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Take 10: 'CVB Update: Services and Bargaining Power' With Bonnie Wallsh

Bonnie Wallsh answers additional questions from the CVB Update: Services and Bargaining Power webinar.

1. Where can I access a listing of cities and their tiers?

I checked the website for Destinations International, the global trade association for official destination marketing organizations (DMOs), also known as Convention & Visitor Bureaus (CVBs), for their description of Tier 1, 2, and 3 cities. Read their description from their website below.

1st, 2nd, 3rd Tier Cities: What do the Designations Really Mean?

When thinking about meeting destinations, there is just about every type and size: from major convention hubs to smaller, boutique style cities. The key for meeting planners, is finding the right fit for their specific meeting. Often times, you might hear a planner say that their annual meetings are only held in 1st tier destinations. Or that a specific destination is a 2nd tier city. What specifications determine whether a city is a 1st, 2nd or 3rd tier destination?

Defining tiers in the meetings industry has been a topic often discussed, yet not a lot of substantial research has been conducted to help define and clarify them. We do know that tiers are descriptions, not designations and descriptions are subject to perception. Unfortunately, some of the perceptions or assumptions planners make could keep them from a great destination find.

Whereas hotels have a rating system that awards 3, 4, or 5 stars to properties based on their quality, size, services and amenities, no such system exists for rating meeting destinations. While there are some common tier realities, there is a lot of gray area when defining tiers. And in that gray, there are many advantages planners can explore.

There are many distinct attributes of each tier that you can get a pretty clear understanding of as well as advantages each tier holds when looking at which destination to hold your meetings, and hopefully you will consider a few destinations not previously on your radar!
What We Currently Know About Destination Tiers:

  • An official list with specific tier qualifications doesn’t exist
  • There are general characteristics or attributes that apply to each tier
  • A first tier destination to one planner may be a second tier to another planner
  • Tiers do not denote quality or services

Christine ‘Shimo’ Shimasaki, CDME, CMP and managing director of advises, “Don’t let tier designations define what destinations you consider. While 2 and 3 tier cities might be known for being more affordable, there are still plenty of affordable options in 1 tier destinations, especially if you are flexible with dates. Additionally, 2 and 3 tier destinations, depending on the meeting size, can offer just about everything a 1 tier destination has. The key is keeping your own meeting objectives in mind first and then understanding how destinations, regardless of tier, will be the perfect compliment.”

2. Most planners use us (CVA) a few times but once they get to know the properties better, they don’t. How can this be avoided?

I recommend using effective communications and focusing on developing ongoing relationships. Emphasize the importance of reaching out to your organization even if they have developed relationships with facilities. Create a list of services that you could provide to repeat clients. Possibly create a reward system for planners for their repeat business. The rewards should enhance the events, not the planners personally.

3. Why would hotels use points when it is not a revenue generating room? How does that help mitigate attrition and count towards the contracted revenue/room block?

The use of points helps the meeting planner attract participants and this should be included in hotel contracts. The 2nd biggest source of income for a hotel is F&B as well as expenditures in hotel outlets. I don’t think that a large percentage of attendees would use their points on a particular event but they might want to earn points for future use.

4. Is there a standard RFP all meeting planners use?

  • Single facility
  • Citywide/ destination 
  • Event technology/ audio visual
  • DMC and transportation services
  • General services contractor”

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5. What are some of the free things that CVBs can give us to upgrade meetings with low budget?

Services vary according to the value of your business. Although you might have a low budget, you gain leverage if you have flexibility with your dates and possible repeat business. The CVB can help with marketing, sponsorship, speakers, décor, and staffing. Ask your colleagues what they have received and definitely ask your CVB contacts what they can provide and what others have received.

6. What can you NOT ask a CVB for?

You CAN ask for things that will benefit your event. You SHOULD NOT ask CVBs to provide you with personal perks or do anything that is unethical. Site inspections for events being held in low season should NOT include site visits in high season with your family. Remember that this is a small industry and your reputation is priceless.


Click here to watch "CVB Update: Services and Bargaining Power" on demand!