Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

February 2013

Destination Relations

By Jennifer N. Dienst, Contributing Editor
line or across from each other,” Fulvi said, “so if I'm talking to a customer about Pittsburgh, I'll ask them if they've ever considered Portland or Milwaukee, and if they haven't, and they want to talk to somebody, I will walk that person over to one of my partners.” Foerster, Fulvi, and Smith even want to build a custom booth just for the alliance.

Of course, there are times when the three don't operate as a unified force. “We understand the boundaries of the relationship, and we respect each other,” Fulvi said. “Whenever there's a piece of business that we know one of the other two is part of the bidding process, then it's competition like anyone else. But when we don't have that, we try to work together.”

What's in It for Planners?

“The planners on our customer advisory board think this [alliance between the Portland, Milwaukee, and Pittsburgh CVBs] is the best thing since sliced bread,” said Travel Portland's Michael Smith. “They're used to competitiveness between cities, and sometimes it gets pretty bloodthirsty. It's uncomfortable for planners who have to say yes to one city and no to another city, so they appreciate that we're playing nicely together. I think planners are happy to see that the industry can get along.”

Besides the obvious perk of cash incentives, which vary “depending on the groups’ needs,” Smith said, other benefits for planners working with the alliance range from a better-prepared destination to more seamless premeeting destination promotion. That was what Darryl Walter, chief of staff for The Wildlife Society (TWS), said he experienced this past October, when Milwaukee gave TWS 2012 Annual Conference attendees in Portland a taste of what to expect when the city hosts its 2013 meeting on Oct. 5-9. “The cities were familiar with each other, so there was a comfort level there,” Walter said. For TWS, the alliance matched the society's meeting needs in terms of not only size and facilities but its West Coast, Midwest, and East Coast meeting rotation pattern — Pittsburgh will host the 2014 TWS Annual Conference on Oct. 25-30.

The 2012 conference was the third-bestattended meeting in TWS history, and “Portland had a lot to do with [that],” Walter said. “It's important where we meet, because there are certain cities that just draw better. I am confident that all three of these cities will draw well.”

Other perks of the alliance can include a smoother transition between cities, according to VISIT Milwaukee's Brent Foerster. “The fact that our staffs talk to each other on a regular basis, and are very open with each other, we can better prepare and know what the challenges might be and what to get ready for,” he said. “This allows us to have a better preparedness, whether it's at our convention center, within the hotel community, or marketing that needs to be done.”

CVB Partnerships on a Global Scale

International cities trying to lure meetings on an international rotation pattern have also formed alliances. Houston became part of the BestCities Global Alliance in May 2012, joining Cape Town, Copenhagen, Dubai, Edinburgh, Melbourne, San Juan, Singapore, Berlin, and Vancouver. Every city in the alliance must undergo a stringent third-party audit to prove that it maintains a high level of service and meets certain qualifications, such as having more than 10,000 hotel rooms near its convention center as well as a major international airport.

One of the biggest perks for BestCities partners comes twice a year, when representatives from every city bring an association client to one of the alliance destinations for a fam trip. “This summer, I went to Singapore and I spent three days with nine international association clients,” said Jorge Franz, vice president of international group sales and tourism for the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau (GHCVB). “You can't buy that kind of time.” For planners, BestCities helps with everything from event research to bid proposals and on-site services. The alliance also shares data and information about its clients between the 10 member cities, making the planning process seamless as a meeting rotates between cities. “With the third-party audit, we can prove to meeting planners that they'll get the same level of service no matter what city they go to,” Franz said.

GHCVB — which has an international office dedicated solely to meetings, as well as an entire department stateside that focuses on attracting international meetings, headed up by Franz — was “very interested in upping the profile of Houston in the international markets,” he said. “I would almost say, in the international market, there was no perception of Houston. We went at it from the point of view of, how do we get from [having] very little perception to [becoming] a well-known, world-class city.” By joining BestCities, Franz said, “now we feel we can play with the big players.”

So far GHCVB has booked the World Methodist Council Conference, and Franz is confident that more wins are to come. “We bid on some big ones [this year], and there were some losses, but we got to the table,” he said, “when before we never would have.”

More Resources

For more on the Three-City Alliance, visit:

planpittsburgh.com/three-city-alliance

visitmilwaukee.org/meeting-planners/3-cityalliance meetings.travel

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