Why This Business Convention Encouraged Attendees to Bring Their Entire Families

This year's Destinations International conference built in family-friendly programming, both to increase attendance and to promote Anaheim's attractions.

By Claire Hoffman July 31, 2018, 7:16 AM EDT

New this year, the annual Destinations International conference in Anaheim included family-friendly community-service opportunities, including one that benefited local nonprofit Families Forward. 

Photo: Courtesy of Destinations International

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One challenge involved in multi-day conferences is convincing attendees the event is worth spending time away from their families. To address this, organizers of Destinations International—an annual convention for destination marketing and management professionals held in Anaheim July 10 to 13—wondered, what if everyone just brings their families with them?

And that’s exactly what happened. All attendees were invited to bring their entire family, and organizers built in opportunities for children and spouses to learn more about the destination management industry.

“Anaheim is built on family travel—it’s in the city’s D.N.A.,” explained Jay Burress, president and C.E.O. of Visit Anaheim, which organized and produced the event at the Anaheim Convention Center. “As the host city and a world-class family destination, Visit Anaheim saw this initiative as an opportunity to familiarize family members with our industry while bringing them into our world, even if it was only for a few days.”

The convention kicked off with a family day on the convention center's Grand Plaza. Both Burress and Don Welsh, president and C.E.O. of Destinations International, had their daughters join them for a Q & A. The day also incorporated a community-service project, also new this year, where families assembled more than 100 kits with toys to donate to organizations that work with children.

“We know [the charitable component] was an important initiative for Visit Anaheim and wanted to collaborate on that,” said a spokesperson from Destinations International. “We wanted to make sure we don’t just come in to a destination and bring economic impact—we want to be able to give back within a destination as well.”

Other family-friendly highlights included an opening reception that featured a screening of Moana and discounts to a variety of Anaheim’s attractions such as Disneyland, which families were encouraged to explore during the conference's more education-heavy days.

“Anaheim is built on family travel—it’s in the city’s D.N.A.”

Inside the convention center, keynote speakers included soccer star Abby Wambach and chef Tyler Florence, plus representatives from Las Vegas and Puerto Rico, who discussed safety challenges facing their destinations. Attendees also participated in 65 education, networking, and professional development sessions.

Organizers believe that incorporating family-friendly components resulted in an increase in attendance; the convention drew a record-setting 1,625 attendees this year, almost 200 more than the previous year. Burress also noted that many delegates extended their trips in order to see attractions such as Disneyland, which further promoted Anaheim as a destination.

Next year’s annual convention will be held July 23 to 26, 2019, in St. Louis. While Destinations International reps can’t say yet if a family-friendly program will be built in, they note that families are always welcome.

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