As the meetings industry continues to rebound from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing event planners consistently express is the amount of friction they encounter as they navigate booking and planning their events.
Every time I hear this, it reminds me of a quote given to me years ago in a planner interview response on the value of using a convention & visitors bureau (CVB):
Who doesn’t want a partner that eliminates friction and ensures speed and efficiency? These attributes should be at the core of the CVB value proposition.
CVBs have been long touted as a “one-stop shop” for planners. Yet, outside the major citywide marketplace where working with a CVB is essential, CVB sales professionals have continued to struggle with awareness and relevance as a middleman between planners and venues. In research conducted by Destination Analysts, Inc. and Destinations International, The CVB & the Future of the Meetings Industry, over half of meeting planners consider CVBs “very important” to the meetings industry (54.5%). They also see CVBs becoming more important to the industry in the future (50.3%). In these extraordinary times, CVBs can position themselves to step up as strategic planning partners and go after the other half.
Based on our work within the industry, Christine “Shimo” Shimasaki, CDME, CMP, and I have valued relationships with many CVB sales leaders and professionals. We value you and your work, and we want to share some of the insights we have gleaned from your customers over the past few years by conducting advisory boards, industry panels, and direct customer interviews as part of our Buyer Insights research. We see this as an opportunity for you to better understand their vantage point on the value of CVBs, which may help you to optimize these relationships.
Planners Depend on You to Simplify the Process
Even in the best of times, securing a meeting or business center location is a complicated endeavor. Planners have told us they expect their CVB partner to clear the way, saving them both time and effort. Their desire is for you to do much more than just distribute the lead. They want you to own the lead in your destination. Planners expect CVB sales pros to understand their needs explicitly, communicate them to your hotels and venues, and follow through to create a cohesive response that covers all the bases, bringing your community together to provide alternatives and solutions that work for their particular event.
The need for this effort on your part is magnified as planners are left with disrupted hotel relationships and the need to navigate increasingly complex buying decisions in a much-shortened booking window.
Planners Depend on You to Eliminate Friction
In our conversations with planners, they have explicitly expressed their reliance on the CVB as a problem solver. When they come up against hurdles, they rely on CVB’s insider knowledge of how things work in the destination to give them an advantage in negotiations, removing obstacles, and overcoming specific challenges.
Now is the time to show planners that you are the ideal curator of destination expertise and that there’s no one better to help them in difficult times. Bring your destination partners together to troubleshoot; provide examples and case studies and connect them with peers who have solved similar issues innovatively. When you witness creative solutions, add them to your resource library and share them far and wide. CVBs say they are the organizer’s “boots on the ground.” It’s an excellent time to prove it.
Planners Depend on You to Do Your Homework and Be a Consultative Partner
The word “ally” comes from the Latin word, alligare, meaning “to bind to.” And this type of relationship is just what a planner is seeking — an ally who will come to your aid in navigating uncharted territory, armed with expertise.
Planners comment that an impressive differentiator is a CVB rep who has taken the time to understand the organization’s goals, meeting objectives, attendee demographics, and the historical perspective of the meeting parameters. They don’t want to be relied upon to serve it all up for the CVB to disseminate for them; rather, they desire a strategic meetings partner who is well educated about their needs and who can help them sell the advantages of the destination to their own stakeholders.
Charting a New Course
You’re being asked to partner in new ways and add value in your relationships with organizers. We hear many of you say you have never been busier! Whatever your circumstances, almost everyone is being asked to do more with less right now. It’s our belief, supported by the planner’s perspective, that there has never been a better time to be a CVB sales professional.
We hope you have found some planner-based insight here that will guide and inspire your conversations as you and your team chart new ways to add value. We look forward to continuing the discussion.