Between the Presidential Inauguration on January 20th, the parade that followed, multiple evening galas, and the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday the 21st, it is estimated that over one million visitors traveled to Washington DC to attend these events.
The net economic results (no matter where you stand) yielded sold out hotel rooms in Washington, DC, overflowing restaurants and heavily used transportation systems, including trains, the metro railway, busses and taxis.
So, what can planners learn from all of this? Smart Meetings came out with their lessons to learn a few days before the inauguration. Here is a synopsis of their thoughts along with my own takeaways – now that the 58th inauguration is in the books.
- Book early.
If your attendees wait until the last minute to book their rooms, let them know the guaranteed room block will not be available forever. All planners have a cut-off date to return the unused room block to the hotel. It is important to give attendees a sense of urgency to reserve their rooms to avoid high costs and frustration because inventory could be low.
The inauguration is a great example. On December 1, with 15% of hotel rooms left in DC, the cost of an average hotel room was $500 per night. By December 20, the availability was 9% and the room charge per night jumped to $700. And one day before the inauguration, with less than 1% availability, the room charges jumped to around $900 per night.
- Make sure you have enough security.
With active shooters, fires and bombings, is it any wonder why attendees get nervous when large crowds gather? Several federal agencies worked together to protect President Trump, his family and entourage and the attending public.
Attendees want to feel safe at their meeting or convention as well. When on your site visit, ask about the use of surveillance cameras (whether anyone is watching them on a real-time basis) and if they use drones to monitor suspicious activity.
In addition, according to SpinGo, 33% of attendees feel more secure when they see security personnel, especially if they’re positioned at the entrance of the meeting. Think about using one or more security officers for your next event.
- Look hard at transportation.
According to Allianz Global Assistance, Washington DC saw a 222% increase in travelers before, during and after the inauguration. With more than 100 blocks closed off, visitors needed to know how to get around the city and have transportation options.
Transportation for your event needs to be planned. Is parking expensive and/or limited where your meeting will be held? If so, perhaps you encourage attendees to fly, go by bus or train to your conference. Arrange for shuttle service every half-hour at the various points. If parking is free and available, encourage people to drive to the location. Have a transportation plan and communicate it often to attendees.
- Embrace technology.
On Inauguration Day, technology allowed 40 governmental agencies to create an interactive map displaying important information to visitors, such as:
- The ability to show street closings and openings as they occurred
- Location of medical aid, police and fire stations
- Public transportation stations
- The parade route and where it was on the route
- Location of bike-sharing spots, for-hire ride sharing and taxi locations
These abilities are important to meeting attendees as well. They want to use event technology rentals to know what is happening at the event in real-time. To understand where to go if they need assistance, what their transportation options are and the ability to book any attractions they want to visit while in they are in the vicinity is extremely valuable.
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