Monthly Archives: August 2019

“A” is for ASAE and August

Up, up and away at ASAE!
Maureen Pickell (aka your intrepid blogger) helps promote ConventionPlanit’s participation in IMEX America 2019

On our industry calendar, “A” is for August and the annual meeting and exposition of the American Society of Association Executives.  So off went your intrepid blogger to be counted in with the nearly 5,500 people, including 2,625 association executives, who descended on the Greater Columbus Convention Center in central Ohio from August 10 through 13.

Experience Columbus, the city’s CVB, recruited more than 600 local volunteers to assist with the event, easily the largest number of smiling faces that ASAE has ever recruited. And, even considering the “too many to count” ASAE annuals that I have attended, I didn’t realize that this event launched its 100th year! In recognition, ASAE offered more than 100 educational sessions along with two half-days of exhibit-hall time, where more than 700 destinations, hotels, tech companies, and other vendors networked with attendees.

As you may have noticed, this reporter is always on the lookout for something innovative which adds to the event. This year it was the addition (to the routine layout of a standard convention center) of a “Smart Farm” growing fresh herbs and produce. Located between exhibit halls, this concept is the first indoor, vertical, LED-lit hydroponic garden in a convention center. Attendees got to experience “farm to table” by adding a snippet of parsley, mint, kale or thyme to their bottled water for a flavor-infused drink!

This year the ASAE Exposition was busy as Association Executives and exhibitors interacted face to face to build business relationships. New energy was added to the trade show component through the 20-minute Express Talks presenting a single idea and offering practical tips through storytelling. These “quick bites” of learning accompanied the more traditional tasty quick bites being offered for lunch on the show floor., already known as a class act, had our very own Jeeves the Butler back again this year inviting planners to tour the website. Portrayed by Al Rickard of Association Vision, Al was a “vision” himself in an elegant tuxedo highlighting the ConventionPlanit trademarked RFP Valet service which helps planners simplify the tedious RFP process.

In attendance with me were a few of the Sales Managers.  Jo Ann Hoffman, Regional Director of Sales, Maryland joined Mara Hill Buckner, Regional Director of Sales, Chicago in staffing the booth.  Also, we noticed supplier members Visit Vail Valley, Boise Convention & Visitor Bureau and Tulalip Resort Casino along with Visit Anchorage and Memphis Tourism busy educating planners on their destinations and services.

Look for the ASAE’s centennial celebration at next year’s annual event in Las Vegas…see you all there!!

ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition Encourages Attendees to Learn and Play with Purpose

More than 5,400 association professionals and industry partners gathered in Columbus, OH, August 10–13, for the 2019 ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition. Participants heard from keynotes Jeremy Heimans & Henry Timms and Alton White, and participated in more than 110 education sessions, six game changers, and explored 710 booths featuring 445 companies in a packed expo hall.

The final attendance breakdown: 2,625 executives, 1,866 exhibitors, 985 others, including guests, spouses, press, vendors, and staff, for a grand total of 5,476.  The ratio of buyers to sellers was 58 percent buyers to 42 percent sellers.

“The theme for this year’s event of learn and play with purpose resonated in every aspect of the meeting.  From the design of the main stage and convention center, to the content covered by our speakers, attendees were compelled to consider new and inventive ways to do business within their own associations,” said Susan Robertson, CAE, Interim ASAE President & CEO. “The city of Columbus delivered an outstanding experience for our attendees. There is no doubt that our members have been treated to a unique experience that has left a lasting, positive impression of exactly what Columbus offers for their own meetings and events.”

General Sessions speakers Heimans and Timms challenged attendees to assess their organizations as they operate now, and then think of where they would like to be in five years.  Subsequently they introduced their model of new power, which is peer driven, and focused on how open collaboration can be implemented to move associations forward. They emphasized that any winning strategy is going to have new power at its heart.

For the closing keynote, White showcased his skills as a singer and performer to share an insightful and moving commentary that encouraged attendees to tap into their passions to find the courage to make it past the fear that is in the way of achieving their dreams.  He also discussed the importance of first and last impressions, trusting your instincts with forgiveness and compassion.

