Grand Rapids obviously doesn’t have the national profile of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or Orlando. Meeting planners across the country may know little or nothing about our destination when we first contact them to pitch Grand Rapids as a host site for their meetings and conventions.

The EXGR sales team has a host of tools available to introduce planners to what Grand Rapids has to offer – including this recent video – but the most effective tool of all is to get planners here for a visit.

Planners who come to see Grand Rapids for themselves are inevitably surprised and impressed by the quality of our meetings infrastructure amenities, the diversity of things to see and do, the ease of getting around and the hospitality of the people they encounter.

Here’s how we facilitate visits to the city:

Meeting planner at the Amway Grand Plaza hotel room and Rendezvous.
Drone photos of an outdoor event at DeVos Place and the Gillette Bridge near the Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids.

FAM Tours involve bringing groups of planners to Grand Rapids so we can FAMiliarize them with the city and county.

Photo by Brian Kelly for Experience GR

FAMs – the industry shorthand for familiarization tours – involve bringing groups of planners to Grand Rapids so we can introduce them to the city and our capabilities. The planners we invite on FAM Tours are generally pretty unaware of us but we’ve determined that GR would be a perfect fit for their group. We tour them through hotels and attractions, giving them a glimpse of what a meeting here could look and feel like. Our goal with FAM Tours is to convince planners to include us in RFPs (Requests for Proposals) for future events.

In 2023, we hosted 40 planners on Fam Tours, compared to 39 in 2022.

Meeting planner exploring DeVos Place and the surrounding area of the convention campus

Meeting planners who see DeVos Place Convention Center and the surrounding convention campus are always impressed.

Photo by Brian Kelly for Experience GR

Site Experiences are hosted for individual planners who’ve already sent us an RFP. The RFP gives us a detailed description of what they’re looking for so we can customize the experience to address their specific needs. Planners typically send a meeting RFP to two or more destinations – and we win an enviable percentage of those bids after a Site Experience.

We welcomed 63 planners for individual Site Experiences in 2023, up from 55 in 2022.

Meeting planner experience the convention center during an event or conference.
Meeting planner experience the convention center during an event or conference.

Convention attendees experiencing the convention center during an event.

Photo by Brian Kelly for Experience GR

Industry Events bring meeting planners together for education and networking. We often pitch GR as a host site for these events, and we’ve been fortunate to land many of them through the years. In January of this year, we hosted Connect Midwest – the region’s top meetings industry conference – giving us the opportunity to show off the city to the 50 planners who attended.

In 2023, we hosted 261 groups for meetings and conventions, and virtually every one of them was preceded by a planner visiting Grand Rapids. It may not start with a visit on the sales side – we do a lot of upfront work before any planner gets here – but visits are an indispensable part of the process.