Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

May 2013

What DMOs Are Doing to Stand Out

Hunter R.Slaton, Illustrations by Luke Lucas

Games he wanted all of his promotional agencies to sit as one,” said Chloe Couchman, London & Partners' head of communications for business and major events. The new umbrella organization could have used the name Visit London, but “[the mayor] just felt like it needed a new name,” Couchman said, and that it “made sense to have a fresh start.”

Doug McLain
‘It's important for DMOs to prove their value through economic development in the local economy.’

“London & Partners” was chosen not only to represent the three organizations coming together under one banner, but also to underscore the importance of the many different hospitality businesses — hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions — that are part of the city's hosting efforts. “We wanted to highlight how important our partners are to us,” Couchman said, and also, as the British idiom goes, “to say what it does on the tin.”

Moving in the other direction, away from general tourism, the Melbourne Convention + Visitors Bureau recently announced that it would be known simply as the Melbourne Convention Bureau (MCB). “MCB's sole responsibility is for the procurement of business events that attract delegates to [the state of] Victoria, including conventions, meetings, and incentive travel reward programs, and this has been the case for many years now,” said Karen Bolinger, MCB's CEO. “Therefore, we needed the name change to disassociate ourselves with leisure tourism.... There were a few other names that were flagged as possibilities, but we felt that the term ‘convention bureau’ is used worldwide and most adequately reflects what we do.”

Craig Davis
‘The thinking was simply that “the Greater Pittsburgh CVB” was long, it was confusing, and it gave the impression that we ran the convention center, which we do not.’

Back in the United States, Tampa Bay & Company — previously the Tampa/Hillsborough Convention & Visitors Authority, then the Tampa Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau — changed its name in 2007 to help position the organization “as one of the lead economic development drivers in the ... region,” said Doug McLain, Tampa Bay & Company's vice president of marketing and communications. “It's important for DMOs to prove their value through economic development in the local economy. We create 70,000 jobs here, and a lot of wages — but a lot of that is not seen as a specific industry.”

Now, though, Tampa Bay & Company has yet another name change in the works, as part of a larger rebranding effort. According to a spokesperson for the DMO, “The trend five to seven years ago was to brand the actual CVB, and like many other destinations, we are now refocusing on branding our destination.” Although Tampa Bay is still “in the deciding phase” for its new name, a January column in the Tampa Bay Times cited McLain as saying that a name change to something with “Visit” in its title “immediately alerts people to what the agency does.” The newspaper columnist put his money on “Visit Tampa Bay.”

That Went Well

How have these new names landed, with both meeting planners and the general public? Pittsburgh considered Discover, Experience, Travel, and Tourism Pittsburgh before settling on VisitPittsburgh, and “the new name stuck right away,” Davis said. “It was one of the most easy transitions I've ever experienced.” While there may have been some initial confusion when the first few CVBs changed their names, Davis said, “By the time we went that direction there was a nomenclature in the business that people knew what it meant.”

Amy Long

‘Meeting planners couldn't care less what the name is. They just want to get their information.’

In Chicago, the new DMO wasn't too much of an issue for meeting planners, because CCTB was already tied to Choose Chicago via its web address. The general public “gets it a bit more now,” Wilkinson said, “... and if the general public gets it, our customer will get it.”

Wilkinson also noted that, like many DMOs that have changed their names, the Chicago bureau still legally remains CCTB — but really just for technical reasons, tied to revenue that the organization receives from the state and in order not to invalidate certain contracts. Tennant echoed Wilkinson, saying, “It's really just a technicality. Some people locally remember us as the Minneapolis CVA.” As for meeting planners and tourists considering Minneapolis, Tennant said that leisure visitors are looking for some of the same attributes that meeting planners are in terms of destination appeal, so the new name speaks to both groups.

It's Not For Everyone

But not all DMOs have experienced such a no-fuss transition. Experience Colorado Springs at Pikes Peak ran into enough trouble with its new name, which it adopted in fall 2005, that last year it decided to switch back to the Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau.

'We looked hard at the industry. How do people know what we do? A lot of consumers use CVBs, but don't have any clue what they do.'

Colorado Springs is a long city name to begin with, according to Amy Long, the CVB's vice president of marketing and partnerships, and adding another long word like “Experience” in front of it was “kind of a burden, from talking about it to putting it in your email address.” She added: “If you are going to stay on brand, it's just a really long name.” Colorado Springs also encountered problems at trade shows, because when it submitted its name to be listed in the exhibitor directory, it would be appear under the E's instead of where people would expect to find it, under the C's.

Kristen Zern, executive director of the Association of Travel Marketing Executives, agrees that the change to the “Action Verb-City Name” format seems counterintuitive. “It seems like most of them should be starting with the name of the location,” she said. But Zern can understand why many bureaus have elected to go down this road for the simple reason that most DMOs “got a better response when they did that,” she said. “It just gave it more of a marketing spin, made it more fun, and made it sound less like a government-based group to support the destination.”

As for Colorado Springs, “It just wasn't worth it,” Long said. “Meeting planners couldn't care less what the name is. They just want to get their information. And those who know how to use the CVB to their advantage are very familiar with the term ‘CVB,’ and we don't want them to not be able to find us at a trade show or stumble over our name.”

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