Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What is a CVB and how can they help your meeting?

CVB stands for Convention and Visitors Bureau. When we looked at common acronyms in the industry, this was one that definitely needed to be in that list and, if you are new to meeting planning, this is one of those terms that you absolutely must learn. Why? What’s in it for you as a planner?

Well, for starters, CVBs exist for the sole purpose of bringing business to their city and region – from individual travelers all the way up through citywide conventions. They have the resources and knowledge to help you find the right venue or the right services to support your event. You do not need to know the region in depth – that’s their job. Every first and second-tier city has one (some areas have more!) and most third-tier cities have them as well.

They can also assist you in selecting a venue for your event – helping with everything from initial determination of meeting specs and lead distribution to collecting proposals and aiding with site inspections.

They are a resource for every kind of service that you could need for your meeting or conference. If they do not have members who offer the kinds of services you are looking for, they can help find them. I will often use the CVB to help me find AV providers, caterers, decorators, and other specialty services – especially if I do not know anyone in that area already who provides the services I need.

If you need information on events going on while you are in town, the CVB can provide that to you – everything from dining options and shopping centers to museums, sporting events, and theaters. Remember, the Bureaus are geared to help individuals as well as groups so, when I need to know what options exist for my meeting attendees before or after my meeting is done, the CVB gives me a great place to start to find the things that will interest my group.

The kicker for me, though, is the cost – free. That’s right, free! How CVBs are financed varies by bureau but, for me as a planner, there is no cost for most of what they offer in the way of assistance.

It is worth noting that Bureaus are usually funded by a combination of taxes on hotel rooms sold and disbursements from their cities so, yes, I do “pay” for the service through taxes on guest rooms for my groups but that tax will be charged whether I use the CVB or not – so why would I not use them? If in doubt, ask them what they can do to help you for free and what comes with a cost. The stuff I’ve mentioned above, though, is all provided for free.

Another bonus is that many of these resources are available online (also free of charge) and the CVB web sites are a great way to get an initial “feel” for a city and what they might have to offer your group in the way of attractions, dining, entertainment, etc. Look for the “meeting planner” links on their sites. You can get valuable information about venues in the region, as well as submit a Request for Proposals (RFP), check out their convention and events calendars, or locate local vendors for the services your event needs.

Check them out. You may be surprised at how much a CVB has to offer you…

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises