If you are facing the challenge of planning a meeting in an unfamiliar destination you might be struggling with where to begin. If your first thought is to turn to the Internet for information, you might be quickly overwhelmed by all the data available to you and still not have the type of information you need to make informed decisions. That’s where a local unbiased resource would make all the difference. And luckily for you, you have just such a thing in the city’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, or Destination Marketing Organization as many now call themselves.
CVBs are not-for-profit organizations funded by local hotel occupancy taxes that represent area hotels, convention centers, meeting venues and tourism related industries. Their services for meeting planners are free, as they are paid for by the occupancy tax. And you don’t have to have a large convention to utilize their services, as the majority of meetings they assist are for 200 people or fewer.
Benefits to using a CVB or DMO:
- Meeting planning and implementation is less time-consuming and more streamlined because the bureau possesses a large information database and serves as a one-stop shop for planners.
- CVB sales staff can help source a convention, locate meeting space, distribute RFPs, check hotel availability, receive and compile proposals, and arrange for site visits.
- Planners are given access to access to a range of services and packages, from marketing collateral to onsite registration staffing.
- Once a meeting is booked, the CVB convention services staff also can source vendors such as off-site special event venues, ground transportation companies, entertainment, caterers and a variety of services provided by their local members.
- The CVB can offer unbiased information about services and facilities in their destination, directing you toward the right locations, vendors and services to make your meeting a success.
- The CVB acts as a liaison between you and the community, and can assist you with local information that might impact your meeting, assist you with getting any necessary permits for special events you might be planning and keep you up to date on proposed activities, such as special events or road construction, that might impact the success of your event.
- Almost every destination, no matter how small, has a local tourism board, chamber of commerce, convention and visitors bureau or destination marketing organization that you can contact when you are first considering a meeting locale. Th e staff who work for these organizations are locals with a keen appreciation for their area, professionals with a commitment to providing planners and visitors with true hospitality and a clearinghouse of local information and expertise that you would be a fool to pass up!
Services offered by most CVBs and DMOs:
- Collateral marketing material such as flyers, attendance builder brochures and postcards, photo galleries of local attractions, websites, and marketing staff who can assist with all your promotional needs.
- Assistance with on-site logistics, including name badges, registration staffing (often staffing is free based on your room night pickup), local information desk staffing, airport greeters, etc.
- Housing bureaus to manage large conventions requiring multiple properties.
- Complete listings of auxiliary services, such as office equipment, production companies, caterers, sporting venues, transportation, etc.
- Site inspections/familiarization tours and site selection assistance.
- Access to local speakers and local educational opportunities available to conventions.
- Access to special venues that might normally be off limits to groups.
So now that you know what a CVB or DMO is, you might be asking, what’s the difference between them and a DMC? A Destination Management Company, or DMC, is a professional services company possessing extensive local knowledge, expertise and resources, specializing in the design and implementation of events, activities, tours, transportation and program logistics. Typically when working with a DMC, they contract directly with venues or service providers on your behalf and handle all arrangements, including payment, and quote you a fee that covers that payment plus their professional service fee.
While for some of my smaller meetings with less on-site logistics I might make all the local arrangements myself, when it comes to my larger conventions with a variety of off-site events, I find it works best to use a DMC to serve as the local planner. In that sense, you and your guests become their clients and they are responsible for all the logistics. When you are trying to organize off-site evening events, move people from one location to another, all while wrapping up onsite meetings and activities, having a DMC that is in charge of all the details is worth every penny! Your local CVB can provide you with a list of DMCs, and I recommend asking your hotel Convention Services Manager for recommendations as well. They are used to working with DMCs and can give you insight into how the local companies function. The Association for Destination Management Executives has a member directory as well as best practices on their website (ADME.org) that can also assist you with finding the right fit for you.
So, the next time you are charged with planning a meeting in a new or unfamiliar location, don’t worry, just start by contacting the local CVB or DMO and get their staff working for you!