Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

March 18 2013

Western Destinations: Boundless Opportunities

By Jennifer N. Dienst, Contributing Editor

The One Thing We Have in Common

Jennifer Wesselhoff, CDME WAC VB Board President President & CEO, Sedona Chamber of Commerce Tourism Bureau

We are living in a remarkable era of communication and technology. Now more than ever, access to global information provides us with the tools we need to educate ourselves to become industry experts, review competitive landscapes, access studies and research that provide the backbone for strategies, Skype with our international counterparts, and, cost-effectively, conduct business around the globe. The sky is the limit! In our exhilarating and sometimes frenetic age of information and access, to be able to say that “one thing” in particular is of utmost importance can be challenging. But being able to pinpoint what's most important is the foundation for smart decision-making. In this special section about the West, a number of WACVB-member executives weigh in on their “one thing” by answering the following questions. What they have to say will surely be insightful.

  • What is the one thing meeting planners should know about your destination?
  • What is the one thing a meeting attendee shouldn't miss doing or seeing while in your destination?
  • What is the one thing you hear meeting planners say they care most about?
  • What is the one thing you think will change with regard to meetings this year?
  • What is the one thing that's changed most in the meetings industry in the last five years?
  • What is the one thing you like best about your job/this industry?

Today's meeting professionals and association executives have many avenues to explore when it comes to gathering information to plan their event. But one thing that you can count on is that our DMO members will make your job of finding the perfect location for your next meeting an easier one. WACVB members will assist with marketing toolkits, attendance-building e-strategies, online meeting/event planning guides, housing services, green/sustainable tips, and more.

As in years past, this special section of Western Destinations serves as a useful resource that will allow you to contact members of WACVB. Our DMO members are here to support your meetings, trade shows, conventions, and events. And, their “one thing” will illustrate their knowledge and passion for the industry — providing the best possible experience for you and for your attendees.
PCMA Convene

How the West Has Won

Big skies. Blue waters. Soaring mountains. Western destinations bring new meaning to meeting amenities. Here, some of their top executives answer a simple question: What is the one thing…?

Dave Gazley
Vice President, Meeting & Convention Sales Tourism Vancouver

… meeting planners should know about your destination?

Vancouver is a beautiful, clean, green, easily accessible, and great walking city that is fun and friendly. It is a truly international, cosmopolitan, urban oasis. Our newly expanded, award-winning Vancouver Convention Centre is one of the most spectacular convention facilities in the world, surrounded by world-class hotels right in the heart of a vibrant city.

… a meeting attendee shouldn't miss doing or seeing while in your destination?

Vancouver is surrounded by water and mountains; we are blessed with geography that is spectacular by nature. Dine at one of our fabulous restaurants with a sunset view of the water and mountains. Walk, run, cycle the famous Seawall, which runs almost all the way around the city's edge — at the same time experiencing Vancouver's famous Stanley Park, a natural temperate rainforest. Take the aerial tram to the peak of Vancouver at Grouse Mountain. Stroll Gastown or Yaletown, where the city's heart beats and feel the vibe of Granville and Robson Streets day or night.

… you try to cultivate within your CVB team?

Our goal is to exceed expectations when working with clients, partners, and members.

… you think will change with regard to meetings this year?

Planners will be using technology to not just talk to delegates, they will use technology to talk with them. Video use in digital conferencing, social media, even gamification — anything to engage the delegates and increase the value of their experience. Content will need to be delivered in different ways. Meetings will have to inspire and provide even more value in order to engage people.

Marc Garcia
President & CEO Visit Mesa

… meeting planners should know about your destination?

The multitude of activities and experiences in Mesa is limitless. Mesa's advantage is our close proximity to Tonto National Forest and our area lakes and rivers — literally, just minutes from our hotels. The desert is our playground, and Mesa has some jaw-dropping locales for team-building and off-site activities. Planners are most surprised by the short distance to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, and they are seeing the Metro Light Rail that cores through Mesa's downtown as an added value to their attendees.

… a meeting attendee shouldn't missing doing or seeing while in your destination?

Mesa boasts the largest arts and cultural complex in the entire Southwest. The Mesa Arts Center offers a wealth of corporate discovery programs centered on team-building and training through a variety of mediums. The seven-acre campus is a magnet for activity in the city, and its design was inspired by the unique character of the Sonoran Desert — a rich desert, mountain, and canyon environment. For planners, it's a blank canvas featuring a complex of four theaters, five art galleries and exhibition space, 14 artist studios, and a 700-foot Shadow Walk that creates an inviting, shaded, outdoor-oasis plaza.

… you try to cultivate within your CVB team?

To have a team that is passionate about our destination and expresses a positive, winning attitude in everything they do.

… you think will change with regard to meetings this year?

Like most destinations in our industry, we will continue to face challenges as part of corporate and association budget constraints. We like to say that planners can get the same Arizona experience for their attendees at a much lower cost. Items like free parking, complimentary breakfast buffet, free Wi-Fi access, and room incentives really do make a difference to planners.

Steve Hammond
President & CEO Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau

… meeting planners should know about your destination?

From a customer perspective, every destination is a product, and like most other products, customers expect improvements and new product development. Destinations that don't do this eventually lose market share. Those that continually invest in their infrastructure reap the rewards of additional groups, and Sacramento has made that infrastructure investment in a big way, enhancing its convention product by adding 16 new restaurants within walking distance of the convention center and new hotel inventory over the past few years. The new Central Terminal at the airport, a $1.27-billion project which opened in 2011, offers three times the space of the existing terminal. Combine this with a growing reputation as a convention destination, and Sacramento's future looks very bright.

… a meeting attendee shouldn't miss doing or seeing while in your destination?

Visitors will step back in time in Old Sacramento, a 28-acre town of historic buildings, museums, and monuments. With strong preservation efforts, the wooden sidewalks, horse-drawn carriages, Pony Express monuments, and Mississippi-style riverboats reflect the nostalgic appeal of early American history. It is the Williamsburg of the Wild West!

… you try to cultivate within your CVB team?

The one trait that I always look for when we hire a new employee is a passion for hospitality. Our employees always go the extra step to make visitors feel like they are welcome in Sacramento, and they enjoy delivering the charm and friendliness often found only in small towns.

… you think will change with regard to meetings this year?

There is certainly a new energy and an improved perception about the direction of the meetings industry, but we can't take that for granted. We need to continue to help organizations promote the value of our industry to prospective attendees of their events. More than ever before, that message promotes the value of face-to-face meetings, the exchange of information and best practices, the overall experience that the backdrop of a city like Sacramento can provide to a meeting attendee, and the value of that particular organization to be the leading source of cutting-edge information to its constituencies. However, there is still much more that needs to be done to demonstrate the value of our industry. We still need to push forward with the messages that meetings directly impact the economies of communities and meetings are opportunities to share best practices and creatively collaborate with others from around the nation and world.

Aaron M. McCreight, CDME
Chief Executive Officer Casper Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

… a meeting attendee shouldn't miss doing or seeing while in your destination?

Getting outside! Casper is Wyoming's Adventure Capital, and as great as our meeting-space options are, nothing compares to what awaits when you step away from the conference room. Whether you want to hike, bike, ski, or sled on Casper Mountain, stick the green on one of our 90 holes of golf, or get out on the North Platte River to fish, kayak, or just for a relaxing float, Casper offers outdoor adventure for all of your meeting attendees.

Tom Norwalk
President & CEO Visit Seattle

… meeting planners should know about your destination?

Seattle's reputation for meeting excellence along with its superb hotel package, convention center, and off-site venues often inspires record-setting attendance for groups. Downtown Seattle is vibrant, walkable, and anything but cookie-cutter, and planners know their attendees will thrive on our city's culture, creative energy, world-class food and wine, and unique proximity to outdoor recreation. Seattle is a good fit for mid-sized meetings and conventions, but offers big-city sophistication. More than 7,000 hotel guest rooms are within an easy walk of the Washington State Convention Center, and the city's top attractions, theater, museums, symphony, shopping, and dining are just steps from both.

… you try to cultivate within your CVB team?

Visit Seattle's primary goal is to provide the best DMO service in North America. We're making good progress — Visit Seattle was just ranked the top CVB/DMO by more than 700 meeting planners in a survey conducted by Watkins Research Group.

Joel Racker
President/CEO Utah Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau

… meeting planners should know about your destination?

