Tyson Compton, president of the Cabell-Huntington
Convention and Visitors Bureau, wanted to see some greater
traffic of groups coming to the county on the west side of West
Virginia. His team had made an aggressive effort of reaching
out to meetings groups in neighboring counties and
farther-flung areas, but it seemed like there was one potential
area of business they had not tapped: the locals.
"We realized that the local community was pretty far removed
from its CVB," says Compton. "A lot of people didn't know where
we were and what we did."
So Compton and his team made the decision to not only put
greater efforts into reaching out to the businesses and
associations in their own backyard, but revamped the entire
organization. They moved offices to the center of downtown,
hired some new team members, and began attending more Rotary
meetings and other local networking events. Partnering with the
CVBs of nearby Morgantown and Charleston, Cabell-Huntington
participated in a three-day press blitz through New York City
to promote the area and its offerings.
The efforts have paid off, with new local clients, including
the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia and West Virginia
Cemetery and Funeral Association holding their meetings in
Cabell. Whether being able to use the area's famed Camden Park
amusement park, or incorporating Huntington's beloved Hillbilly
Hot Dogs (featured on cover subject Guy Fieri's Diners,
Drive-Ins and Dives), the area's offerings proved to be
attractive for locals.
"As we started to educate people about Huntington, how it's
been growing in the last few years with big development
downtown, people who lived here wanted to show it off and
partner with us in bringing their groups here," says Compton.
The Cabell-Huntington CVB's success at rethinking its approach
is similar to what a number of other CVBs and DMOs are starting
to do. With third-party planners, as well as a wealth of online
resources making it easier for planners to devise their own
programs, CVBs and DMOs are getting more creative in offering
value to meetings groups, making their destination stand out in
a crowded marketplace.
Digging Into Digital
For several years now, the Austin Convention & Visitors
Bureau (ACVB) has seen a high demand from attendees for online
microsites dedicated specifically to an individual event. The
CVB supplies the photos and information about attractions, the
planner or client provides the details about the meeting.
About a year and a half ago, the ACVB got a new request from a
group planning the first Austin meeting for the Society of
Gynecologic Oncology: A mobile app.
"They wanted to put a lot on their mobile site," says Linda
Atkins, director of convention services for ACVB. "We provided
the template and format, with a restaurant list and attraction
information, and they supplemented it with their meeting
Since this first app, Atkins has seen a growing demand for this
offering, including one they recently put together for a group
coming in the fall.
Another CVB strategy takes the form of rebranding. At the
beginning of August, the Jefferson County CVB announced plans
to revise the county's image. While marketing efforts have
focused heavily on the area's historic sites and casino, the
CVB's CEO is aiming to expand the messaging to include other
aspects of the region.
Working with consulting firm Paramore Consulting Inc., the CVB
will be deepening its digital and social media marketing,
overhauling its website, and tracking search-engine results and
Knowing that planners and attendees have gotten used to having
destination information at their fingertips, many CVBs have
taken steps to enhance their digital offerings. Visit Glendale,
the CVB for Glendale, AZ, recently launched a destination blog
in an attempt to attract more meetings groups.
Another way that CVBs and DMOs are staying relevant for clients
is by partnering with other destinations. This summer, CVBs for
five counties in West Virginia - Hardy, Grant, Pendleton,
Hampshire, and Mineral - collaborated on a promotion aimed at
attracting motorcycle tours. Called "Ride the High Five," the
campaign included a specially designed brochure featuring
photos, themes, and wording devised together by the five
counties. The brochure was distributed at welcome centers
throughout the state.
CVBs and DMOs for destinations near major cities are finding
similar benefits to partnering with their larger counterparts.
John Basil, CEO of Discover St. Louis Park
, a DMO for the
suburb of Minneapolis, describes this kind of mutually
beneficial relationship as "co-opetition" (combining
"cooperation" and "competition").
"DMOs realize that working together cooperatively to bring as
many travelers into the area as possible is good for everyone
and good for the economy as a whole," says Basil. "But the
things a suburb outside Minneapolis has - being close to
downtown but outside of downtown - are distinct."
A similar approach has been adopted by the Meadowlands Liberty
CVB in New Jersey. While it boasts ecotourism offerings
connected to the Hackensack River, as well as venues like the
20,000-seat IZOD Center and more than 80,000-capacity MetLife
Stadium, it sits in the shadow of that perennial meetings
mecca, New York City.
"It's tough trying to compete with the greatest city in the
world, so we choose not to compete," says Jim Kirkos, president
and CEO of Meadowlands Liberty CVB. "There is an experience on
the New Jersey side of the Hudson that you can't get on
Broadway and Times Square - it's a different experience and you
can combine it."
The shift to digital has created challenges for some
destination marketers as well. With so much information at a
meetings planner's fingertips, do they still need to rely on a
CVB or DMO to tell them what's available? With this in mind,
many of these organizations have also taken steps to showcase
that they can offer a "one-stop shop" for groups visiting their
Basil gives the example of an Orthodox Christian group of about
700 attendees that recently visited, and part of their event
was a regional basketball tournament. Discover St. Louis Park
was able to line up the hotel rooms, basketball courts, and
"If they had just gone online to Expedia, they would not have
been able to connect those dots," says Basil.
Atkins agrees. Despite the CVB's web-savvy offerings, she finds
that groups are still most interested in speaking with a local
expert on new offerings such as the 1,012-room JW Marriott,
slated to open in March 2015, and the Circuit of the Americas
racetrack, which hosted the Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix for the
first time last year.
"With everything available online, we still spend a lot of time
providing direct support," she says.