Destinations Roll Out the Red Carpet for Groups

May 21, 2021
Destinations Roll Out the Red Carpet for Groups

Start spreading the news: Destinations are open for business. But rather than screaming to the hills, CVBs and destination management companies are taking a more selective approach to how they roll out the red carpet. Targeted messaging is the theme uniting an array of approaches taken to attract groups to town. Here are some highlights:

Explore St. Louis

A new ad campaign from Explore St. Louis is arguably more star-studded than the recent Academy Awards ceremony. Among the celebrities pitching the Arch city to incoming guests are John Goodman, Jenna Fischer, Andy Cohen, Ozzie Smith and Sterling K. Brown, all demonstrating why “This Is Us” for everyone.

As travel reawakens and vaccinated Americans make up for so much time at home, destinations like St. Louis face stiff competition in a crowded marketplace. While not all CVBs and DMOs have the budget or resources for star power, there is a clear shift toward targeted marketing aiming at specific audiences.

In the case of Explore St. Louis, the campaign concentrates on markets within a 300-mile radius of the city. Digital pushes driven by the DMO and beloved Cardinals will reach Indianapolis, Columbia/Jefferson City, Evansville, Nashville and Des Moines.

Explore St. Louis used grant money awarded by The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration though the CARES Act for the project.

“This campaign will be a boost to the local economy as we inspire more people to re-explore all St. Louis has to offer,” said Kathleen “Kitty” Ratcliffe, president of Explore St. Louis. “We’re very grateful to the EDA and our local partners for the support as we all work together to revitalize tourism in the St. Louis region.”

Visit Milwaukee

Not to be outdone in the Midwest, Visit Milwaukee has launched multiple pushes specifically targeting the return of events. Local agency Hanson Dodge developed a strategy to position the destination as forward-thinking and capable of hosting events of all sizes.

Through its “Unique Unites” push, the CVB is shooting high, directly aiming at groups based on large markets like Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Denver, with hopes of building off pre-booked 2021 conventions to generate future business.

“This campaign’s look and feel positions Milwaukee as an innovative destination that can deliver a world-class business experience for attendees,” said Megan Suardini, chief marketing officer at Visit Milwaukee. “We know this campaign highlights Milwaukee’s strengths and we believe it will help generate business to put our hospitality community in a strong position as we begin to emerge from the pandemic.”

An array of myriad advertising narrows down to niche audiences within the industry, including regional associations, religious, sports, diverse, agricultural and hobby and vocational groups.

Two key messages are the ongoing expansion of the Wisconsin Center, set for completion in 2024, and safety measures to ensure attendees will be confident to travel. Event planner David Caruso, owner of the Milwaukee-based Dynamic Events, hosts a six-minute video explaining the extra steps the destination is taking to woo groups. As testament to its commitment to health, The CVB hosted a Hospitality Vaccination Day at the Wisconsin Center on May 7 and has another planned for May 28.

Las Vegas CVA

Las Vegas MonorailJust in time for Nevada’s June 1 reopening, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority announced the Las Vegas Monorail will resume operations on May 27. Trains arrive every four to eight minutes and hit seven stops along the Strip. Masks will be mandatory and riders will be encouraged to maintain social distancing practices. 

“The Las Vegas Monorail has provided an important and convenient transportation solution for both leisure visitors and convention attendees,” said Steve Hill, president and CEO for the LVCVA. “We are thrilled to resume normal operations in time for both Memorial Day weekend and World of Concrete, allowing us to provide a reliable and safe transportation solution for passengers looking for an efficient way to navigate to the Las Vegas Convention Center and throughout the resort corridor.”

The CVA acquired the monorail last year to ensure the popular people-mover would remain after the pandemic subsided.

A new ad cycle, “Vegas You” also recently launched, spotlighting the types of activities only the destination can offer. The first ad, “The Dance, was filmed at several locations including Circa Resort & Casino, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and The Venetian Resort Las Vegas, and has aired on most major networks and cable/streaming channels. Another commercial in the series is due out later in May.

Discover Puerto Rico

As if hosting six “workations'' through one contest wasn’t enough, Discover Puerto Rico is one of five national destinations selected by Advance Auto Parts to be a part of the Discover New Roads Summer Road Trip Sweepstakes. Hopefuls have through May 31 to enter here. Winners receive a three night/two-day vacation package including round-trip airfare, lodging. and car rental. Trips to the island  can take place anytime in the next 12 months. Visitors will explore Puerto Rico's history and culture, a virtual scenic drive along La Ruta Panorámica, or outdoor adventures, including the El Yunque rainforest and Laguna Grande, a bioluminescent bay. 

Discover Lehigh Valley

Located within driving distance of New York and Philadelphia, Discover Lehigh Valley — representing Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton, PA — held its first virtual FAM trip in late April. The 40-minute tours highlighted what planners in charge of corporate events, conferences, teambuilding events and more will find in terms of historic and inviting venues.

Discover Dunwoody

The CVB marketing the Greater Atlanta area’s Perimeter region has taken its pitch directly to meeting planners. In December, it hosted meeting and event organizers from Maritz Global Events for “WeConnect Again,” and then welcomed a group of Southeastern-based planners in March. Both small gatherings were designed to showcase the region’s offerings to groups and why the CVB is a partner to trust.

“Discover Dunwoody and its partners planned a well-thought-out and perfectly executed experience for our group,” said Elizabeth Pardillo, meeting and event strategist with Maritz Global Events, who attended in December. “In the planning process, I communicated the importance of our colleagues meeting again safely in person, to see how a destination could execute a safe meeting properly, and to discuss how we could consult with our clients on redesigning their future meetings. We all were completely impressed — by not only the hospitality of all of the hotels and venue teams — but by how safe and comfortable we all felt in Dunwoody."

ProColombia

These kinds of proactive efforts are not localized to domestic DMOs. ProColombia is eagerly looking to maintain the Latin American destination’s foothold on international meetings and conventions. Promotions now refer to Colombia as “The Most Welcoming Place on Earth,” looking to reinforce its image in a year in which large-scale events remain on track to arrive, including:

"Making travelers feel at home is easy to do in Colombia, as warmth, service and empathy are part of our DNA,” said Flavia Santoro, president of ProColombia. “The manifesto gives us the opportunity to deliver a consistent message with the world about our country and, most importantly, about our people. Like the rest of the world, 2020 was a year Colombia found itself facing exceptional circumstances, but through the hardships, we also witnessed the best of Colombians and that is what this manifesto represents.”

Photo Credit: Las Vegas News Bureau

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Partner Voices

As event professionals and destinations adjust, adapt and evolve in these uncharted waters, it is imperative that substantial resources be put in place for all of the people responsible for planning and executing trade shows, expositions and conventions. An example is Mohegan Sun, which built an industry-leading, COVID-19 Resource Center with a combination of pictures from recently held successful events (the property reopened on May 1, 2020) along with several widely available and informative documents, such as an evolving operational framework: