Depending on who you talk to, the word “meetings” can conjure up a broad range of feelings and reactions. In my over 20 years in the hospitality industry, I’ve seen them all: from the “rolling of the eyes” to what sounds like a grunt or harrumph (I’ve never put my ears on fast enough to catch it). I’ve also seen eyes pop out of their head and heard someone actually shout, “I’ll bring the donuts!” (Perhaps their way to access a forbidden food while using the cover of a meeting?)
No matter how you feel about them, meetings will happen. A Canadian Economic Impact Study for 2012 identified participants spent $29 billion on meetings in Canada. Not to mention that meetings are linked to 341,000 jobs in direct, indirect, and induced supply chain linkages. Those strong numbers prove the powerful impact of meetings. With those kinds of numbers flowing around the meetings community, destinations have taken notice. For years, every city, town, and village would have their own respective Visitors’ Bureau (CVB), which offered anyone who called or crossed their threshold the ability to learn whatever they needed about that city, from campgrounds to local activities.
However, just as the meeting industry has undergone growth and change, so have those CVBs. Their roles, objectives, and expectations—both from the community stakeholders offering services and the individuals or organizations looking for them—have changed extensively. As expectations have changed for meetings and event experiences, cities realized they needed to do and offer more.
Today, CVBs are known as Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs). This organization is now a full-circle resource for a respective destination. Most cities in Alberta and across Canada now contain a resource that can not only share the eateries, attractions, and local offerings, but also provide support and revolutionize the path to purchase for event procurement.
This instrumental role of a DMO can provide today’s planner with a comprehensive, streamlined event planning and development approach. Planners can now toss out the old methods of calling and emailing numerous hoteliers, vendors, and outlets with their details, and instead can make one call to these city experts. The best part? DMOs provide this service at no cost to them or the parties they represent.
Now, you may be thinking, how is this feasible? If you’ve planned a meeting before, you may appreciate all the moving pieces and tasks that are required to put it together. Cities have a great respect for the meetings and events industry and recognize the impact they have. Knowing they’re the benefactor of the revenue generated by meeting activities, it made sense to establish a system that would encourage more tourism and event acquisition and that would make it as easy as possible to do business there at no cost. A planner with a request for proposal (RFP) can share it with a destination and have a conversation with them about what you need to have sourced. The planner can focus more on the event experience after moving that large chunk of work off their desk and on to the DMO’s.
Though all DMOs offer similar core features, each destination (and the DMOs residing there) also offers a unique and individualized experience. Some locations offer additional services solely based on the needs required to support groups exploring and hosting there. Most destinations will distribute your RFP to any number of hotels or venues based on your facility requirements or brand preferences. Also, a DMO will ensure the proposal is customized and addresses specific needs, present recommendations for off-site venues and entertainment, and offer insight for dates that work for both parties. DMOs are uniquely connected to advise when a need or high-demand period will occur. From a DMO, you can also request education on funding, familiarization tours, and personalized site visits to give you a first-hand look at potential venue locations. Your destination professional can educate, support, and be the liaison between you and the city’s stakeholders.
If you desire leverage, streamlined approaches, and simplicity, then you need to connect with a DMO. Their goal is to promote the long-term development of both city stakeholders and organizations interested in hosting events and meetings there. Connecting with these destination experts will support results that lower your stress level while also building an exceptional event.
Karen Kitchen is the Business Development Manager at Hotels Red Deer and a member of the MPI Foundation Board of Canada, Meeting of the Minds, PCMA, and CAEM.