No More 2nd and 3rd Tier Designations

The unfortunate use of “Tier “designations to evaluate destinations has led to misperceptions and assumptions that inhibit the planner’s ability to research destination cities with an open mind. 2nd tier and 3rd tier labels imply that those cities are somehow inferior to the so-called 1st tier cities. Nothing could be further from the truth.


Defining tiers in the meetings industry has been a topic often discussed, yet little substantial research has been conducted to help define and clarify them. Whereas hotels have a rating system that awards 3, 4, or 5 stars to properties based on their quality, size, services, and amenities, no such system exists for rating meeting destinations. While there are some distinctions that separate the so-called tiers in the minds of planners, the distinctions are descriptions not designations.


Therefore, for the purposes of clarity, I recommend that we dispense with the ranking numbers of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd and adopt a descriptive word in their place. We might begin to use descriptions such as, “industry specific”, or “green”, or “boutique” to designate cities that have an intensive industry presence. For example, Detroit for autos, or Palo Alto, California, the Mecca of world-wide high-tech, or Milwaukee, Wisconsin where brewers gather.  Portland, Oregon is the home of the green movement. What better place to hold an ecological get-together? Such descriptions would do away with the negative bias of the current numeric tier ranking and inform planners about the unique features of a city that might enhance their meeting and move that city into the “must be considered” category in the planner’s mind.


At Premier Meeting Services, we have identified the factors that cities must possess to be considered possible boutique meeting destinations. They must:

• Be more affordable than the big traditional convention destinations of Las Vegas, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, etc.
• Have a Good regional airport – All attendees might not be able to fly nonstop, but they could fly there with a minimum of inconvenience.
• Be home to productive local industries – Cities that are becoming industry intensive in new technologies.
• Have, perhaps limited, but world-class dining and entertainment.
• Have at least one large convention venue – generally a hotel.
• Possess distinctive leisure travel appeal.

If a city ticks off all the above qualifications, we take a closer look. We try to custom fit the industrial environment, the surrounding entertainment and activity possibilities, the size of the meeting facilities available, and the geographical ethos (the Deep South – the Rocky Mountains – the Urban Northeast – the Desert Southwest – the California Coast) to the attendees’ educational desires, generational bias, professional preferences, and travel limitations.

Below is a partial list of “Boutique” cities that “tick off” all the general requirements and should be considered as preferable alternatives to the so-called “1st tier” convention cities.


Portland, OR – Louisville, KY – Charleston, SC
Tucson, AZ – Pittsburg, PA – Grapevine, TX
Kissimmee, FL – Austin, TX – Henderson, NV
Schaumburg, IL – Mobile, AL – Mesa, AZ
Vail, CO – West Palm Beach, FL – Shreveport, LA
Jackson, MS – Wildwood, NJ – Albuquerque, NM
Cleveland, OH – Providence, RI – Columbia, SC
Salt Lake City, UT – Virginia Beach, VA – Milwaukee, WI

We recommend all the cities listed above for your consideration and many more too numerous to list. Don’t let tier designations define what you consider. The key is keeping your own meeting objectives in mind and then understanding how destinations, regardless of tier, could be the perfect compliment.

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