When the International Trademark Association came to Seattle to host its 140th Annual Meeting, May 19-23 this year, the organization broke new records. During the five-day event, more than 10,900 delegates — including brand owners and government officials — from more than 150 countries around the world met at the Washington State Convention Center, which was lighted orange, the group’s signature color, for the occasion. Not only did the organization see the highest attendance in the history of the event, but they brought record-breaking business to the destination.
“INTA had a record-breaking number of known affiliated events in Seattle — more than 285 of them took place during the conference,” Katy Willis, director of convention services for Visit Seattle, tells PCMA. “It’s safe to say that nearly every venue and restaurant in downtown Seattle was chock-full with INTA business. Some venues turned their spaces two to three times a day to accommodate the group’s needs.”
The organization utilized several unique event spaces throughout the city, including the Showbox — located in the center of downtown and accommodating up to 1,100 guests — where INTA hosted a private concert with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. The group also used the Museum of Pop Culture and Chihuly Garden and Glass, an environmentally friendly and innovative event space, where it hosted more than 4,000 attendees at its Grand Finale Seattle Center Block Party. Overall, INTA’s estimated economic impact on Seattle was $20 million.
“When we bring such a large and global contingent to a city, it is critical that our registrants feel welcome and comfortable, and obtain assistance in getting oriented. Seattle offered that, and more,” says Etienne Sanz de Acedo, INTA’s CEO. “And, in return, by holding our Annual Meeting here, it gave us great pleasure to be able to pump an estimated $20 million back into the economy of this vibrant city.”
Not only was this year’s Annual Meeting the organization’s largest to date, but more than 65 percent of the guests were international. In order to help delegates navigate the destination, the organization collaborated with the Downtown Seattle Association’s (DSA) Park & Safety Ambassador program. A 30-person Ambassador team assisted attendees with directions and acted as an information resource, recommending restaurants and helping them get transportation. In addition, 31 official hotels and the Seattle Center displayed welcome signs in their lobbies, and staff wore special INTA welcome buttons.
“The ambassador program has been in place through DSA for several years,” says Willis. “However, this is the first convention where we reached out and asked DSA to partner with us to create a welcoming environment throughout the downtown core on the key conference dates. We were grateful to the 30 ambassadors who donned INTA orange buttons to be easily recognized.”
It also helped attendees that Seattle’s downtown is compact and easily walkable. “Being downtown also takes the convention experience to a whole new level for planners,” says Willis, “making it easy for them to ensure that guests can access the convention center without commissioning additional, complicated, and costly transportation solutions. More than that though, guests have the city at their feet by being downtown. A five-minute walk gives them access to iconic destinations, such as the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, and the Seattle Art Museum.”
Also for INTA’s Annual Meeting, the city’s Westlake Park began its summer programming early, bringing food trucks and other vendors downtown. And in order to showcase Seattle’s diverse music culture, Visit Seattle & Seattle Music Commission arranged for professional musicians to be strategically placed along the Pike/Pine corridor downtown.
“Although no secret to those who live and work here, meeting planners never cease to comment on the truly walkable and vibrant downtown core,” says Willis. “Meetings in Seattle satisfy both meeting planner objectives with well-appointed meeting facilities and attendees’ appetite for ‘bleisure’ travel, allowing them to enjoy the destination for both business and leisure.”