Why Education Meetings Are Attracted to Grand Rapids, Michigan

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Amway Grand Plaza Hotel
The Imperial Ballroom at Amway Grand Plaza Hotel
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Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids caters to high amount of education meetings due to its central location, vast array of meeting space and breakouts, attractive pricing, and wide collections of amenities.

The 682-room Amway Grand Plaza Hotel is part of the Amway Hotel Collection, including two sister properties that planners can activate on the same master: the 337-room JW Marriott Grand Rapids and 214-room Downtown Courtyard by Marriott.

Together they offer 337,000 sf of meeting space and 11 restaurants. All of that room and space inventory is attractive to education meetings says Ron Brondyke, VP & corporate director of sales of Amway Hotel Collection. We spoke with him on the phone to learn a little more about the hotel group’s value proposition for education meetings.

Prevue: How do you sell Amway Hotel Collection to planners in the education sector?

Ron Brondyke: Education groups, in general, are groups that generally require a lot of meeting space. That’s the nature of the organizations, and they especially need a lot of breakouts. When you mention the need for a lot of breakouts in the convention industry, a lot of your convention hotels will turn and run, and they won’t look back. They don’t want to embrace what we refer to as “space hogs” in the industry, but we look at this differently.

We look at the education market, and say, “Look, if you can meet between these dates—January, February, March or the first 14 days of November, or some time period where we have windows—we will give you the enormous amount of breakout space that you need to make your convention successful.”

Prevue: How many breakouts do you have?

Brondyke: We have 36 breakouts on-property at the Amway Grand Plaza, and 682 rooms. So, as long as they buy the majority of our inventory, we’ll offer our breakout space to their convention.

Prevue: How has selling and promoting to education meetings evolved over the years?

Brondyke: We’ve got a long history of doing business in the education market, and this goes back to our partnerships with organizations like the Michigan Association of Education of Young Children, Michigan Science Teachers and Michigan Reading Association. So we approach the state associations, and say, “Listen, the format that we have for you works so well. We’ve been doing business for 20 years. Would you please extend an invitation to the national organizations?”

That’s sort of a sales technique that we use here to get the national programs to come in. Then, we’ll bring in our other two sister hotels that are attached to us, the JW Marriott and the Courtyard by Marriott, and that will give us the inventory we need.

Prevue: Are you seeing more education groups partner with local industry, local businesses? Is there an evolution anywhere there?

BrondykeA lot of their partnerships are driven by their exhibit base. In education, an exhibitor can be anything that will teach a child to read better, or games and toys that educate young children. For a lot of them today, education is shifting to technology in training and teaching students. We see more involvement by our big technology companies, like the big computer companies, software companies that are writing programs to help students learn to read, and things like that.

Now what happens, and the reason they need all that breakout space, is they deliver all these papers. They do all these studies, and so it’s not unusual where they’ll come in and say, “I’m going to have 30 breakouts, so we’re going to be delivering different papers on education, and what’s working here and what’s not working here.” That’s why having the breakout space for the education market is critical if you want to attract them to your city.

Prevue: When you mention all of these computing companies, are these companies that have offices in Grand Rapids or the state?

BrondykeNo, they’re national. They’re both your software and your hardware companies, people that are manufacturing tablets, laptops and hard drive computers. They’re installing them in classrooms today, and this is the education model that is showing up in the exhibit base for all of our education exhibitors.

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