“There are a lot of things you would be surprised to learn that CVBs can do for you, and most of them are free!” exclaimed Bonnie Wallsh, MA, CMP, CMM, who is Chief Strategist of Bonnie Wallsh Associates, LLC, in her webinar, Innovative CVB Services, presented recently by MeetingsFocus.
Of course, Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) is not the only term used for what are now categorized as Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) by the Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI), their association. Examples include Visit Charlotte and Team San Jose. For consistency, I will use CVB in this article.
What else would people be surprised to learn about CVBs?
- CVBs provide services for meetings as small as 10 room nights. Your meeting doesn’t have to be a citywide in order to use a CVB’s services. They may also assist with events that don’t include sleeping rooms.
- Distribute information only to venues appropriate for your group – there is a misconception that CVBs will distribute your RFP to all of their members. Bonnie suggested that you inform the CVB of your objective and specify which type of hotels you want to receive your RFP. Discuss their policies beforehand, since they will vary from one organization to another.
- CVBs work with national sales offices and site selection companies.
- Not all are membership-driven. Those that are will often send an RFP to non-members if their members can’t fulfill it. Again, discuss this with your CVB contact.
How can CVBs help you in executing successful meetings and events?
- Unbiased information (although sometimes you may need to read through the lines, because you can’t expect them to criticize their members).
- One-stop shopping – they can help you find off-site venues and transportation companies, and tell you who is licensed and their background.
- RFP distribution leads for best rates and availability – they may suggest a property you hadn’t thought of.
- The CVB can collect the proposals and organize them (in your requested format) before forwarding them to you, if you ask them to do so.
- Advise you of last-minute cancellations.
- Share busy periods.
- Know traditional hotel booking patterns, and when there are festivals, museum exhibits, entertainers or speakers in town that you may be able to include in your meeting. For example, if a speaker is already in town you may be able to get a reduced rate that does not include their travel expenses.
What should we include in an effective RFP?
- The group’s full name – it’s in everyone’s best interest for the RFP to include the group’s name. Third parties often want to withhold this because they think someone will contact the client directly and squeeze them out. It is important, though, that the CVB and properties understand the client’s needs, as well as the value of the client’s business.
- Contact information.
- Overview of meeting including goals and objectives and attendee profile.
- Value of your group to facility. Sell your meeting to the facility. For example:
- Single or double occupancy?
- Do they tend to use a lot of room service, or stay late in the bar?
- Is it a group of attendees that book hotels?
- History of previous meetings - preferably three years. Note any differences from year to year, such as one year you used multiple hotels or an overflow hotel.
- Prospective dates including what kind of flexibility you have. Does it HAVE to be this date, or can it be shifted to another week? Can you change your pattern (days of the week it’s held)?
- Budget - range of rates, how many singles, doubles and suites.
- Special requirements/deal breakers – An important one these days might be bandwidth; needs might depend on the group’s generation, level of sophistication and number of devices per person.
- Complete meeting specifications including your program. Do you need to set up the ballroom the day before and hold it on a 24-hour hold? Now is the time to make that clear. Specify type of seating for each room as well as number of attendees expected.
- Prioritize – a list of what you must have and a separate wish list of what you would like to have.
- Hot buttons – Do you have a group that needs more than the usual number of ADA-accessible rooms?
- Date proposal is due and the decision-making process so they know what to expect.
- Risk management plan – ask for theirs.
What are innovative services that CVBs offer to clients?
- Site inspection/FAM trip. On a site inspection they can customize it to your needs.
- Custom microsites tailored to group that can link to your website and can include hotel reservations and information on the location where your attendees will not see ads for other hotels.
- Some have access to financial assistance – it doesn’t hurt to ask!
- Contacts for team building and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities.
- Housing management.
- Custom Google map service.
- Supplier recommendations.
- Assist with dine-a-rounds and off-site venues.
- Liaison with local officials to welcome your group.
- Obtain permits.
- Airport meet and greet.
- On-site registration staff.
- Provide giveaways/discount coupons to local stores and restaurants.
- Help you build attendance and social networking for your events - promotional materials, marketing assistance, social media strategy, webinars, participate in your previous year’s event.
- Help you with your annual meeting’s rotation - some CVBs have partnered with CVBs in similar-sized areas in different parts of the country or state:
- Baltimore, Fort Worth, Salt Lake City.
- Atlanta, Augusta, Macon, Savannah.
What Challenges do CVBs face in partnering with clients?
- Lack of communication.
- Too little Information.
- Brought into the process too late.
What Are Your Professional Responsibilities When Working With a CVB?
- Keep them informed of your final decision.
- Provide post-con report to CVB, including pickup, singles vs. doubles, total spent on food and beverage, and other things such as off-site events.
- Don’t burn bridges – it’s a small industry and people move around! Expect to have a long-term relationship.
Bonnie concluded with a few pieces of advice as it relates to international meetings:
For more information about webinars presented by MeetingsFocus go to http://www.meetingsfocus.com/Webinars/tabid/68/Default.aspx
- Expect to pay for your site inspection. You may be able to have it deducted from your master account if you choose their destination – it doesn’t hurt to ask.
- Use a customs broker! The tourism office in your destination can recommend one.
- Find out whether you need a Visa to travel to that country.
- Plan to visit the airport currency exchange to get spending money when you arrive. You might hear that it’s not the best exchange rate there, but it’s not so bad that it is worth running around without local currency.
- A passport is now needed for Canada and Mexico.
- If your passport expires in less than six months the airlines will not let you fly.