CVBs Partner with Event Planners to Draw More Attendees and Exhibitors to Destinations

November 1, 2017

Trade show and meeting planners choose their destinations carefully, bringing many factors into the decision-making process. One factor is the city’s appeal as a travel destination. According to International Association of Exhibitions and Events’ (IAEE’s) Decision to Attend Study, 78 percent of attendees cite the destination as a top driver for attending a convention. It’s little surprise then, that Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVBs) are helping planners promote the destination to their audiences.

“We’ve seen a pretty dramatic shift over the last few years in convention and event planners prioritizing a destination’s ability to attract and grow attendance,” said Zack Davis, director of marketing for the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau.

He continued, “With that in mind, our communications and marketing department works very closely with our services and sales departments to offer marketing support.”

Tara Letort, director of group PR at the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau began helping conventions with attendance-building strategies 11 years ago when the CVB became the first to have a director-level position for this type of marketing support. The goal is to get attendees and exhibitors excited to come to a convention and more specifically, excited to come to a convention in New Orleans.

“The market is so competitive within association events that attendees must convince their bosses why they would pick one event or the other,” Letort explained. “The destination sells that and we show them what they’ll enjoy outside of the convention center floor and why New Orleans is the place to do business.”

Many trade show organizers welcome this kind of support.

“We take advantage (of marketing opportunities) whenever possible,” said Steve Mickley, executive director at the American Institute of Building Design, which runs four small annual events. “It certainly helps with our small events but I’m sure the benefit is proportionate to larger events, too.”

CVBs create customized marketing plans for each planner. The Louisville team takes a consultative approach to determine what will benefit each group.

“We offer a wide variety of marketing/promotional services for trade shows and conventions, and we’ll even develop a new service based on the specific needs of the group,” Davis explained. “When we consult with the planner, we ask about their specific goals and objectives, as well as discuss trends or challenges in their industry.”

New Orleans considers the attendee profile and then designs content for different types of dining customers or activity interests. It then ensures its efforts blend into the planner’s overall marketing campaign.

“We infuse destination marketing into their attendance promotion to make it a strategic marketing plan,” Letort said.

Tactics are comprehensive and are often implemented beginning around 18 months leading up to an event.

“With our clients, we often do activities the year prior such as attendance-building brochures, maps, a personalized sign with convention dates or a prize drawing giveaway,” Davis said.

He continued, “From there we use digital brochures and flyers, save-the-date flyers and maps that can be printed or emailed, telemarketing, personalized microsites and public relations support.”

Like Louisville, New Orleans uses promotional tactics such as microsites, public relations and social media, but it also maintains a content library that planners can use to show how easy it is to do business in the destination.

“Planners don’t have to hire a photographer for city images or videographer for B-roll – we have it and more at their fingertips,” Letort said. “For example, we have videos about how long it takes to walk from the convention center to the hotel or what restaurants are located in walking distance from a hotel or convention center.”

She continued, “We have anything they need to promote the destination…information on James Beard Award-winner chefs, the best museums, customized maps for those bringing families. And, as the event gets closer, we can reach out to local beat reporters for their industry to make sure they are covering the event.”

Often, it’s the special touches on behalf of CVBs that stand out to event planners.

“When we arrived in one city there were small welcome signs in the windows of nearly every business within walking distance of our conference venue,” said Mickley.

He continued, “There are typical things that a CVB does, like save-the-date postcards and customized websites, but I thought this particular touch was particularly impressive and I’ve not seen the idea in any other city.”

Many of the services CVBs offer are complimentary, while others are provided for a nominal fee, typically at cost. The value of these services can be both tangible and intangible, from trackable increases in attendee and exhibitor participation to greater awareness about an event, Davis added.

“Marketing is absolutely a value-added service that we offer – it’s something they don’t have to budget for,” Letort said.

She continued, “Saving their time is a big benefit that planners get from these services. They are challenged by so many other things operationally that marketing tends to suffer more than other things do.”

Now more than ever, event planners have myriad tools and resources to promote their host destinations, which can impact the growth of their events in positive ways. Harnessing the value of CVBs and their free or low-cost services is just one way to make that happen.


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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. 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As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. 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Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.