performing arts theaters, museums, art galleries and shops.

Convenience and aesthetics also play a large role in bringing medical meetings and conferences to a city, according to convention professionals.

“Destination-appeal enhancements such as boutique hotels complement our terrific full-service hotel options,” Calvert says of Baltimore’s lodging options. “We have the Ivy Hotel, Hotel RL, and Hotel Indigo, and the soon-to-open Sagamore Pendry Hotel in Fells Point, as well as high-end hotels such as the Four Seasons and Hotel Monaco. We also have received national recognition as a waterfront destination from Fodor’s travel guides and Condé Nast.”

“Our city’s first-tier infrastructure, convenience, value and walkable design attract meetings to Indianapolis,” says Visit Indy’s Wallace. “We have more hotel rooms connected to a convention center by enclosed walkways than any other city – more than 4,700 rooms at 12 properties. USA Today named us the ‘No. 1 Convention City in the U.S.,’ and meeting decisionmakers have taken note.”

Pietrzak also cites location and reasonable meeting costs as benefits of holding medical events in Pittsburgh. “Our city is easy to get to, as it’s located within a 500-mile radius of more than 50 percent of the U.S. population,” he says. “And Pittsburgh is affordable when compared to other northeastern and mid-Atlantic cities.”

VARIED VENUES

Offering a variety of venue options is also key in attracting medical industry groups for meetings and conventions. “Pittsburgh appeals as a meeting destination to a wide spectrum of organizations due to the excellent meeting facilities found here,” Pietrzak says. “We have more than 20 first-class hotels in downtown Pittsburgh, within walking distance of the Gold and Platinum LEED-Certified David L. Lawrence Convention Center.”

Pietrzak says the area’s top convention hotels include the Westin Convention Center, the Omni William Penn, and the Wyndham Grand hotel, each capable of hosting meetings of 500 or more attendees. He cites the Andy Warhol Museum, Phipps Conservatory and Heinz
History Museum as popular off-site venues for medical groups.

“Medical meetings are looking for hotel options that offer unique experiences as well as excellent service, attention to detail, and state-of-the-art technology capabilities,” Calvert says. “Customization options, efficiency and responsiveness are also essential in facilities that host medical meetings. So is an understanding of the PhRMA Code on Interactions with Health-Care Professionals, Physician Payments Sunshine Act, and implications of medical meetings.”

While medical meeting sizes tend to vary in Baltimore, Calvert says the city has hosted sizeable corporate meetings at the Baltimore Convention Center and larger hotels, while small conferences have been held at boutique hotels and museums. And the Baltimore campus of the University of Maryland provides a variety of breakout rooms, lecture halls and classrooms.

Indianapolis, Baltimore and Pittsburgh are excellent examples of destinations that care about the medical meeting market and its benefits for local economies. Interested in learning more about cities that enjoy success with health-care meeting groups? Download Meetingsnet.com’s free survey report, “The Medical Meetings Landscape: Adapting, Surviving, Thriving.”

Lisa Lance is a freelance contributor in Baltimore, Md.

Contact information:
Amy Calvert, CTA

Senior vice president, convention sales and services
Visit Baltimore
(877) 225-8466
[email protected]
baltimore.org

Karl Pietrzak, CDME, CASE
Vice president, convention sales
Visit Pittsburgh
(412) 281-7711
[email protected]
www.visitpittsburgh.com

Lisa Wallace
Senior communications manager, conventions and meetings
Visit Indy
(800) 323-4639
[email protected]
www.visitindy.com

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