On Monday night The ASAE Foundation Classic was hosted by Experience Columbus at the Nationwide Arena and headlined by Ohio native John Legend, Attendees were treated to a night filled with performances by local singers, dancers, marching bands, and DJ’s.  The sold-out event had the highest attendance and revenue in the 13-year history of The Classic.

The six Game Changers featured Columbus locals Joe DeLoss, Founder of Hot Chicken Takeover and Jeni Britton Bauer, Founder and Chief Creative Officer, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. Additional Game Changers included Nadya Okamoto, Founder and Executive Director, PERIOD. The Menstrual Movement and author of the newly released book Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement along with Brant Menswar, CEO, Rock Star Impact,author of Rock’ N’ Roll With It: Overcoming the Challenge of Change; Erica Dhawan, Founder and CEO, Cotential, and co-author of the bestselling book Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connection Intelligence; and Alison Levine, team captain of the first American Women’s Everest Expedition, and author of On the Edge.

In addition to attendees volunteering their time at the Reeb Avenue Center, National Veterans Memorial and Museum, Netcare Access, CompDrug, and Maryhaven, ASAE raised over $30,000 for the Columbus Foundation’s Gifts of Kindness Fund.

Next year’s ASAE Annual Meeting will be in Las Vegas, Nevada, August 8-11, at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino.

ASAE thanks the following Alliance Partners for their continued support of the association community:

Strategic Partners
Atlanta CVB
Canada Business Events
Choose Chicago
Experience Columbus 
Community Brands
Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB  
Naylor Association Solutions
Discover Puerto Rico

Corporate Partners
Visit Austin
Visit Baltimore
Caesars Entertainment
Destination Cleveland
Visit Dallas  
DelCor Technology Solutions, Inc.
Louisville Tourism
Visit OmahaTravel Portland 
Visit Salt Lake

Visit San Jose

Event Partners
iMIS by Advanced Solutions International 
The Broadmoor 
CliftonLarsonAllen LLP 
Higher Logic
Open Water
The Palm Beaches
SunTrust Bank

ASAE Global Partners
Dubai Association Centre
Korea Tourism Organization

MEDIA CONTACT: Lauren Precker, CAE, 202-626-2735

About ASAE and the ASAE Foundation
ASAE is a membership organization of more than 46,000 association executives and industry partners representing 7,400 organizations. Its members lead, manage, and work in or partner with organizations in more than a dozen association management disciplines, from executive management to finance to technology. Together, they create a vibrant community that makes the world smarter, safer, and better every day. With support of the ASAE Foundation, a separate nonprofit entity, ASAE is the premier source of learning, knowledge, and future-oriented research for the association and nonprofit profession and provides resources, education, ideas, and advocacy to enhance the power and performance of the association and nonprofit community. Visit ASAE at

Gender equality tops the agenda at She Means Business IMEX America 2019 set to drive the diversity debate

With a recent World Economic Forum report (Global Gender Gap Report 2018) projecting it would take 202 years for men and women to reach economic parity, gender equality remains a pressing issue. It’s one that tops the agenda at She Means Business, part of IMEX America taking place September 10 – 12 in Las Vegas.

She Means Business, a joint event by IMEX and tw magazine, supported by MPI, will launch at the show following its success at IMEX in Frankfurt, bringing with it trail-blazing speakers and a commitment to collaborate and make a difference to the 21st century workplace. 

Gender equality: less words and more action?

Dr. Mara Harvey, Head Global UHNW Germany, Austria, Italy of UBS Switzerland AG, delivers the keynote address – Gender equality: less words and more action? – explaining why actions speak louder than words in addressing barriers to economic equality. Beginning by exploring the root causes of the gender pay gap including the implicit meaning of semantics around risk and money, Mara will share her advice for boosting financial confidence across the generations, including stories and tools for tackling the glass ceiling.

She also joins a high caliber roster of speakers delivering punchy and powerful TED style mini presentations about women in business, delving into diversity, gender equality and female empowerment. 

Other speakers include Christine Duffy, President of Carnival Cruise Line, Vicki Hawarden, VP Events for the Society for Human Resource Management and Melissa Ow, Deputy Chief Executive of the Singapore Tourism Board.

