by Alex Palmer | June 20, 2019

Can sightseeing be educational? That question was posed by planners of the Pure Michigan Governor's Conference on Tourism, hosted by the Michigan Lodging & Tourism Association in March 2017. They wanted attendees to explore the city while also learning from the destination's example.

With the aid of Visit Detroit, the city's convention and visitors bureau, the team created "edutours," which leveraged the city's local business expertise and unique resources in experiential ways. Attendees visited Ponyride, an incubator for creative entrepreneurs in the city's Corktown, and toured the $650 million development growing around the new Little Caesars Arena, where they spoke with Little Caesars' customer-service training professionals about how to bring a consistent high level of service to their own customers.

"Detroit is changing, and we want to take groups into the community to give them this broader picture," says Harriet Carter, director of membership and services for the bureau. "We want to help change the format of a conference in a way that complements the event."

The Governor's Conference was a successful test case, and Visit Detroit now offers such customized local programming for other groups. A manufacturing conference might include a Shinola watch workshop, for example, or security professionals might visit the Quicken Loans Security Command Center, which monitors threats in the city's Central Business District around the clock.

Visit Detroit's efforts illustrate the evolution of CVB services. Destination marketing organizations traditionally have been a handy source of information about a city's hotels and attractions. But this role is significantly expanding. 

"In the last several years, CVBs have worked hard to reposition their relationship with planners and make it less transactional," says Melissa Cherry, COO of Destinations International, the professional organization for CVBs. "They are offering more of a partnership, assisting planners with the overall objectives of their meetings - understanding what they want, determining how the CVB can make their events more successful, and bringing all of their expertise, skills and resources to bear."

Learn about how CVBs are becoming full partners in enhancing events by reading the full story at NorthstarMeetingsGroup.com.