Last May, Utah Valley welcomed the Utah Valley Convention Center. This $41-million, 130,000-square-foot facility is Utah's only LEED Silver-certified, eco-friendly convention center, conveniently located on historic Center Street in downtown Provo. There is no other facility like it in Utah or the Intermountain West. Plus, it's easy to get here. Utah Valley/ Provo is conveniently located 45 minutes south of Salt Lake International Airport — a hub for JetBlue, Southwest, and Delta. And beginning this spring, FrontRunner will connect with Utah's newest TRAX Light Rail service line from Salt Lake International Airport.

Julie Saupe
President & CEO Visit Anchorage

… meeting planners should know about your destination?

Meeting planners should know that Anchorage offers truly top-rate — and gorgeous — convention facilities. This may sound very basic, but as an Alaska destination, we often have to work hard to counter perceptions that we are “rustic” or “frontier” in the facilities that are available. The second misperception that falls right behind is the notion that Anchorage will be an expensive destination. We prove to be exceptionally competitive on a cost basis, which is a surprise to most meeting planners.

… a meeting attendee shouldn't missing doing or seeing while in your destination?

Anchorage really does deliver adventure. Meeting attendees must not miss the chance to experience our outdoors (yes, even in winter). From a day cruise to view whales and glaciers to a hike in the mountains or along our Coastal Trail, a wilderness experience is at our doorstep. For winter visitors, skiing, dog mushing, flightseeing, or enjoying our trail system are all great options. Of course, we always recommend that visitors end that experience with a dinner of fresh Alaskan seafood.

… you try to cultivate within your CVB team?

Our team is incredibly service-oriented and recognizes that our best sales tool is ensuring that our current meeting delegates have a great experience. Fortunately, we have a very experienced team that cares deeply about the success of our meeting clients.

Scott L. White
President & CEO Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau

… meeting professionals should know about your destination?

Greater Palm Springs is known for great weather, world-class resorts, events, and championship golf. But many meeting professionals don't realize we have more than 100 hotels offering many different price points and types of product — from small historic inns and mid-century chic to full-service resorts with national brands. We can accommodate a group with thousands or create that unique and intimate setting with a few people. We have some of the most unique outdoor venues in the country, including celebrity estates, outdoor sports facilities, and botanical gardens — and our tram can transport your group up 8,500 feet in 10 minutes. But the most unique feature is our surrounding mountain views.

… a meeting attendee shouldn't miss doing or seeing while in your destination?

Experiencing what is unique to our destination: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, The Living Desert Zoo & Botanical Garden, El Paseo Shopping District, our Mid-Century Modern architecture, plus top events like Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, Palm Springs International Film Festival, BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament, the Humana Challenge featuring the Clinton Foundation and Health Matters, and the LPGA major tour event Kraft Nabisco golf tournament.

… you try to cultivate within your CVB team?

We strive to provide the best and most personalized services for our customers. We have a team of seasoned professionals that understands the industry and the needs of the customer. We customize all of our lead services, site inspections, and keep all of their information confidential.

… you think will change with regard to meetings this year?

We see clients booking further out. As rates continue to rise, clients want to ensure they have their preferred dates and rates secured.


Jennifer Wesselhoff, CDME
President & CEO
Sedona Chamber of Commerce
Tourism Bureau

Bill Malone
President & CEO
Park City Chamber/Bureau

Wes Rhea
Executive Director
Stockton Convention & Visitors Bureau

Kathy Smits
Vice President, International Tourism
Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board

Tracy Farhad
Executive Director
Solvang Conference & Visitors Bureau

Anne Jenkins
Senior Vice President
Travel Medford

Jim Kissinger
Vice President, Convention Sales
Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau

Jim Luttjohann
Executive Director
Santa Fe Convention & Visitors Bureau

Aaron McCreight, CDME
Casper Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

John Reyes, CMP
Executive Vice President & Chief Customer Officer
San Francisco Travel Association

Sara Toliver
President & CEO
Ogden/Weber Convention & Visitors Bureau

Teresa Stephenson

Western Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus (WACVB)
950 Glenn Drive, Suite 150
Folsom, CA 95630
916.443.9012 • Fax 916.932.2209
info@wacvb.com or info@wacvb.travel
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