Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

March 2013

Western Destinations: Boundless Opportunities

By Jennifer N. Dienst, Contributing Editor

The One Thing We Have in Common

Jennifer Wesselhoff, CDME WAC VB Board President President & CEO, Sedona Chamber of Commerce Tourism Bureau

We are living in a remarkable era of communication and technology. Now more than ever, access to global information provides us with the tools we need to educate ourselves to become industry experts, review competitive landscapes, access studies and research that provide the backbone for strategies, Skype with our international counterparts, and, cost-effectively, conduct business around the globe. The sky is the limit! In our exhilarating and sometimes frenetic age of information and access, to be able to say that “one thing” in particular is of utmost importance can be challenging. But being able to pinpoint what's most important is the foundation for smart decision-making. In this special section about the West, a number of WACVB-member executives weigh in on their “one thing” by answering the following questions. What they have to say will surely be insightful.

  • What is the one thing meeting planners should know about your destination?
  • What is the one thing a meeting attendee shouldn't miss doing or seeing while in your destination?
  • What is the one thing you hear meeting planners say they care most about?
  • What is the one thing you think will change with regard to meetings this year?
  • What is the one thing that's changed most in the meetings industry in the last five years?
  • What is the one thing you like best about your job/this industry?

Today's meeting professionals and association executives have many avenues to explore when it comes to gathering information to plan their event. But one thing that you can count on is that our DMO members will make your job of finding the perfect location for your next meeting an easier one. WACVB members will assist with marketing toolkits, attendance-building e-strategies, online meeting/event planning guides, housing services, green/sustainable tips, and more.

As in years past, this special section of Western Destinations serves as a useful resource that will allow you to contact members of WACVB. Our DMO members are here to support your meetings, trade shows, conventions, and events. And, their “one thing” will illustrate their knowledge and passion for the industry — providing the best possible experience for you and for your attendees.
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How the West Has Won

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Big skies. Blue waters. Soaring mountains. Western destinations bring new meaning to meeting amenities. Here, some of their top executives answer a simple question: What is the one thing…?

Dave Gazley
Vice President, Meeting & Convention Sales Tourism Vancouver

… meeting planners should know about your destination?

Vancouver is a beautiful, clean, green, easily accessible, and great walking city that is fun and friendly. It is a truly international, cosmopolitan, urban oasis. Our newly expanded, award-winning Vancouver Convention Centre is one of the most spectacular convention facilities in the world, surrounded by world-class hotels right in the heart of a vibrant city.

… a meeting attendee shouldn't miss doing or seeing while in your destination?

Vancouver is surrounded by water and mountains; we are blessed with geography that is spectacular by nature. Dine at one of our fabulous restaurants with a sunset view of the water and mountains. Walk, run, cycle the famous Seawall, which runs almost all the way around the city's edge — at the same time experiencing Vancouver's famous Stanley Park, a natural temperate rainforest. Take the aerial tram to the peak of Vancouver at Grouse Mountain. Stroll Gastown or Yaletown, where the city's heart beats and feel the vibe of Granville and Robson Streets day or night.

… you try to cultivate within your CVB team?

Our goal is to exceed expectations when working with clients, partners, and members.

… you think will change with regard to meetings this year?

Planners will be using technology to not just talk to delegates, they will use technology to talk with them. Video use in digital conferencing, social media, even gamification — anything to engage the delegates and increase the value of their experience. Content will need to be delivered in different ways. Meetings will have to inspire and provide even more value in order to engage people.

Marc Garcia
President & CEO Visit Mesa

… meeting planners should know about your destination?

The multitude of activities and experiences in Mesa is limitless. Mesa's advantage is our close proximity to Tonto National Forest and our area lakes and rivers — literally, just minutes from our hotels. The desert is our playground, and Mesa has some jaw-dropping locales for team-building and off-site activities. Planners are most surprised by the short distance to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, and they are seeing the Metro Light Rail that cores through Mesa's downtown as an added value to their attendees.

… a meeting attendee shouldn't missing doing or seeing while in your destination?

Mesa boasts the largest arts and cultural complex in the entire Southwest. The Mesa Arts Center offers a wealth of corporate discovery programs centered on team-building and training through a variety of mediums. The seven-acre campus is a magnet for activity in the city, and its design was inspired by the unique character of the Sonoran Desert — a rich desert, mountain, and canyon environment. For planners, it's a blank canvas featuring a complex of four theaters, five art galleries and exhibition space, 14 artist studios, and a 700-foot Shadow Walk that creates an inviting, shaded, outdoor-oasis plaza.

… you try to cultivate within your CVB team?

To have a team that is passionate about our destination and expresses a positive, winning attitude in everything they do.

… you think will change with regard to meetings this year?

Like most destinations in our industry, we will continue to face challenges as part of corporate and association budget constraints. We like to say that planners can get the same Arizona experience for their attendees at a much lower cost. Items like free parking, complimentary breakfast buffet, free Wi-Fi access, and room incentives really do make a difference to planners.

Steve Hammond
President & CEO Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau

… meeting planners should know about your destination?

From a customer perspective, every destination is a product, and like most other products, customers expect improvements and new product development. Destinations that don't do this eventually lose market share. Those that continually invest in their infrastructure reap the rewards of additional groups, and Sacramento has made that infrastructure investment in a big way, enhancing its convention product by adding 16 new restaurants within walking distance of the convention center and new hotel inventory over the past few years. The new Central Terminal at the airport, a $1.27-billion project which opened in 2011, offers three times the space of the existing terminal. Combine this with a growing reputation as a convention destination, and Sacramento's future looks very bright.

… a meeting attendee shouldn't miss doing or seeing while in your destination?

Visitors will step back in time in Old Sacramento, a 28-acre town of historic buildings, museums, and monuments. With strong preservation efforts, the wooden sidewalks, horse-drawn carriages, Pony Express monuments, and Mississippi-style riverboats reflect the nostalgic appeal of early American history. It is the Williamsburg of the Wild West!

… you try to cultivate within your CVB team?

The one trait that I always look for when we hire a new employee is a passion for hospitality. Our employees always go the extra step to make visitors feel like they are welcome in Sacramento, and they enjoy delivering the charm and friendliness

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