Professional & personal – finding a better balance

The sandwich generation: Balancing career and family is one that will resonate with many professionals, both women and men. With event management regarded as one of the most stressful careers in the world (Forbes, 2017), managing family obligations and a career can be challenging. An expert panel will debunk the myths, share best practices and solutions – the speakers are: Nelly Mukazayire, CEO of Rwanda Convention Bureau; Nicole Bowman, VP Marketing & Communications at IAEE; and Dale Hudson, Knowledge and Events Director of the IMEX Group. 

Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group, explains: “Issues around diversity and gender equality are more important than ever and She Means Business will provide women in events and their male counterparts with a platform for deeper understanding and action. The launch of this new conference at IMEX America follows two years of growth and refinement at IMEX in Frankfurt. It’s a valuable opportunity for planners to collaborate with and learn from inspiring speakers on crucial issues facing women today and – like all IMEX education – there’s no charge to attend.”

Kerstin Wünsch, Editor-in-Chief of tw tagungswirtschaft and Co-Founder of She Means Business, says: “We’re very excited to introduce She Means Business to IMEX America, in partnership with MPI. The conference aims for diversity, gender equality and female empowerment – we believe that if we come together, we can make a change.”

“We are thrilled to support She Means Business – an innovative and inspiring program in partnership with our strategic partner, IMEX Group,” said Paul Van Deventer, CEO and President of MPI. “Diversity and inclusion are at the core of MPI and we know the strong impact this program will have on our community.”

She Means Business takes place on Smart Monday, powered by MPI, a pre-show day of education on September 9, the day before IMEX America September 10 – 12 .

Registration for the show is free of charge and open to all who work in the meetings, events and incentive travel industry.

CCH Congress Center Hamburg sponsors the keynote at She Means Business. Singapore Tourism Board is the golden sponsor. 


We’re Back!

Dear friends,

After a longer than expected hiatus from the blogging world for a big refresh, we are finally back!

When a website has been around for 17 years like, a major face lift was a necessity to keep the website running smoothly. Thanks for your patience while we underwent these changes! We hope you enjoy the faster speed the website now enjoys as you are conducting research for venues or destinations for your next meeting or event.

As for this space, we hope you will find relevant meetings articles and tips as well as a community to connect with.

If you have ideas for articles or questions meeting pros or suppliers can answer, please comment below!

From 30 new booths to Nook Pods, Laughter Yoga and crisis negotiation training: IMEX America is the place to witness the changing face of events

With just a few weeks to go until IMEX America returns to Las Vegas, destinations, venues and suppliers from around the world and across North America are gearing up to showcase their latest products and services for meeting and event planners. There’s plenty of news to share – from new venue and hotel openings, redevelopments, innovative incentive activities and a strong focus on sustainable meetings and events (read more in the IMEX America show preview).

The expanded show floor at IMEX America, taking place September 10 – 12 at the Sands Expo and Convention Center at The Venetian® | The Palazzo® in Las Vegas, will be home to around 3,500 suppliers from 150 countries including new exhibitors Pasadena Convention & Visitors Bureau, Leonardo Hotels, The Hoxton, Destination Cleveland, Los Cabos Tourism Board as well as an extended Tech Pavillion showcasing the latest event tech innovations. 

To date, more than 30 current exhibitors have expanded their presence at the show, including Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Bureau, Royal Caribbean International, Hyatt Hotels, NYC & Company, Hungary and Dallas.

North America in the spotlight – 100 booths, 40 states

Around 4,000 qualified buyers will come together during the three days of the show to plan and book everything from high-level incentives to huge association conventions as well as to make important new contacts, strengthen existing relationships and seal critical business deals. This year planners doing interstate business in North America will find 100 booths representing over 1,000 suppliers from 40 states including individual destinations such as Wilmington, Jackson Hole, Spokane and Albuquerque.

Attendees can also dive into all things experiential at a new Discovery Zone, dedicated to experimentation and immersive activities. This forms part of the show’s focus on Imagination, IMEX’s Talking Point for this year. Planners can also get stuck into practical hands-on workshops and experience truly immersive role play with surprise sensory components.  IMEX America’s new Discovery Zone is designed to fuel fresh thinking and encourage creative risk-taking.

Explore high-stakes decision-making

Immersive learning experiences don’t get more interactive – or dramatic – than InsideRisk’s session – What kind of leader are you under maximum pressure? Based on the true story of Swiss executive J.P. Mottu, who in 1988 found himself in charge of saving a young engineer kidnapped by Colombian rebels, the program thrusts participants into real-life negotiations that have been kept secret for over 25 years.

The multi-media workshop, taking place on Smart Monday – IMEX’s pre-show day of education, is designed to help leaders dramatically increase their trust-building and critical thinking abilities. Participants experience high-stakes situations individually and in groups, exchanging invaluable insights and forging memorable relationships with peers.

Laughter is the best medicine

By contrast, another immersive activity sure to bring a smile to attendees’ faces, will be laughter yoga at the new Laughter Lab. Part of the Inspiration Hub, sponsored by Maritz Global Events, home to all show floor education, the Laughter Lab hosts several sessions on the power of laughter by Sarah Routman from Laugh for the Health of It, LLC. Laughter yoga encourages creative play with prolonged voluntary giggles that start intentionally and become spontaneous, providing plenty of positive health benefits.

There are many opportunities to relax and revive during busy days at the show, starting with the Be Well Lounge, brought to the show by Lee Papa’s Mindfulness Lounge™ and supported by Imprint Events Group. Rise early for the IMEXrun (registration now live), sponsored by Italian National Tourist Board – ENIT, CORT, Hilton and Maritz Global Events, or take part in daily 7 a.m. mind, body and soul movement classes with live music, courtesy of Alternatively, attendees can learn how to weave wellbeing into their own events by following the dedicated health and wellbeing education track or trying out new ‘Nook Pods’. The pods, which were a big hit at IMEX in Frankfurt, recognize that acoustics affect our wellbeing – in particular the 30-50% of people who are introverts. They provide a quiet, private space to recharge or simply to concentrate.

Education remains a firm focus of IMEX America and there are more than 180 learning opportunities over the entire show this year – all free of charge and designed for meetings and events industry professionals at all levels, both buyers and exhibitors. Education sessions cover 10 tracks including Business Skills, Creative Learning, Personal Development, Technology and Trends & Research. Each track provides fresh thinking and new learning formats designed to make meetings more engaging, embrace new ways of thinking and human behavior, consider big trends and issues, and explore innovation and imagination. 

IMEX America takes place September 10 – 12, 2019, with Smart Monday, powered by MPI on September 9. Registration for the show is free of charge and open to all who work in the meetings, events and incentive travel industry.

For quick and easy information or news about the show, search #IMEX19 or experience IMEX on YouTube.

Registration Opens for SPINCon 2019

Brain, Body, Being, Business

SPIN:Senior Planners Industry Network announces that registration is open for its annual conference, SPINCon. SPINCon 2019 will be held November 3-5, 2019 at the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa.

“Each year SPINCon focuses on the whole person (brain, body, being & business) and this year we are excited that the content has again been curated by our members,” said SPIN’s Executive Director Tracey Smith.  “We had over 100 topic suggestions and we then asked members to vote for ones that would be most applicable to them. Then, speakers submitted proposals based on those topics.”

Here is a sampling of sessions being offered by fellow SPIN members (session titles subject to change):

  • Christy Lamagna – Network to Increase Your Net Worth
  • Bonni Scepkowski – Niche, Please: How focusing on your strengths will make you more successful
  • Terry Lombardo – What’s Your Second Act?
  • Dan Yaman – Designing a Brain-based Event
  • John Ayo – From Travel Hell to Travel Well
  • Kristen Brogan – Hungry for Happiness
  • Cindy Hartner – You Don’t Get a Map, You Get a Compass

Returning speakers are Dean Savoca, Phil Gerbyshak and Monica Graves. SPIN’s Chairwoman Shawna Suckow will also facilitate a few breakouts and be the closing keynote.

