Convention bureaus are a fantastic resource for meeting professionals, but to get the most out of them, be smart about what’s in it for them, for you, and for the suppliers they represent.
During a recent global meetings MeetingsNet webinar, Verena Jandak-Hollenthoner, CMP, marketing manager for the Vienna Convention Bureau, gave listeners a CVB 101 course, with a focus on what to consider in an overseas bureau and what they can and can’t do for you.
In North America, Jandak-Hollenthoner said, CVBs have strong ties to the destination, housing options, and convention centers, and they have onsite staff. In Europe, CVBs tend to be more independent and act more like intermediaries or facilitators while those in Asia are often government funded and politically influenced. Jandak-Hollenthoner suggests looking at the website of the convention bureau in your destination of choice to see the scope of services before you start working on your overseas meeting, especially if you require independent, objective services.
According to Jandak-Hollenthoner, there are two types of convention bureaus to be aware of: those with members and those without.
CVBs with Members
Members provide financial income to the convention bureau, and for the client the downside to this is that they are obliged to use partner members when they recommend services. This can make the bureau a little more biased and less flexible when clients have particular needs. Jandak-Hollenthoner says this can be tricky if the best solution for a client is not a member of the convention bureau.
This type of CVB also has to include its members in promotional and marketing activities, so be aware that the bureau is representing partner members as well as clients planning meetings.
CVBs without Members
These CVBs get funding from the local chamber of commerce, the city, taxpayers, or sponsors. This type tends to be more neutral and unbiased, says Jandak-Hollenthoner. Because these CVBs are not obliged to recommend member suppliers or promote anyone other than the client, meeting planners can assume that any solution or company the bureau recommends are chosen on merit. They are also more flexible in terms of marketing activities, they don’t have to serve the needs of anyone else at the destination, just the needs of the client.
Jandak-Hollenthoner says a CVB should be the first port of call in a destination when you are looking for venues and vendor partners as they can connect you with the people you need to talk to. Most CVBs can pre-book space for you at the convention center or hotels and other venues. They can arrange your site inspections and provide promotional materials about the destination including maps, brochures, photographs, and videos. CVBs also have an “accompanying philosophy,” she says. This means once a contract has been signed they will step back but will always be in the background in case a client needs ongoing advice.
Advantages of CVBs for the Client
Jandak-Hollenthoner calls CVBs “a short cut to the destination.” When time is money, CVBs have priceless local knowledge that can save clients from spending hours on Internet searches. Previous experience helping other clients can be put to good use tailoring solutions to your project. This is especially important for clients who are unfamiliar with the destination because they may have answers to questions you don’t even know you should be asking.
CVBs have access to strategic partners such as City Hall, local transportation authorities, and airlines, Jandak-Hollenthoner said. They can also help with content for your meeting presentations with introductions to local universities, museums, and businesses. These services are usually free for clients.
Jandak-Hollenthoner says, “To be honest, we don’t mind where in the destination you book your business, we are just happy you chose our destination.”
Other Advantages of CVBs
Meeting planners can rely on CVBs to be an advocate for the industry, as they collect data and meeting statistics that showcase the impact of an event on the local economy in terms of contribution to GDP, job creation, and tax revenue. CVBs are also important advocates for the destination; they put pressure on local governments to maintain and upgrade infrastructure and services to make the city attractive to meeting planners.
“A CVB is a secret weapon for everyone, clients and destinations,” says Jandak-Hollenthoner