FurtheMore is an annual 3-day anthropomorphic convention for enthusiasts of Anthropomorphics and the community. It is the first of its kind in the Maryland, DC & Virginia Area.
Our annual event is designed to provide education, and socialization within our community. We invite our Guests of Honor from within our community, and we showcase artists from all over the world as well as vendors. Each year we sponsor a 501(c)3 charity and raise donations to help the charity in their community. So far our event has raised $17,332.25 in total charity donations.
FurtheMore began as an idea between a few friends in the Maryland anthropomorphics community to start a local convention in Baltimore. The idea was originally started while attending the Furstivus Convention in Philadelphia and the question was posed “Why doesn’t Baltimore have a convention?”
In March 2012, NorthEast Anthropomorphic Association offered to partner with Fur the ‘More to back them as the umbrella 501(c)7 non-profit organization. As a result of negotiations, Fur the ‘More became a NorthEast Anthropomorphic Association event, and the primary founder and convention Con-Chair was offered a seat on the Board of Directors as a Trustee.
With FurtheMore’s move to Tysons, VA in 2015, Northeast Anthropomorphic was unable to continue as our sponsor. As such, the chair and directors of FurtheMore organized and founded Mid-Atlantic Anthropomorphic Society (http://www.midanthro.org) and incorporated as a 501(c)7 non-profit organization.
Greetings to Everyone,
I am writing this as an open letter to our community to give you some insight into why we decided to utilize a hotel just outside of Maryland. With the recent announcement of Fur the ‘More’s move to the Sheraton Premiere in Tysons Corner, VA, we have seen very mixed reviews about it. Some people have had many questions regarding the move, what does it mean, and what are we planning for the future.
So I wanted to address some of the questions I have seen and try to shed some light onto the current decisions. I hope this helps shed some light on things. The staff that has had an opportunity to visit the new hotel and see it as well as the surrounding area has been very excited about the prospects of being at that location. Even if it’s not in Baltimore.
If you still have questions about this, anyone is welcome to email me directly at conchair[at]furthemore.org
Q: Why Virginia, what happened to being “Maryland’s Furry Con”?
We still consider ourselves to be Maryland’s Furry Con. It is a combination of factors that have made the decision to go to Tysons Corner a necessity for the time being.
Q: You couldn’t stay at Hunt Valley?
Unfortunately, the offers for room rates, space, and availability from Hunt Valley we did not feel were of the best benefit to our attendees. As an example: The room rate was going to be nearly as high as conventions that are many times our size.
R: I would have paid that room rate.
We appreciate that, but we did not feel that it would be an acceptable rate for the majority of our attendees. The higher room rate would have easily cost some attendees an additional $100 for the weekend.
Q: What about other hotels in Baltimore?
We have learned over the last two years that Baltimore has a very unique hotel system that seems to be geared more towards corporate meetings and weddings. In the downtown area, there were only a few hotels that had the correct amount/configuration of space necessary for us to continue our current level of programming, education and entertainment. Only a few hotels have over 13,000 sq ft, and many of those do have too few rooms. The remaining hotels were bidding in the 150.00+ / night range. Some were 200/night.
Q: So? You could have just bought the space at one of those hotels?
Unfortunately, the hotel/event industry does not work like that. The hotels use a system called a room to space ratio. What this means, is that for any event like a convention, or multiday meeting, the hotel will sell you a certain amount of event space based on how many hotel rooms you are willing to guarantee you will fill. So while we look at it as an “Attendee to Space” ratio; meaning, we feel we need so much space for so many attendees, we end up needing considerably more space that the hotels space to room ratio will allow. Additionally, to give you a ballpark, every hotel in Inner Harbor/downtown area gets 10k – 20k 3x per day for their ballrooms from Mid March until the end of June. That includes 3x on Friday. That means we have to come in at 90k – 180k to book that space 24/7 for the weekend. Additionally, we strongly favor hotels in which we are the main event – this allows our attendees to really be “themselves” (i.e. their fursona) and have fun! If there are several huge, expensive weddings on the same site – this could interfere with our event, and we could be perceived as interfering with theirs.