Are You Game?

This year’s theme, “Are You Game?”, is being woven throughout conference (along with a few teasers beforehand). Gamification will be included in the event app (being sponsored by Wildly Different) – but with a SPIN twist. The speakers have also been tasked with “upping their game” to make their sessions more attendee-focused and adding elements of fun.

Registration Open Now
Registration for SPINCon 2019 is $99 for VIP members; $299 for Virtual members & non-members ($299 rate includes a one-year VIP membership). All planner attendees need to have a minimum of 10 years’ full-time planning experience. For more SPINCon 2019 details and to register go to

About SPIN

SPIN: Senior Planners Industry Network is the world’s largest association limited to senior-level planners with at least 10 years full time planning experience. SPINCon is the annual conference for the association.

About Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau
The Monterey County CVB is Tourism Development and Destination Marketing Organization that inspires the world to visit our extraordinary destination.

About Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa

Nestled within 22 acres of soaring Monterey Pines, the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa on Del Monte Golf Course is a destination hotel providing the most discerning traveler with the quintessential Monterey experience. Its Central California Coast location offers guest close proximity to downtown Monterey, Monterey Regional Airport and easy access to some of the Peninsula’s most well-known attractions.

The ‘Olympics’ of Statistics Converging at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre

Returning to South East Asia after 40 years, the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (the Centre) is proud to be hosting the prestigious 62nd  ISI (International Statistical Institute) World Statistics Congress 2019 (ISI WSC 2019) from 18 to 23 August. Over 2,500 delegates from the industry, academia and policy makers from more than 130 countries will meet in Kuala Lumpur to exchange and explore new ideas in statistics and network to build relationships for future collaboration with close to 1,300 papers being presented over the five days.

The Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr Mahathir Bin Mohamad, will be giving the Keynote Address, reflecting the growing importance of statistics in our increasingly digital and data driven world. The organisation of this premier international congress in Kuala Lumpur will further strengthen the local statistics industry and enhance its capabilities through knowledge sharing, offering a fresh perspective on not just technical issues, but the benefits data can bring the people of Malaysia.

Elaborating on the congress, Chief Statistician, Department of Statistics Malaysia and Chairman of National Organising Committee of ISI WSC 2019, YBhg Dato’ Sri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin, shared, “We are very excited that the congress is almost upon us. Everything starts with statistics, data can change trends and with good facts and figures, we can change imbalances and help develop government policies to benefit the people now and in the future. This has been five years in the making and is a huge milestone in our mission to elevate and develop Malaysia’s statistics industry. Anyone interested in attending can register at

In conjunction with ISI WSC 2019’s theme of ‘Come, Connect and Create’ a number of exciting social programmes are also being organised to increase public participation and create awareness about the importance of statistics and data in today’s digital world. The congress will be kicking off with the World Stats (WSC) Run 2019 at Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, 18 August. For more information on the run or to register, visit

Dato’ Sri Dr Mohd Uzir continued, “By hosting this congress in Malaysia, we can bring the local statistics industry to a new level by showcasing how important accurate facts and figures can be to our society. While the government and the business community use statistics all the time, what we really want is the people of Malaysia to embrace data too, benefiting their daily lives and well-being. We truly believe statistics is an important tool to increase citizen participation in public policy, which will help the country progress in a very open and transparent way.”

Impressed with Malaysia’s creativity in involving the public in ISI WSC 2019 through the World Stats (WSC) Run 2019, the next destination Amsterdam, Netherlands, are planning to emulate a similar public event and create a bike ride to celebrate the hosting of the congress.

The Centre’s General Manager, Alan Pryor, concluded, “We are honoured to be the venue of choice for the prestigious ISI WSC 2019. We pride ourselves on being the ‘People’s Centre’ connecting the world’s leading experts with Malaysians, and ISI WSC 2019 perfectly fits with this, as it will create a lasting legacy for the country.

