The role of convention and visitor bureaus (or CVB) has evolved over the past decade. In a context of competitive environment and economic crisis, associations are becoming more demanding. CVBs have adapted their services to the clients’ needs and can be a trusted partner to make your event successful.
What should the organisation think about?
If you organise a small or large event, it is important you select the best location according to your needs. The earlier the process starts the greater your chances will be to find the appropriate location and have the best negotiating power. One of the first steps is to define your objectives and assess the priorities according to a set of criteria relevant to your association’s event (access, security, size and location of convention centre, number and quality of hotels…). You should prepare an RFP (Request for Proposal) including all these criteria to send to the selected CVBs and indicate the expected timeframe and the decision making process. Do not hesitate to market your event in this document, list how many cities are short-listed and who – like a local member for instance – is involved in the process.
Some CVBs comment that it is difficult to find out about the decision-making process within organisations. Make sure that everyone is aware about this process. In some cases, the umbrella organisations select the location; in other cases it is up to the national association. Some organisations are supported in this work by their core PCO (Professional Congress Organiser). For large events it is useful to have already a sense of direction and, for instance, to avoid sending an RFP to cities that do not have the capacity to meet your expectations.
What can the CVB bring to the selection process?
The CVB has a major role in this process. The CVB promotes a town, city, region, or country in order to increase the number of visitors. It can offer a large number of services to support the marketing of your event as well as a number of services (transportation options, free and post trips, e-blasts). Most of them are now organised to provide support to associations with a dedicated team and respond to needs according to your sectorial expertise. Such organisations promote economic development of a destination and are helpful to understand how the various partners work within the city. It can connect you with the local community. List your expectations from the CVB and ask your contact to recommend a selection of appropriate venues to meet your needs.
Collaboration with CVBs is essential during the three phases of preparation:
1. During the application
2. During the preparation of the congress
3. During the congress
What are the elements to be taken into consideration when talking to a CVB?
Check if an important event takes place at the same time in the city. This will influence your availabilities and costs. Some local events might also be of interest to your community and attendees.
Explain if you work with a local, core PCO or handle the event internally.
Define your budget. Budget is for many associations the main driver in the decision-making and it is one of the most difficult areas to assess. For some associations it is the main source of income, others tend to keep the costs down. You can ask the CVB to demonstrate how they will be able to support you in negotiating the best deals with local suppliers.
Assess the travel and accommodation costs (cost per delegate). Meeting planners want to make sure those remain reasonable in order to generate a large participation.
Market your event towards the location. You can mention the benefits that the congress brings to the city and the country and these benefits start usually years before the meeting is actually held. For example, try to estimate the revenue generated by the congress in the cities that have welcomed the event in the past.
Check if you have a local representation of your association in the city or the country. This will provide you with a local support and promote the visibility and reputation of your local representation with an international event.
Ensure the quality of the congress centre and the accommodation is up to your expectations. For instance, the use of good technical facilities, appropriate hotels, easy access to and from the congress centre (walking distance is appreciated), level of security of the venue…
From my own experience an open, amicable and professional relationship with representatives of the CVB is a key element in the success of your event. The sooner you start, the better it is.
These representatives are excellent experts in their field and know the event business as well as their location very well. They often have a lot of experience that they can share with you. Listen to them but make your own decision in the end!
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