By Beth Buehler
Recent findings indicate that meeting and event planners are relying more and more on destination marketing organizations (DMO) as the COVID-19 pandemic ebbs and flows in various sections of the United States and beyond. It’s especially true as the sales teams at some hotels, venues, attractions and restaurants have gotten smaller or been out of the office on furloughs.
A recent Destination Analysts Meetings Research Study notes that 71 percent of the 300 meeting and event planners surveyed use at least one resource offered by convention and visitor bureaus, which are a common type of DMO, especially in medium or large communities. More specifically, 44 percent utilize CVB/DMO websites, 41 percent participate in CVB hosted events (including familiarization tours) and 41 percent work with a contact at a CVB/DMO.
I’ve been part of both sides of the equation, being part of a meeting planning team and serving on the staff of a DMO in Colorado. Based on these experiences and a little research, here are six key ways that DMOs in Colorado and elsewhere can help simplify life for planners and positively impact the attendee experience. You’ll find a DMO contact in just about every destination on our site!
Save hours of research – When deadlines are tight and planners’ time is stretched due to overseeing several gatherings, DMOs can help narrow down transportation, lodging, venues, A/V, catering, team-building, entertainment, activity options, destination management companies, and more. The more specific planners can be about group size, meeting and event space needs, budget parameters, targeted dates and attendee demographics the better.
Make local connections streamlined – DMOs are especially valuable in filtering out the options that will work best for individual groups. Sales team members and conference services staff know what is available and have extensive networks of local contacts. Why start from scratch to locate top-notch suppliers and locations? Several DMOs have a request for proposal process that forwards a group’s specifics to entities that fit the parameters outlined by planners.
Provide free destination marketing tools – Attendees like to see images of a selected destination and venues, receive information about what there is to see and do in free time (or if they bring family or a guest along) and get a feel for a place when deciding whether or not to purchase registration, make the journey and take time out of the office. It’s helpful to have access to destination photography, video, brochures, maps and more through DMOs.
Help dial into local experiences – In today’s meetings and events world, whether it is a large conference, small retreat or a wedding, providing attendees with great experiences is a must. I am always disappointed if a meeting or event itinerary doesn’t allow for this, whether it’s simply free time or organized itinerary items like tasting craft beers or spirits, going on a culinary or history tour in the neighborhood, attending a reception held at an art museum or botanic garden, hearing a keynote by a local luminary or trying out local activities like attending a Colorado Rockies baseball game in Denver, rafting the Arkansas River around Buena Vista and Salida and visiting the hot springs in Glenwood Springs or Steamboat Springs.
Can provide valuable expertise as a team member – DMO representatives have all sorts of real-life examples from other groups to share, plus they know how to match groups with the right properties and other suppliers based on budget, C-suite and attendee expectations, size and more. When returning to the same destination annually or on a rotating basis, DMO contacts become more than team members; they tend to transform into valuable industry friends.
Welcome attendees in style – A while back, I attended a tourism conference in downtown Grand Junction where a local high school marching band provided a festive start to the opening session. Who doesn’t like it when local merchants have signs or specials to greet attendees of a particular meeting or event? When a mayor or governor takes the time to speak to a group and localizes the conference theme, I always know that the DMO helped make it happen.
DMOs can assist in more ways than this, but you get the idea. Why skip this helpful, free resource? The same is true for Destination Colorado, which links planners to DMOs from around the state from mountain towns like Durango, Vail and Breckenridge to cities along the lines of Boulder, Colorado Springs, Denver and Pueblo.
Beth Buehler has been editor of Colorado Meetings + Events magazine for 15 years and helped launch Mountain Meetings magazine in 2013. She has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado.