June 19, 2020
By Megan Boley

It’s critical all parties in the meetings and events industry work together to support each other, especially as the industry adapts and recovers. Today, as part of our weekly blog series, Good Works and Great Ideas, which we publish every Friday, we focus on the unique role Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVBs) can play. Now, more than ever, it’s important that CVBs and hotels work together in creative ways. In this post, we highlight how CVBs are working in their communities to help restart business, and give tips on how hotels can use CVB marketing to resonate with planners. 

Great Ideas: Discover how CVB marketing can help restart business

Skift recently published an article discussing this very issue — how destination marketers first had to tackle the challenge of striking the right tone and messaging during the pandemic. And now, with reduced staff and resources, they’re having to find a way to distribute their carefully crafted messaging.

CVB marketing campaigns are a powerful way to attract future business from meeting and event planners. Keep reading to see how hotels and CVBs can create a mutually beneficial relationship to restart group business in their destination.

Before you begin, it’s important to understand that CVBs and destination marketing organizations (DMOs) aren’t hoteliers’ enemy or the competition – they’re partners. CVBs and DMOs provide access, putting planners directly in touch with the right people at venues, hotels, and virtually anywhere else a group may need to be. With thoughtful messaging, CVB marketing campaigns can bring hundreds of planners to your area – and your hotel.

1. CVBs can communicate timely reopening information.

During the current challenges facing the hospitality industry, CVBs can serve as community organizers by connecting planners with updated information on their city’s current situation and pointing them to reliable resources.

2. CVBs can serve as a hotel lead source.

CVBs can communicate with planners and build their confidence in your destination for hosting future events. Furthermore, they can field incoming planner leads and pass them on to properties – which is ideal for hotels, as leads that come from CVBs have already been vetted.

Says Debi DeBenedetto, group sales and marketing manager at the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades CVB: “We can assist planners with site visits to the destination and, in many cases, pay for a site flight, coordinate the itinerary with the hotels and airport transfers, as well as touring the destination, providing contacts for offsite venues, transportation, destination activities, and more.”

Learn more about how CVBs can help hotels restart their business

As hotels have been short-staffed, CVBs have jumped in to help hotel partners find qualified RFPs, and in some cases have even responded to RFPs on their behalf. Cvent has also further simplified this process by providing DMOs the ability to view Showcase RFPs in their market and forward them to hotel partners. In other words, DMOs can now act as the quarterback and proactively find the best RFPs from the showcase to pass to hotels.

3. CVBs can qualify planners for hotels.

Prior to sourcing online, planners will often reach out to destination experts to get feedback and input before they hit the send button. For example, here are some common questions planners typically ask CVBs:

  • Are there peak seasons to avoid?
  • Are there planned renovations or upgrades?
  • Has the hotel upgraded since its last photo shoot?
  • What hotels will be built and open by the time my program launches?
  • Are there any other events (festivals, concerts, or sporting events) that could affect the attendee experience?
  • Is there a competing event in the area that would impact my attendance?
  • This map shows hotels are walking distance, but is that walk feasible for my particular demographic?

As a result, CVBs can provide realistic expectations to a planner on rates and availability before an RFP is even sent, while also helping hoteliers choose the best clients for their space. The best CVBs have standard email template responses featuring their best venues, and include visuals such as photographs, videos, and 3D diagrams to bring the venue to life.

Hoteliers would do well to share this information upfront with CVBs, in addition to any new features and services that they’re offering. These details can help CVBs attract more planners and give them confidence in choosing your hotel as their venue.

A CVB can also position themselves as a resource for historical information. If planners have a program they want to bring to the area, they might consult a CVB first to see what historical need periods are in the area, or what the lead time typically is. This will help planners source programs that are the right fit, and the right time to contact hotels that are inundated with RFP requests.

Above and beyond providing leads, CVBs are an extension of a hotel’s marketing and sales team – and right now, most hotels need the help. CVBs can also follow up with hotels that haven’t responded and spread messages about lead updates quickly. And, even after the hotel has made its pitch to the planner, CVBs can continue to help facilitate the partnership.

In fact, no one is better than a CVB at marketing a destination to planners – and that lifts all venues. 

4. CVBs can lead rescheduling campaigns, which help hotels of all sizes.

Even for hotels that don’t have huge ballrooms and thousands of guest rooms, CVBs are a helpful connection. While these organizations do handle many large citywide conferences, they are also a planner resource for other types of functions.

For example, at the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, there are two teams in place — one that handles large events and another for smaller, high-end events. So don’t think you can’t get any leads to fill your smaller meeting rooms or boardrooms. It’s worth a conversation and building the relationship so the CVB knows what kinds of events are best for your hotel.

