Q&A: Barrie Perks of CincyUSA Talks Value

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Cincinnati developments, meetings
Duke Energy Convention Center; photo credit: Duke Energy Convention Center Management

Cincinnati is in the midst of an incredible run, with an estimated $2 billion investment flooding into the city’s downtown core.

If you ask Barrie Perks, VP of sales and services with the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau, this is just the beginning in terms of exciting Cincinnati developments that planners can look forward to.

How would you define Cincinnati’s value proposition to meeting planners?

Perks: Cincinnati is on an incredible run, and is without a doubt a convention city. Our city has a compact and walkable downtown, which makes it convenient for attendees to easily move from the Duke Energy Convention Center to their hotels and throughout the city center. The explosion of new hotel properties and high-end restaurants, paired with Cincinnati’s accessible location, help make it an optimal host for a convention. Plus, the abundance of free events throughout the city, including fitness classes at Washington Park or concerts at Fountain Square, are a perfect addition to any meeting or convention’s programming.

Cincinnati’s hospitality industry works at accommodating guests’ needs. People here are friendly and, more often than not, offer to help even before visitors ask for it. This area’s commitment to hospitality and its compact size allow conferences and conventions to make an impact and ‘own the city.’ We are able to offer the big city experiences and amenities that people love without the hassle or anonymity that comes with big city meetings.

Have you noticed any meetings and incentives trends emerging for 2017?

More and more, the high cost of internet is becoming a concern as it relates to those who use convention centers. Meeting planners are looking for hotels, convention centers or CVBs to underwrite the cost of internet or to find ways to fix the high costs. We’ve already seen hotels making moves toward wrapping internet costs into their rates or offering a minimal fee for internet access. Offering internet as an incentive is a trend that has increasingly been of interest to meeting planners, and we will continue to see that over time.

We have also seen that groups are wanting to give back to the communities that they’re visiting during their meetings or conventions. They want to leave their mark and help make an impact on the community. This is especially prevalent in corporate meetings, or with high profile groups. For example, last summer when we hosted the MLB All-Star Game in Cincinnati, several visitors with Major League Baseball worked with underprivileged inner-city kids and invested in community development initiatives to help makeover a local baseball field, benefit a new Boys and Girls Club and help fund an MLB Urban Youth Academy.

If a group had only a few hours of downtime, what hyperlocal, hands-on experiences would you recommend they try?

Beyond the convention footprint, Cincinnati is a city of diverse and unique neighborhoods. The Banks Entertainment District on the Ohio Riverfront and Cincinnati’s historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood are both within a short walk or quick ride on the new Cincinnati Bell Connector streetcar.

American Legacy Tours, located in Over-the-Rhine, offers a unique tour of the historic Cincinnati neighborhood and its multitude of restaurants, bars, entertainment and shopping options, including a descent into the underground lager tunnels that help tell the story of Cincinnati’s brewing heritage.

During baseball season, no visit to Cincinnati is complete without a trip to Great American Ball Park to catch a game from America’s oldest professional team, the Cincinnati Reds. After the game, a stroll through the new Smale Riverfront Park along the Ohio River provides spectacular views of downtown Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, plus the chance to be a kid again at the glass-enclosed Carol Ann’s Carousel.

Wrap up the evening at Fountain Square in the heart of downtown with free programming, including concerts or a salsa dancing night where hundreds of Cincinnati locals and visitors alike dance and celebrate the vibrancy of Cincinnati’s city center.

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