by Deanna Ting | August 11, 2015
Cvent has revealed its annual list of the "Top 50 Cities for Meetings and Events in the United States," based on meeting and event booking activity conducted through the Cvent Supplier Network, which sourced more than $8 billion in meetings and events in 2014.

This year's list saw a number of top cities back on the list, including the top city, Orlando. While Orlando was ranked No. 2 last year, it reclaimed the No. 1 ranking this year. Las Vegas climbed up one spot this year from 2014, and the top city in 2014 -- Chicago -- dropped to No. 3 this year. New Orleans, which was ranked ninth last year, did not make this year's top 10, but Phoenix, which was ranked No. 11 in 2014, rose to the top 10 this year. Nashville also climbed one spot from 2014.

The top 10 cities for 2015 are as follows:
1. Orlando, FL
2. Las Vegas, NV
3. Chicago, IL
4. San Diego, CA
5. Atlanta, GA
6. Washington, D.C.
7. New York, NY
8. Dallas, TX
9. Nashville, TN
10. Phoenix, AZ

One trend of note in this year's ranking was the popularity of smaller cities. Several smaller cities that include Pittsburgh, PA; Jacksonville, FL; Tucson, AZ; and Charleston, SC, also made it on this year's list of the top 50, displacing cities such as Carlsbad, CA; Newport Beach, CA; Chandler, AZ and Alexandria, VA. Austin; Charlotte, NC; and Tampa, FL, climbed to higher positions within the list this year, while markets near major cities like Fort Worth, TX and Coronado, CA, slipped in their rankings.
"Competition for meetings and conventions business continues to be very heated between destinations that are eager to attract events to boost their local economies," noted Bharet Malhotra, senior vice president of sales for the Cvent Supplier Network, in a press statement. "This year we witnessed several cities jockeying for a position in the top 50 list, with significant movement within the ranks. One of the interesting trends this year has been the rise of smaller cities moving ahead of and even displacing destinations that are near large metro areas but not downtown."

Why are smaller cities growing in popularity? More investment in infrastructure and attractions, as well as property renovations, says Kevin Fliess, vice president of Cvent Supplier Network Product Marketing. Fliess told Incentive, "It's investment in infrastructure, price competitiveness, and the unique experiences that those different destinations can offer. Growth of room inventory is a fourth component. As destinations continue to invest in hotels, that opens them up to better accommodate larger groups." 

In particular, Fliess said the rise in rankings for Charleston, SC, and Tucson, AZ, are examples of planners' desires for unique destinations that offer up a variety of experiences for groups. "Both are fantastic  leisure destinations with a lot to offer visitors, but maybe historically haven't been thought of as meeting and event destinations," he said. "Those two cities have made the list this year, which is terrific, and that speaks to a couple things: the investment in infrastructure in those destinations, and the fact that planners and attendees are looking for experiences. Both of these cities are very different destinations, but what they have in common is a very unique value proposition for attendees. Charleston is steeped in tradition, and has a historic waterfront and some incredible cuisine. You can't beat the outdoor activities in Tucson. Planners are looking to put their attendees in these interesting locations because it's not just about content of the event, but about those experiences you can have while you're there, and what the destination has to offer."
This year was the fourth year that Cvent has compiled the annual list of top U.S. cities. To put together this year's Top 50, Cvent evaluated more than 5,000 U.S. cities featured on its Cvent Supplier Network of more than 218,000 hotels, resorts, and special event venues, tracking activity from July 2014 to June 2015. Rankings were determined by a set of qualifying criteria consisting of:
· Unique request for proposals (RFPs) received
· Total room nights
· Awarded RFPs
· Awarded room nights
· Percentage of qualified meeting venues
· Number of profile views

Fliess also believes that this year's survey -- as well as the amount of money sourced through the Cvent Hospitality Cloud overall last year -- is proof that more planners are going online to source for their meetings and events. "We had 20-plus percent growth in sourcing volume on the network in the last year -- that just speaks to online adoption, and it continues to grow and grow," he noted. "A lot of that is just fueled by a new generation of planners coming online who are digital natives and have grown up using the Web. This e-generation is starting and ending their days online. That's what's largely driving sourcing growth through digital channels like Cvent.

Click here for Cvent's full list of the "Top 50 Cities for Meetings & Events in the U.S.," or see below:

2015 Top 50 Cities for Meetings and Events in the U.S.
1. Orlando
2. Las Vegas
3. Chicago
4. San Diego
5. Atlanta
6. Washington
7. New York
8. Dallas
9. Nashville
10. Phoenix
11. Miami
12. New Orleans
13. Denver
14. San Francisco
15. San Antonio
16. Boston
17. Austin
18. Scottsdale
19. Houston
20. Los Angeles
21. Philadelphia
22. Seattle
23. Grapevine
24. Kissimmee
25. Charlotte
26. Tampa
27. Anaheim
28. Minneapolis
29. St. Louis
30. Baltimore
31. Indianapolis
32. Fort Lauderdale
33. Fort Worth
34. Rosemont
35. National Harbor
36. Arlington
37. Hollywood
38. Kansas City
39. Irving
40. Portland
41. Columbus
42. San Jose
43. Pittsburgh
44. Coronado
45. Louisville
46. Salt Lake City
47. Jacksonville
48. Tucson
49. Long Beach
50. Charleston