Q: Well, did you look everywhere?
Yes. We have two agents that work for Helms Briscoe, one of the largest event site placement agencies in the world. Annually they move billions of dollars of events through hotels and convention centers worldwide. Our event was placed in the hotels systems as a local event and sought bid from the regional hotels. A total of 13 hotels were solicited for response; 6 hotels placed bids. One of those hotels had misquoted their meeting space, so they were out immediately. The few that did not decline to bid for “space to room” ratios, either did not have enough space, did not have enough rooms, or were physically located in a place that was easily 5-10 miles from the nearest shopping/eating locations. (I.e. in the middle of a golf course). There were also other considerations – Some only made their offers for Easter weekend; some wanted very high Food and Beverage requirements. There are many considerations that drive the decision for space; our main consideration is best value and experience for our participants. The Baltimore Convention Visitors Bureau was included for assistance, in case a hotel was being built or coming online within the time frame.
Q: What about the Baltimore Convention Center?
The Baltimore convention center was unwilling or unable to give us all the space we needed to run the convention, which would have forced us to have spaces in a nearby hotel, effectively splitting the convention across two buildings two blocks from each other. Additionally, things like the Sponsor Suite would have to be located in a hotel in order to run as they currently have. And the convention center will not accommodate us for 24/7 access. Finally, the convention center and a good portion of downtown are scheduled to go under construction in 2017, making it impossible to have the convention there. That is why Otakon has moved to DC beginning in 2017.
One of the major points of positive feedback we received for this year’s event was that it was intimate. Most people felt they got to meet everyone, and that they got to know many others quite well. We are committed to maintaining that experience. That is a driving decision for selecting a single hotel / space in which to have our event.
Q: So that’s it then… you’ve given up on Baltimore and Maryland?
On the contrary. We will continue to place our event to the hotels in Baltimore and Maryland for bid. That is one of the biggest reasons why we will not be changing the name of the convention even though it’s very centric to Baltimore. Ultimately, our goal is to return the convention to Baltimore, MD as soon as we can. At present though, I am not anticipating that to occur until after 2017. If we can make it happen sooner, with room rates/conveniences that are beneficial to our attendees, then we will certainly do that. Any offers will be reviewed for the best benefit to our attendees.
We will continue to check with Baltimore and look forward to future hotels being built with adequate meeting space and enough rooms, and when that happens, it will help soften the market. There are several other factors here – the biggest one being that currently, in the hotel industry, it is a seller’s market in primary destinations. Even if the hotels don’t have the business yet, they believe they will be getting it, and room rates in these markets are climbing anywhere from 20% – 100%. Many hotels do not feel they need to compete. One of our reasons for looking in Virginia is that it is a strong secondary market; they have spent a great deal of money on developing their cities to ensure that they are attracting business. That results in clean, walking destinations, with lots of easy food access and lower crime. Additionally, we are finding that food options may also be 5% – 15% less expensive than primary markets. All in all, a better value and experience for our participants over all.
Fairfax CVB and Starwood (Sheraton) have made it clear that they are looking forward to offering a deep partnership in producing the 2015 event! This was one of the things we were not experiencing to the fullest in 2014. There are services and amenities being offered to our participants that were simply not on the table with our past vendor. For instance, our onsite food options were quite limited, as were the bar offerings.
Consider that Fur the More is taking you further and bringing you more!
Q: So how can I help to get the convention back to Baltimore?
That’s very simple. Book a hotel room. When we negotiate with hotels, we utilize how many hotel rooms we booked the previous year compared to our attendance, with additional based on what we are hoping our increase in attendance will be the next year. The more hotel rooms that we can reasonably guarantee we will book, the more attractive we become to the hotel industry, the more likely a hotel in Baltimore will place a bid on our event. In a seller’s market, room nights and attendee spend determine the desirability of the group. Come be a GREAT participant AND be a GREAT hotel client! Every time we are successful and the hotel is successful, more and more hotels will be vying for our business!