As an example, Visit Dallas is encouraging planners to reschedule instead of cancelling their events, and they’re prepared to help planners and venues juggle their bookings schedules during this uncertain time. Conversely, you can also provide insight from the hotel perspective by sharing pace reports, cancellation trends, and reschedule updates.

5. CVBs can employ experiential marketing.

When deciding how they would stand out among the competition and start a conversation, Valley Forge Tourism decided to add a touch of nostalgia. Instead of keeping business online, they sent potential clients a box that put a spin on the old school game of rock, paper, scissors. The box contained three items:

  • Rock candy. To assist potential clients in getting a “solid start" when perusing the 75 local hotels and 1,600 restaurants.
  • A notebook. To help make the meeting or event “noteworthy."
  • Scissors. Because Valley Forge is “cutting edge."

“We feel this is beneficial as it helps create a unique memory that sets our materials apart from the numerous distractions everyone receives each day,” said Scott Higgins, associate director of sales for the CVB. “Meeting planners will remember receiving this toolkit, where most can't recall the last promotional item that they received.”

6. CVBs can showcase rich content.

New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau harnessed the ever-growing trend of video marketing by launching a nine-part video series called “Let's Talk NOLA!", showcasing local celebrities that offer a taste of local culture, from gumbo to voodoo and beyond. The videos come in two formats — contest and non-contest. Hotels can offer them to planners to use to run weekly or monthly contests leading up to the event to get the group excited and gamify the experience.

Explains Erica Taylor, communications coordinator at the New Orleans CVB: “We've seen it used on a monthly basis where the contest started shortly after the annual meeting and ended just prior to the next annual meeting. But this could be done on a variety of timescales depending on the planner's preference.”

7. CVBs can harness immersive technology.

Sticking with the tech trend, Events DC — Washington, D.C.’s convention and sports authority — turned to virtual reality to draw in new business. Instead of a one-dimensional PDF, they created 3-minute, 360-degree videos to immerse potential clients in their meeting and event venues. Additionally, they engaged potential clients via a library of 360-degree photos and simulated events to bring offerings to life.

“Events DC is taking event engagement to the next level with the unveiling of fully immersive virtual reality experiences across our three lines of business," said Greg O'Dell, president and chief executive officer of Events DC. “We are committed to enhancing and delivering amazing customer experiences. Further, we continue to showcase Washington, DC as a tech-focused community that will help propel our city's economic footprint."

Here's a great example of how Events DC has used this marketing tactic in the wild: At South by Southwest in Austin, they featured a virtual reality bike tour of DC using a stationary bike and VR headset. Cyclists were able to tour the experiences of the city, including visiting stadium and event spaces. They also gamified the experience by making it a race against the clock.

8. CVBs can assist hotels by providing amenities for event attendees.

Many CVB marketing campaigns also offer additional services to drive attendee happiness and promote their locale, thus increasing future business of their destination. Based on their funding and scope, they may be able to provide amenities such as:

  • Location-branded items for attendees, such as lanyards.
  • Donations featuring local items for fundraisers.
  • Coordination and execution of site visit agendas.
  • Printed materials such as maps and brochures to help promote events and surrounding activities and attractions in the area.

Good Works: How CVBs are working together to restart business

As great ideas help to restart group business, good works help us survive and stay positive during times of struggle. This week, our good works showcase how CVBs have helped their destinations and local hotels restart tourism and group business.

1. Virginia Beach CVB and Visit Norfolk focus on locals and drive market visitors.

Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau’s latest ad, “We’re Open!” encourages visitors within driving distance. The ad is airing in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and North Carolina. Virginia Beach CVB is also partnering with Visit Norfolk for the first time to kick off the summer with their new campaign “Together at Last.” It focuses not just on tourists, but locals too, with discounts on restaurants and activities in both cities.

2. The Greater Miami CVB and local hotels put plans in place after COVID-19 closures.

The Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau launched a new campaign called "Miami Shines," geared toward “locals and regional drive markets craving a quarantine-escape-style staycation.” It features a short video showing the area’s beaches, skyline, and other main attractions. The marketing campaign was launched in coordination with the gradual reopening of hotels and restaurants in their destination. According to the Greater Miami CVB, group business bookings are already up by eight percent for October 2020.

Put this CVB marketing information to good use!

Next up, check out how to use hotel content marketing to maximize visibility. 

Download our ebook on CVB marketing

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Megan Boley

Megan is a published web writer and editor with a passion for crafting stories. She specializes in planning and creating content across all platforms for brands and organizations, with a focus on demand generation. In her free time, she's a voracious reader and a blue belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu.
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