Site Visit Trends – An Article by a Fellow CMP
By Ann-Michele Ewert, CMP
It started out simple. Tour three cities, visit with the CVBs (Convention and Visitors Bureaus) and make an educated choice of which city offered the best possible fit for my client. I have done this multiple times for clients and after a week of site visits I came away with the idea that I need to share my thoughts and hopefully others who are just beginning the process of choosing a city, could learn from someone who has done this many times. Here are three of my top observations.
1. Work with the CVB (Convention and Visitors Bureau). Do NOT try to organize a site visit on your own. Cities hire professionals to guide you through the process of getting to know their area. They help you plan and prepare an agenda for you based on your needs. CVBs have the resources to set up appointments with hotels, help you meet with DMCs (Destination Management Companies), tour companies and attractions, and are more than willing to showcase their cities unique features. Give them a few days and you will know more details about a location than the locals do!
2. Know what your clients are looking for and what things are most important to their event. Having a ranked list will help the CVB prepare for your visit. For instance, perhaps it is more important for your client to have all hotel rooms at the same property rather than being close to the airport. Given that your peak night might be 200 a room, they will then "weed out" those properties that cannot accommodate. Some groups prefer a divided block of rooms with two different price points. The CVB can then do research and find you two properties, located in close proximity, which could split the room block. Depending on the location, I have had clients whose parking availability was rated very high on their list. They had a large number of attendees driving to the event and were concerned that there would be enough spots. Knowing this fact the CVB could source accordingly. Share as much information about your clients that you can and begin with their most important desires!
3. Allow enough time to see the city during the daytime as well as into the evening. Recently, I tried to fit too many site visits into too small of a time frame and didn’t see the city at dark. Having booked the location I came to understand that while the location was fine during the day when the office towers nearby were full, however, at night the area didn’t feel nearly as safe and welcoming. If I had stayed overnight at the property, I would have realized this and may have changed my choice.
Site visits provide an incredible overview of a location and give you insight into a local’s perspective. Tours of a location, when seen through the eyes of someone who loves their city, can help you decide the best fit for your group. Each and every time I work with a CVB, I am grateful for their advice, suggestions and non-partisan views.