Convention and Visitors Bureaus: A Meeting Planner’s Best Friend

Conduct an Internet search on “Convention and Visitors Bureau” (CVB)and you will get well over three million responses. Is it any surprise, then, that these local organizations can provide meeting planners with a wealth of resources to assist them in putting together their next big shindig? “I think planners would be surprised by the amount of assistance we and other bureaus provide. We can definitely make their lives easier and make sure they have what they need to encourage attendance and interest in their meeting,” says Laurie McConnell of the Boise, Idaho, CVB.

“A CVB can provide a variety of information about venues large and small for meetings,” agrees Susan Wade, public relations manager for the Springfield, Missouri, CVB. “A CVB also can help a meeting planner obtain lodging and group rates for attendees, provide information about attractions and activities to do in the off hours, recommend local resources, provide maps and other community information and serve as a liaison between the meeting planner and any other services the planner needs,” she explains.

From Orlando to Seattle, convention and visitors bureaus) provide general information about the area, restaurant guides, points of interest, and calendars of events. Of specific interest to meeting planners are lists of meeting sites, service providers and hotels. Many CVBs also have teams of specialists (or salespeople) who can help you plan your meeting – in most cases, free of charge. You simply create an RFP, send it to the CVB team and let them handle the details of working with the hotels, restaurants and other service providers.

Even planners putting together smaller meetings can use a CVB. “No matter the size of the meeting being organized, from 50 to 50,000, all planners are encouraged to use a bureau’s services. In fact, some larger bureaus even have staff members dedicated to small meetings,” according to the Destination Marketing Association International’s (DMAI), the world’s largest association of convention and visitors bureaus.

When planning your meeting, contact appropriate CVBs early in the process, says Wade. “Sometimes if a meeting planner is flexible, they can coordinate a meeting in conjunction with a citywide event that is of interest to attendees. For instance, auto parts sales reps attending a meeting might enjoy a car show that’s scheduled to be in the area at the same time. Contacting the CVB early helps make sure those kinds of arrangements can be made,” she explains.

Linda Parriott, director, marketing communications for the San Jose, California, CVB, also says the earlier the CVB is brought on board, the better. “The CVB can do a great deal of the site selection work (dates, rates and space) and act as the advocate for the meeting planner,” she says.

For more information on CVBs, contact the Destination Marketing Association International at http://www.destinationmarketing.org/iacvb/index.asp. Also, visit www.OfficialTravelGuide.com for a listing of CVBs around the world, along with contacts and hyperlinks to more than 1,200 local CVB Web sites.