When planners can’t go on-site to review and analyze a prospective venue for a meeting or event, it’s imperative to use a combination of ingenuity and creativity to execute the task successfully.
One of the exciting tech trends experts predict will greatly impact site inspections is virtual reality. Hotels and destinations are moving to virtual reality to highlight their products in the most realistic way possible. Technology companies like Microsoft, Samsung and Google are aggressively developing the technology.
There are some intriguing new tools already available. Virtual Discovery L.A. by Meet L.A., the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board, is a virtual reality portal allowing planners to take immersive, 360-degree tours of 50 meeting and special event venues around the city. Meanwhile, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority offers a downloadable Virtual Reality app, Vegas VR, which explores various sites in the city. The Atlanta CVB also recently enhanced its existing virtual reality site tour app.
On the hotel front, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts has fully immersive 360-degree videos of destinations and iconic hotels you can watch from your office desk.
Until virtual reality and other technologies become commonplace, the most popular approach, according to some planners, is good old-fashioned networking.
“My main tool is personal reference from other planners,” said Ann Windham James, CEO of Imagine Xhibits Inc. “I tap into my network to see who held an event in that location or site in the last 90 days. This is so readily available today, especially with LinkedIn.
“I also use YELP frequently,” she continued. “I have used Facetime and Skype to see a room real time live, and I’ll call a sales person and ask them to send me photos of a meeting room in real time so that I’m not relying on the website, which could have outdated images.”
Genny Castleberry, director of sourcing for Spear One, utilizes a variety of tools to perform a site inspection from her office.
“We use Cvent as our online sourcing tool because it allows us to identify and search a variety of properties throughout the world for our clients,” Castleberry said. “I suggest engaging with the hotel’s national sales office and ask for client references from the properties you’re considering or the CVB to get firsthand knowledge of their experience working with these properties.
“Whenever possible, you should ask for a virtual site visit via Skype or other medium,” she added.