Many planners do not fully realize, nor adequately utilize, the services a CVB offers, many of which are free of charge. For planners who do not have adequate internal staff to assist with their meeting, or for non-profit or volunteer events that do not have full-time planning support, CVBs can become an extension of your team, saving you time and money. Their message is clear and you’ll hear it repeated over and over: “Tell us what success means from your perspective and your bosses and we’ll help you meet it.”
Request for Proposals
A CVB’s membership includes local businesses that generally supply services to the hospitality industry such as hotels, convention centers, restaurants, attractions and transportation companies. If your event has a need for a large number of suppliers or you are not familiar enough with the city to select providers, CVBs can create a request for proposal (RFP) for you and submit it to prospective companies. They will also take your own RFP document and disseminate it to a pre-approved list. It is important to qualify the companies you want to receive the RFP, especially if you or your client has a preferred brand for hotels. By being as specific as possible in the RFP document, you reduce an influx of e-mails and telephone calls from companies you have no interest in buying from.
Promoting Your Event
CVBs can assist in bolstering your meeting’s attendance through several promotional tools. When building your event’s Web site, you may need high-resolution photos of the location. CVBs can provide targeted images as well as video of accommodations and attractions.
Since destination information can be overwhelming and highlight attractions your attendees may not be visiting, simply listing the destination’s Web site link on your event information page can lead to confusion. Some CVBs will create a specific URL for your event which links to a welcome splash page with your group’s name. The custom page allows you to pick the information you want highlighted for your group. By listing only the attractions that appear on your event agenda, you reduce miscommunication with your delegates.
If you are organizing an event that is open to the public, CVBs can assist in providing local media contacts and information for press releases. Most CVBs have a section of their Web site dedicated to public relations and media inquiries. Here you can find information to incorporate into your press materials, including stock story copy and quotes highlighting the destination’s offerings. CVBs will provide a list of e-mail addresses and telephone numbers for local and regional newspapers, television and radio stations.
Housing and Travel Assistance
If your meeting or event is large enough to require three or more hotels, CVBs can provide an online housing reservations system which can also include airline and ground transportation bookings. Many events have one online system to register attendees and gather housing and travel information. However, not all registration sites have the capacity to pass these reservations directly to the hotel or airline’s system. Similar to a third-party registration company, the CVB’s housing bureau can communicate with the hotel and disseminate rooming lists and travel itineraries. Note that CVBs in smaller market cities many not offer this service and there is usually a fee involved.
Tour and Attraction Booking
A CVB provides information and contacts for booking tours and attractions and can also refer their member destination management companies if your needs are more extensive. Similar to a hotel’s structure, a CVB will assign your group a convention services manager (CSM) who will work with you on all the pre-planning details. The CSM can act as your liaison in contacting their member suppliers. Since each member company is paying dues to fund the CVB, your CSM cannot suggest one company over another. They can, however, narrow your choices by telling you which companies provide the specific service you are requesting.
Additional Supplier Listings
CVBs can provide suggestions for services well beyond hotels and attractions. These include: program speakers and entertainers; exhibit freight services; equipment rental for your onsite planner office; floral designers; car rental companies; foreign language translation services; and even babysitting services.
Many planners have the capacity to organize a large event with a small staff, but then require supplemental support once onsite. CVBs can provide different levels of temporary staffing from attendee material collation to registration services. It’s important to qualify your needs and give the CVB a detailed job description of what is required. Do you have a registration desk that requires no more than a greeter to hand out delegate badges? Or is your registration more complex, requiring computer skills and knowledge of online software systems? Communicating your specific needs to the CVB will ensure the right match for each task.
By partnering with a CVB, you can reduce time in researching what a destination has to offer and quickly define which local suppliers meet your requirements. Rather than having to become an expert in a destination, you can save time and costs by utilizing the CVB’s expertise. With streamlined destination knowledge and preferred supplier information, you can now spend your time on more strategic planning elements. All it takes is delegation to your newly extended team — the CVB.
A convention and visitors bureau (CVB) is the dominant form of a destination marketing organization (DMO) in the U.S. While each state has a department of travel and tourism, most counties and/or cities also have their own CVB to promote a more geographically narrow area.
Although there are many government and chamber of commerce bodies with responsibility for marketing a destination to visitors, most convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs) are non-profit organizations, working independently under the direction of a board of elected directors. They are usually membership organizations bringing together businesses that rely on tourism and meetings for revenue and are funded primarily through the collection of “bed taxes” on visitors.
Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI) is the world’s largest resource for official destination marketing organizations. The organization provides members with educational resources, networking opportunities and marketing benefits worldwide. It also maintains an online bookstore and resource center, an e-mail discussion list for members, professional certificates and designations (PDM, CDME), an accreditation program and an official online travel portal: OfficialTravelGuide.com.
DMAI was founded in 1914 as the International Association of Convention Bureaus to promote sound professional practices in the solicitation and servicing of meetings, conventions and tourism. In 1957, the association changed its name to the International Association of Convention and Visitors Bureau (IACVB), to reflect the growing importance of consumer travel. In 2005, it changed its name again to become Destination Marketing Association International.
Sources: destinationmarketing.org, Wikipedia.com