Topics to be discussed during ISI WSC 2019 will focus around the five pillars – people, prosperity, planet, partnership and peace – that are embedded in the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They will range from statistical methods and      concepts, data compilation and management, technology, data science and analytics, big data, and their applications across all segments of the economy and life. For more information about ISI WSC 2019, visit Twitter:@isiwsc2019 / Facebook:62nd ISI WSC 2019

For all the latest news and information on the Centre, visit

Explore Asheville: Elevate Your Experience

The Explore Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau has just released a 15-minute “on-demand” webinar for meeting planners, providing a virtual tour of the destination and insights on how this Blue Ridge Mountain city meets their top-level needs. The free tool offers planners a look at Asheville’s meeting-planning resources and Explore Asheville’s services – and is particularly convenient for those unable to make a familiarization trip. Planners who complete watching the video are invited to select one of four gifts hand-crafted in Asheville (see options, below).

“I just watched it and loved the concept,” said Kristy N., Manager, Global Accounts, Lamont Associates. “I wish all cities would do this! I’m sending to our entire team as well.”

Asheville’s hotel product and accessibility have reached a new level. With the addition of new hotels in downtown, the room inventory continues to expand across all price points, and meeting hotels range from the modern and chic to grand historic resorts. Meanwhile, Asheville Regional Airport is now one of the fastest-growing in the U.S., offering direct flights to an ever-increasing list of cities.

“Asheville is well-known as a top leisure destination,” said Stephanie Brown, President & CEO, Explore Asheville. “Lonely Planet named Asheville its ‘Number One Best in the U.S. Destination’ for 2017, and Asheville was the only U.S. destination cited by CNN as a best place to travel in 2018. The goal of our webinar is to provide a convenient way to acquaint meeting planners with the many reasons why Asheville is also a great destination for meetings and events. Asheville is growing in all the ways that are most important for planners, with a hotel inventory expected to exceed 10,000 rooms by 2020. We know it can be difficult to attend a familiarization trip or take time out for a personal site visit and want to help bring Asheville to you.”

Explore Asheville is a meeting planner’s connection to the best local information to find the right hotel and create memorable destination experiences. The award-winning staff provides exceptional planning support, including Exclusive Services and the “Have More Fun on Us” incentive program, good for up to $2,500.

Located among the highest peaks in the East, Asheville is the ideal location for inspired meetings.With breathtaking views, a creative culinary scene, an array of outdoor adventures and unique tours, it’s also easy to incorporate team-building elements and opportunities for guests to immerse themselves in authentic and engaging experiences in this vibrant town. Planners recognize that once-in-a-lifetime activities can be powerful differentiators, and Asheville has plenty of those to up the wow-factor – from Biltmore, to the Blue Ridge Parkway or the world-famous spa at The Omni Grove Park Inn.


  • Asheville Bee Charmer Honey and “Bee Happy” Clutch

Asheville was the first city to be named Bee City USA in 2012, and the Asheville Bee Charmer, a local honey shop, supports the bee community through the sale of local honey products. Get a taste of Appalachian Mountain honey and a “Bee Happy” canvas clutch made in the USA.

  • South Slope Coffee and French Broad Chocolate Bar

The perfect taste-of-Asheville sampler: locally roasted coffee and locally made chocolate, both sustainably and ethically sourced. South Slope Coffee, a micro-roaster dedicated to sourcing coffee beans from wholesalers dealing directly with farmers, offers coffee from all over the world. French Broad Chocolate, a craft-chocolate producer, also nurtures relationships with cacao farmers and suppliers to create “pure, beautiful and delicious” chocolate.

  • Spicewalla Grill & Roast Collection

Spicewalla spice factory offers fresh, whole and small-batch spices by James Beard-nominated Chef Meherwan Irani. Irani, dubbed the “spice whisperer,” is the owner of Indian-street-food restaurant Chai Pani in Asheville. The Grill & Roast six-pack collection takes the guesswork out of marinades, rubs and seasonings and will keep the grill hot all summer.

  • Handmade Leather-Covered Travel Journal

In Blue Handmade resides in a converted-warehouse studio space in West Asheville and creates custom leather products. The journal is the perfect size for tucking in a bag or backpack and recording travel memories.


