As travel rebounds from the COVID-19 pandemic, attracting visitors to a destination will be paramount for the local economy’s recovery. That’s where the local convention and visitors bureau steps in to promote your city and drive visitation to boost local business revenue. The CVB is an important resource for hotels and maximizing that relationship can make the difference in how fast a hotel rebounds.
Attracting visitors to a destination is no small task. CVBs are faced with the tall order of supporting an entire community where all partners have unique needs. Convention centers, local hotels, restaurants and tour operators are just some of the businesses they seek to drive economic impact through tourism. The specific needs of each organization vary from sector to sector. The ideal business for a city’s local convention center may be less than ideal for an individual hotel. On top of this, your local CVB is likely working with hundreds (or even thousands) of local businesses. It is the ultimate balancing act.
As CVBs continue to navigate this tricky balance, hotels should fight to stay top-of-mind with them. Ask for the following when working with your CVB:
1. Promote the attractiveness of the destination
This goes without saying, if travelers aren’t coming to your destination, hotels will be unable to fill guestrooms. To make things more complicated, the scope of travel has changed drastically in the past year. The large citywide conventions that may have driven thousands of attendees to your city likely haven’t returned just yet. While transient business travel and smaller meetings are returning, they aren’t at 2019 levels. Leisure travel is leading the way and this demand will increase as vaccination levels increase and the need for “revenge travel” takes hold.
CVBs and their partners will need to be creative to capture their fair share of leisure demand. This demand will gravitate to those destinations travelers see as most desirable. To be successful, CVBs should look to create the perfect getaway packages to entice visitors. Key will be a focus on how the destination is ready to safely welcome travelers. The drive market will likely still be the commanding factor for this business. In the past, three to four hours has been the drive metric we used. Last summer, however, proved these travelers might be a bit more adventurous and extend to a five- to six-hour window for the right destination. Either way, you need to focus both on new-to-the-area travelers as well as repeat visitors within this travel window.
What your CVB needs from you: Your property should be able to support the CVB’s efforts with creative packages to showcase an entire experience within your city. Proactively include and bundle the services and amenities your target travel profiles will seek. Don’t be afraid to partner with other businesses within your community to offer unique experiences outside of your property. Beyond new and repeat travelers, also keep in mind the demographic profile of the traveler. Consider families, millennials, boomers or some combination thereof. Flexible packages that speak to a variety of demographics will help your hotel stand out.
2. Help the hotel build relationships
As your property works to bring meetings back, you may notice clients have changed. Many meeting planning teams made personnel changes to adjust to the pandemic, making it challenging to track down the appropriate contact. Your CVB may be able to help you reconnect with the right people. As your team begins to target groups emerging in your market, check in with your CVB to see if they can help make a warm introduction.
What your CVB needs from you: Be up front and open. Tell your CVB what you need from them. Let your CVB know who you are targeting and what you are after. Your CVB can’t make an introduction for you if they don’t know you need help.
3. Keep the hotel updated on availability
Over the past year, the industry has experienced blanket cancellations of most conventions and in-person meetings. This includes those large citywide events CVBs secured for your city. These programs impact not only the convention center but generally the entire community. Reschedules are a moving target due to the unknowns of the pandemic and can often leave properties frustrated and feeling left in the dark while the CVB works frantically to secure new dates.
While each group may not have new dates just yet (or even know if they are going to reschedule as opposed to cancelling), it is fair to ask your CVB how likely a group is to pull from your city. It is also important to ask them to keep you in the loop if the group is considering different dates. This will allow you to plan accordingly and prevent you from taking a smaller, under-rated group when a big fish might be coming your way in the near future.
What your CVB needs from you: Have compassion. Although we want immediate answers, they are not always available. Details often change and, in most cases, this is beyond the control of the CVB. In some cases, CVBs may be required to keep groups confidential at the request of the group. You may find that large, highly publicized events are required to switch host cities if, for instance, their original host city is unable to accommodate new dates as markets begins to reopen safely. This may result in new lead generation for your city which in turn could result in bookings sooner than your typical booking windows. Be prepared to respond quickly to help secure these leads for your destination.
4. Be transparent
Chances are, your CVB provides you with a variety of reports to cover everything from their team’s production and pace to citywide calendars. These reports contain vital information to help you guide your property’s sales strategy. At a minimum, your rates should reflect what is happening within your community.
Also ask yourself, are you monitoring the CVB’s production to see the signs of life for meeting rebound? This should assist your leadership to ensure your sales team is fully prepared to handle the demand. Additionally, this will help the team in determining which business is best to proactively solicit.
What your CVB needs from you: Reporting is only as strong as the data behind it. Is your property holding up your end of the bargain? Solid reporting requires transparency from the community. Ensure your CVB is receiving your lead responses (even if you are connecting directly with a planner whom they have placed you in contact with). If a CVB is unaware a lead selected your property, they are unable to include that within their reporting and metrics.
5. Promote the property
This may sound basic, but it is possible to feel lost within the portfolio of properties in your city. As CVBs assist meeting planners and tour operators, they are constantly highlighting the unique and highly sought-after experiences (and hotels) within their city. It is their role! It is important to ensure you are included within these conversations when your property is the right fit. The early pitch of your property is planting a seed to drive demand and subsequent leads your way.
What your CVB needs from you: Make sure your CVB knows what makes your hotel unique. When was the last time they did a site visit at your property? Be sure to keep your CVB updated when you are running unique experiences or promotions. The further in advance they know, the more than can promote you!
The relationship between a CVB and its partners is like any other relationship; it has to be nourished. Both parties must work together to achieve the shared goals of the destination. In partnership, your CVBs can learn how to better support your specific needs. A stronger relationship will also lead to more information which can, in turn, help guide you in making better business decisions, (not to mention, generating more demand and potential leads for your property.) Bottom line, your relationship with your CVB is vital.
Carleigh Dworetzky is product manager at Knowland.