Convention and visitors bureaus and destination marketing organizations are becoming increasingly inventive in the ways they assist planners.

These entities can be game-changers when it comes to helping stage outstanding meetings and events, from site selection to promotion to event execution and beyond.

Four CVBs—Ventura County Coast, Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau, Destination DC and Visit Savannah—shared strategic ways to utilize their services and some of the improvements they have implemented.

Brain Tucker, Executive Director, Ventura County Lodging AssociationBrian Tucker, Executive Director,
Ventura County Lodging Association

MT: What advice would you give planners to best utilize the services and programs of a CVB/DMO?  

BT: I recommend starting with the regional or local CVB or DMO website. They work hard to be a top resource for visitors and planners. That being said, I am very happy to announce the launch of our new Ventura County Coast meeting planner portal, VenturaCountyCoast.com/Meetings.

In addition to our regional portal, each of our destination partners (Visit Ventura, Visit Oxnard and Visit Camarillo) provide fantastic tools from lists of hotel properties, dining suggestions, itineraries and contact information.

Destinations will also have direct contacts listed on their site that can assist you with your planning. In my opinion, when it boils down to it, we are in the hospitality business. No matter how great a website might be as an initial touchpoint, it is the actual people behind a destination’s digital presence that is most important.

MT: What are some of the innovative ways Ventura County Coast is helping meeting planners?

BT: When it comes to innovation, Ventura County Coast is poised to be at the forefront of new technology to help assist and inspire planners as they bring their programs to life. From a 360-degree video of our facilities to augmented reality, we will be rolling out exciting and engaging resources to help planners around the world.

While it might not sound cutting-edge, we are also very focused on the basics of providing exceptional customer service. As we are continually immersed in technology, something as simple as the voice on the other end of the phone is something that has become less and less common. Our goal is to leverage innovations in technology and marry that with a warm voice on the other end of the line.

MT: Are you blazing any new trails from a tech or digital perspective?

BT: Here in Ventura County Coast, we are extremely passionate about leveraging tech. We embrace new digital trends, including virtual and augmented reality, which is making its way into tourism and event marketing in a major way. In fact, we are currently working with our creative agencies to develop augmented reality experiences and 360-degree tours to allow planners an opportunity to visit our region virtually. You will also begin to connect with our amazing team as we roll out our programmatic digital director of sales in 2019.

MT: How are you increasingly helping planners to design immersive experiences that connect attendees to the local community and culture?

BT: We are all about immersive, authentic experiences here in Ventura County Coast. We work with our regional and local partners to help planners not only hold meetings but provide their guests with unique memories.

We have 22 miles of beaches, three historic downtowns, one-of-a-kind outdoor activities, award-winning wine tasting rooms, walkable breweries and dozens of great restaurants ranging from seafood to ethnic to California fare. There are also opportunities to get in touch with your wild side just off the Ventura County Coast at the Channel Islands National Park. Island activities include hiking, picnicking, camping, whale watching, kayaking, fishing and scuba diving.

When planners have their meetings and events here, they will immediately be immersed in our charming and unique mix of beach destinations, rich agritourism, exciting ethnic food, annual events and nostalgic California surf culture.

Mary Neister, CMP, Vice President MCI, Hawaii VCBMary Neister, CMP, Vice President MCI, 
Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau

MT: What advice would you give planners to best utilize the services and programs of a CVB?

MN: The most important strategy we can recommend to clients is to contact Meet Hawaii prior to issuing the RFP.

By making Meet Hawaii your first point of contact, the team can assist by making appropriate introductions, offering additional possibilities and opportunities and addressing unanswered questions.

Meet Hawaii can also provide necessary information on the many nuances of the Hawaiian Islands that enables the planner to make educated decisions, as well as assist with personal discount programs for various restaurants and stores for your meeting attendees.

Additionally, based on availability of funding, the team can assist with site inspections, value-added services, and incentives to book Hawaii.

MT: Are you blazing any new trails from a tech or digital perspective?  

MN: For pre-planning and explorational portions of the decision-making process, Meet Hawaii has recently developed an innovative digital presentation tool that will allow the team to customize presentations with maximum efficiency. The program is designed to present specific information relating to a particular program, address specific questions promptly, and abruptly switch topics for any given island with no more than three clicks.

