MAR 2017

ConventionSouth magazine is the leading resource for meeting planners who book all types of events, conventions, conferences and group travel in the south.

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M A R C H 2 0 1 7 ⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 11 ANNUAL CVB ISSUE the clients at their annual convention. But there are also respondents each year who complain that some CVBs have actually made the meeting planning process more tedious. In most cases, the criticism centers around the dis- tribution of the planner's Request for Proposals (RFPs). For example, one planner expressed that she specifically asks to have her RFPs shared only with hotels but then sometimes ends up "receiving calls and emails from every vendor in the city." Among the other concerns that planners brought up in this year's survey, one association planner said he gets frustrated when some CVBs "do not have all the information I need, such as list of local speakers, guest tour operators, ideas." To be fair, there is a lot of middle ground when it comes to planners' feedback on their interac- tion with CVBs. For example, one planner said he always works with CVBs and generally had good things to say about them. However, he did suggest that CVBs offer more consistency when it comes to the staff assigned to work with a plan- ner. "I handle clients from all market segments— from 30 to 3,000 attendees—and I get tossed around to different sales people at most CVB's," he said. "This is still a relationship built industry and it would help if I could always work with the same person." Another independent planner commented that CVBs need to do a better job of offering trans- portation options, especially for people coming from larger cities. She pointed out that some people don't know how to drive or can't drive for medical reasons, so rental cars are not an option. Additionally, she pointed out that it can be very expensive to take a cab from an airport to a resort destination that is more than 30 minutes away, so CVBs can help by providing shuttle services. An Important Resource Despite the criticism they sometimes receive, CVBs continue to be an important and well- used resource when it comes to planning all types of events, based on the input of meeting professionals from throughout the country. All (100 percent) of the meeting planners who responded to ConventionSouth's 2017 survey about the relationship between planners and CVBs said that they use the services of these organizations for at least some of the meetings they plan. More than 70 percent indicated that they use CVBs for the majority or all of their meetings and events. The main CVB services that planners said they use are initial destination research, RFPs and site visits. Other popular services include vendor recommendations, promotional mate- rials, familiarization (FAM) tours, registration assistance and housing services. According to survey respondents, CVBs can further increase their value to planners by mak- ing sure they maintain regular communication after the destination has gotten the bid. "Don't drop out of site once a contract is signed," advised one planner. But another planner advised his fellow plan- ners of the importance of providing detailed RFPs to CVBs as well maintaining good rela- tionships with CVB representatives. This is a good way to ensure they understand the spe- cific needs of a group, he said. How CVBs Reach Out The most common ways that CVBs in the South promote their destinations are industry conferences, direct sales, industry websites and social media, according to CVB represen- tatives who responded to this year's survey. They also use emails and newsletters, industry publications and direct mail. Facebook is the most popular social media tool and all respon- dents indicated having a Facebook page. Twitter accounts are also popular, followed by LinkedIn and YouTube. A majority of CVBs that re- sponded to the survey said that they offer in- centives to entice qualifying groups to choose their destination. Nearly all the CVBs said they offer site inspections and FAM tours in order to demon- strate all that their destination has to offer, al- though some respondents said that this type of outreach can depend on the type and size of the meeting being planned. While site visits are usually requested by planners, their effectiveness often depends on how they are handled, according to one plan- ner, who remarked that it helps when the CVB personnel are "hands on" rather than just set- ting up appointments and stepping aside. One key element that CVBs typically pro- vide is a connection to area hotels, which is usually crucial to the decision-making process for planners. This is one area where CVBs could show some improvement, according to some of the planners surveyed. "Sometimes the relationship between the CVB and their hoteliers is lacking," one planner said. Occa- sionally, he added, planners know more than the CVB about an area's hotel situation, such as when properties sell and change ownership, or which properties are not in good shape. What CVBs Need When asked to describe the challenges they encounter in working with meeting planners, CVB professionals indicated that they some- times have a hard time getting a planner's attention, especially if they represent a smaller destination. "We are a small community, with small budgets, but we have lots of unique meeting spaces and creativity to offer," one CVB official remarked. Others indicated that some planners do not supply enough detailed information in their RFPs. Among the key recommendations that CVB officials offered to planners were: call and discuss specific ideas; be creative; give appropriate time for a response; be open to new places; and keep us updated as your needs change." n of the meeting planners who responded said that they use CVBs for at least some of the meetings they plan. 100 % of the meeting planners who responded said that they use CVBs for the majority or all of their meetings and events. 70 % More than

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