Also New for Meeting Planners in 2019…

Hotel Growth Continues + New Event Spaces at The Omni Grove Park Inn and Biltmore + Second-Fastest-Growing Airport

NEW DOWNTOWN: ► The Foundry Hotel Asheville, Curio Collection by Hilton, opened in November on The Block, Asheville’s historical African-American business district, with 3,000 square feet of functional meeting and event space. The hotel’s 100-seat upscale restaurant Benne on Eagle, the newest venture of five-time James Beard semifinalist Chef John Fleer, pays homage to its historic Eagle Street neighborhood and the often-overlooked contributions of African-American cooks to Appalachian and Southern food.

COMING DOWNTOWN 2019: ► Asheville’s famed Art Deco skyline will get a new icon and a four-star luxury property when Kimpton Hotel Arras opens late this summer. The 128-room hotel will offer 5,000 square feet of meeting space.

COMING LATE 2019: ► Element By Westin will bring 100 rooms and 1,200 square feet of meeting space near downtown.

NEW AT THE OMNI GROVE PARK INN: ► The Omni Grove Park Inn has added a new facility to its more than 55,000 square feet of versatile event, banquet, convention and meeting space. The 3,200-square-foot Seely Pavilion, perfect for receptions and meetings, offers floor-to-ceiling doors and windows giving panoramic views of the surrounding mountain range.

MAJOR RENOVATION: ► Asheville Art Museum reopens soon after a major renovation with a new state-of-the-art building. Self-guided and guided group tours of its collection and exhibitions, as well as numerous education-program opportunities, will be available. The expanded facility will have multiple venues for events of all kinds, including social events and conferences.

NEW AT AMERICA’S LARGEST HOME: ►Opened last fall, Amherst is Biltmore’s largest event venue with 11,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space. The Amherst Ballroom features space for 850 people and vast windows displaying the lush forests and fields of the estate. ► NEW EXHIBIT: Biltmore recently announced its latest exhibition: “Downton Abbey: The Exhibition” (Nov. 8, 2019 through April 7, 2020) will feature set recreations, costumes and exclusive multimedia elements while providing guests with a chance to step inside the world of the global TV phenomenon and upcoming feature film (hitting theaters on Sept. 20, 2019, in the U.S.). ► NEW ADVENTURE: Ride the remote trails and roads of America’s Largest Home via electronic tricycle on the Outrider Tour. This new adventure tour allows you to explore behind-the-scenes areas of Biltmore’s 8,000-acre estate.

Airport News

ONE MILLION PASSENGERS IN 2018: ► The Asheville Regional Airport (AVL) served more than one million annual passengers for the first time in its history and is one of the fastest-growing small airports in the country. ► FAST FACTS: AVL is located 12 miles from downtown, offers nonstops and easy connections through major U.S. and international hubs, with 50 direct flights daily to 19 destinations and served by six airlines. Named the second-fastest-growing small hub airport in the country by Bloomberg News in 2018, AVL is nearing the completion of $80 million in improvements. ► NEW FLIGHTS: In 2019, United Airlines began offering twice-daily nonstop service to Washington, D.C., American Airlines started a daily nonstop to Philadelphia and a seasonal nonstop to LaGuardia (LGA) and Allegiant is now offering nonstop service to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (SRQ). Daily nonstop service to Dallas-Fort Worth International (DFW) on American Airlines also began in May. See all nonstop destinations. ► TSA Pre®  is also now available at AVL. 

New & Unique Tour Offerings

► NEW: Asheville Rooftop Bar Tours give a bird’s-eye view from some of the city’s newest scenic venues, while Asheville LIT Tour is a walking tour focusing on locations with literary themes and authors with ties to downtown. Namaste in Nature combines yoga, meditation and hiking experiences, accommodating 10 or fewer but also able to split up larger groups. ► Hood Huggers International leads interactive tours focusing on Asheville’s African-American community’s resilient history and future. ► Wai Mauna offers a massive, six-person paddleboard, plus stand-up paddleboard tours on the French Broad River, serving groups up to 30. NEW this season, try Whitewater SUP! ► NOW OPEN: Offering daily tours, the new French Broad Chocolate Factory has opened the doors to their sweet new location in the RAMP (River Arts Makers Place) Studios.