With the introduction of social media, third-party meeting professionals and electronic RFP services, the meeting industry has made a dramatic shift in how meeting planners and hotel properties do business.
This change has occurred so quickly that the purpose of a Convention and Visitors Bureau is sometimes misunderstood; CVBs, meanwhile, are moving quickly to adapt.
CVBs thrive on repeat business built on relationships with clients — including meeting planners. CVBs vary in size and scope, which is why some services available to meeting planners differ from destination to destination. There are several things both sides can do to become partners and nurture a successful relationship:
1. Communication is critical. One of the best ways to contact a CVB staff person is through email. Destination websites usually provide information about staff members who specialize in specific meeting markets and services tailored to meeting planners’ needs. Sometimes sales managers will work in multiple markets, but you should always find a staff member willing to help you. In return, a CVB needs your preferred contact information and the best times to return your calls.
2. A CVB is the advocate for the meeting planner, and its primary goal is to work on your behalf and surpass your expectations. CVB staff members love details! The more details a meeting planner can provide, the better the job a CVB can do to facilitate your meeting.
3. CVBs can point meeting planners in the right direction and get them in front of people who can help expedite the meeting process. CVBs are traditionally seen as the official marketing agent whose sole purpose is to promote their destination and partner with their chamber of commerce to enhance economic development. In reality, CVBs can provide an amazing array of resources to meeting planners, including information about restaurants, attractions, unique venues, meeting spaces and vendors, and things to do after business or conference hours. Letting CVBs know what your needs are will help ensure a successful relationship and event.
4. CVBs love to promote their destinations by creating micro websites for your attendees, providing gift bags, housing services, planning golf tournaments or staffing registration booths. CVBs need to know what items are appropriate for your group and if there are any conflicts of interest. For example, some companies must stay in a specific hotel with certain food-and-beverage products. Knowing this ahead of time helps prevent last-minute hiccups.
Lastly, and most importantly, a great destination is not about the travel or hotel stay. It’s about the entire experience that the meeting planners and attendees’ have and the relationships formed.