When planning your next incentive trip, corporate retreat, or industry conference we highly recommend from the start reaching out to the local tourist board, visitors center, tourism department, and/or convention bureau (CVB).
There are three main values when partnering with these industry experts and.... most importantly there is no cost to using them. Just think free resources, non-profit location experts.
1. Sourcing support - Don't be afraid to email them your RFP's for that destination and based on their experience in that location they will be able to send out targeted RFP's. Some tourism departments are better at targeting than others. It's a huge advantage when they source only the appropriate venues in terms of size, budget, and good fit. Unfortunately, a few of the tourism departments like to send the RFP to all members which can be a little overwhelming. To help mitigate this risk, once you email over the RFP we recommend spending 15 minutes on the phone to help them understand exactly what you are looking for. VisitAustin.org is one of the best organizations in terms of sourcing the appropriate venues/hotels for upcoming events.
2. Site Visit Support & Fam Trip Opportunities - You have narrowed your search down to 2-3 destinations and now it is time to setup a site visit to check out the hotels and venues. Many of the tourist boards will help in site visit planning to make your life easier. They will organize and sponsor transfers, they will recommend activities to try and even host your activity while on the site, and will work with the hotels to create the perfect itinerary for your site visit. This support is extremely helpful given they are both location and industry experts. Many times they will suggest restaurants, musicians, and other partners you didn't even know existed! The Atlanta CVB is a strong partner in terms of site visit support in their destination. Just make sure you get them involved early with the initial RFP so they can partner throughout the entire process.
Once you start partnering with these tourist boards you will see frequent invitations to familiarization trips to that destination. This gives you the opportunity to visit multiple hotels, venues, and activities in one short visit with an expert leading the way. The Lee Country Visitor & Convention Bureau does a wonderful job hosting a fam trip to their destination to experience the beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel and all of their amazing hotel partners during the event. The Monaco Government Tourist Office, Dubai Business Events, and Aruba Convention Bureau host some of the most elaborate and impressive fam trips each year.
3. Financial Assistance - Finally if you or a client of yours is deciding between multiple locations feel free to reach out to the tourist boards and see if they are running any promotions to drive new business to their location. Recently we have seen financial incentives increase to help drive tourism. Let them know what you need and they will see what they can do. Sometimes they will offer complimentary airport transportation for the group, other times complimentary farewell party entertainment, and many times a monetary credit to the hotel master bill. The financial assistance is usually dependent on the total room block that will be contracted in that destination. We have seen anything from $1500-$15,000 in terms of tourist board financial support. People assume financial assistance is only for city-wide conferences but that is not true in many cases! There are three strong partners in terms of financial assistance to help secure business in their destinations. We highly recommend reaching out to these organizations if you have upcoming meeting and or incentive trips in these locations:
Aruba Convention Bureau, Visit Dubai, & MeetHawaii Maui Convention Bureau
It took us two years to truly understand the resources available to us through the CVB's (tourist boards) and now that we have discovered the value it has been an enormous help the last few years. We not only have been able to save our clients thousands of dollars, but also have lowered our sourcing time frames, got the chance to attend amazing fam trips, and most importantly provide overall better service to our clients.
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As is standard practice, our group of talented and experienced travel agents will often accept hosted stay invitations and hosted dinners and activities within destination in order to facilitate more detailed reviews.