Additionally, Meet Hawaii has also developed microsites that cater to individual groups and share useful information on local happenings, discounts, activity recommendations and suggestions on how to put unused vacation time toward extending their stay in Hawaii.

Meet Hawaii is also finalizing an eBid book that tailors all relevant information to an RFP.

MT: What makes HVCB such a great resource/partner for planners when it comes to site selection, promotion and event execution?

MN: The Meet Hawaii team takes the time to understand their client’s meeting objectives, program needs and budget and works collaboratively to curate personalized, one-of-a-kind experiences.

The team’s knowledge of the Hawaiian Islands and the diverse offerings available on each island are incomparable, creating tailored programs that not only accomplish client goals, but leave a lasting impression on attendees. Their services support planners in coordinating all facets of the Hawaii meeting experience, from securing the perfect venues and methods of transportation to curating unique dining experiences and unforgettable activities. Furthermore, both Meet Hawaii and our hospitality partners can often offer cost-saving booking incentives and expert recommendations that allow planners to get more value for their event.

MT: How are you increasingly helping planners design immersive experiences that connect attendees to the local community and its intellectual capital?

MN: The Meet Hawaii team understands the impact of the Island’s “aloha spirit” and works to help planners incorporate the concept into every aspect of their meeting or program.

Whether helping to coordinate hands-on, culturally rooted team-building exercises such as outrigger canoe paddling and throw-net fishing or working with the community to harvest kalo from a loi (irrigated agricultural terrace) and helping restore a centuries-old loko ia (fishpond) built by early Hawaiians, Meet Hawaii specializes in providing guidance that allows planners to incorporate immersive programming. Additionally, Meet Hawaii helps planners make productive connections within their industry through its extensive network of Elele (ambassadors), who become invaluable resources while planners are prospecting and planning their programs.

Whether it’s showcasing state-of-the-art telescopes to astronomers atop Mauna Kea or bringing in experts on Hawaii’s clean technology initiatives by connecting planners with the right Elele, Meet Hawaii takes your program in exciting and enlightening new directions.

Elliott Ferguson, President and CEO, Destination DC, Credit: Jason Dixon PhotographyElliott Ferguson, President and CEO, Destination DC

MT: How has Destination DC’s strategy changed to enable planners to connect with top local industries?

EF: Promoting ourselves as an industry knowledge hub, in 2017 Destination DC shifted its sales strategy beyond dates, rates and space to highlight the city as a leader in D.C.’s key industries: technology, biotech/pharma, medical and education.

Aligning our sales efforts with D.C.’s local business economy is working. That’s why we’re launching three new sectors of focus early next year: transportation, government advocacy and sustainability.

MT: Is there anything new from a digital perspective?

EF: The meetings portion of Washington.org has undergone an extensive overhaul. Planners can find new sustainable meetings resources to private dining for intimate groups, and listicles including 18 Unique Boardrooms with Natural Light for your Next Meeting and 17 Venues to Host Outdoor Meetings.

MT: What other ways have you become a great resource/partner for planners?

EF: As a CVB, we are always trying to find new ways to work with planners and make sure they know we’re partners with them in terms of bringing their meetings to the city. We focus on how we can interface to make sure that we understand their meeting and the impact and legacy they leave on D.C.

For example, for one group that held a convention in D.C., a huge part of what we wanted to do with them was to make sure they knew how they could leave an impact on Washington, with the school system and leaving computers and software for kids to work with on a regular basis. So our goal is to always make sure they know we’re in lock step with them as they’re bringing their meetings to the city.

Jeff Hewitt, Senior Vice President, Visit SavannahJeff Hewitt, Senior Vice President, Visit Savannah

MT: What are some of the great ways you are helping meeting planners and attendees as a CVB?

JH: There are a couple things we have done to impact the meeting planner as well as the guests coming to the different events and conventions.

For attendees, we’ve developed a program called show your badge. All you have to do is show your credentials that you are attending a conference, and there are over 100 shops, restaurants, tours and attractions in the destination that provide you with discounts just by showing your badge.

For meeting planners, we’ve developed a set of dates through 2022 where we’ve sat down with the hotel community to identify need period dates. So if you have any flexibility and you can shift your dates maybe by a week or two to fill in the time frames that we are historically soft, we can build an incredible package for you that includes softer hotel rates and a number of incentives.

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