While group travel can be one of the most lucrative tourism segments for DMOs to attract, influencing group travel planners to choose your destination over others is becoming more challenging than ever. One strategy we have discussed is the importance of using persona marketing as a means to attract group planners to choose your town or city. Below, we'd like to touch on the services meeting planners and their attendees could receive pre-trip, upon arrival and throughout their stay and how their experience in your destination could affect your group travel success well beyond their visit. Promoting your assets conducive to groups, meetings and conventions to travel planners should go beyond highlighting your meeting facilities, main attractions, activities and local stakeholders. Meeting planners want to know how their needs and the needs of their attendees will be met throughout their stay — and even before they get there. According to a study from Destinations International, an overwhelming 47% of meeting and convention respondents agreed that services are one of the deciding factors when it comes to choosing a destination for their next meeting or event. Here are a few services your DMO staff could be offering to meeting planners:
- Site Inspection Arrangements: Offer to set up appointments at hotels, meeting spaces and reception venues when group travel planners do FAM trips to your destination.
- Itinerary Assistance: Help build itineraries that meet the specific objectives of meeting planners and match the interests of their groups. Also consider putting together separate itineraries to encourage family members to travel with meeting attendees - they may want to do some exploring, shopping and dining while the event is in session (further expanding the economic impact of bringing these groups to your destination).
- Special Event Coordination: Some events require off-site banquet services. You know your local market better than anyone else. Provide local catering options that reflect the heart of your destination.
- Welcome Messages: Put together short multimedia presentations featuring local community leaders that can be provided to meeting planners to distribute in advance electronically to welcome the group to your destination.
- Press Kits: Coordinating with local media and distributing press kits can be extremely helpful to meeting planners who may not have strong relationships with local press outlets in your area.
- Resource Directory: Put together a directory of local service providers for meeting planners to reference as they plan their convention. Or better yet -- do the leg work for them! Find out what they need and coordinate with local suppliers on their behalf.
- Registration Service: Offer to help coordinate and staff information and registration booths. Make name tags, destination brochures and maps available for attendees.
- Marketing Assistance: Offer database management and delivery services for emails promoting the event to meeting attendees.
48% of meeting planners report working more closely with DMOs to plan group events than they have in the past, and this statistic is trending upward. DMOs are operating alongside planners as strategic meeting executives with the inside track on local connections. And while the above list is by no means exhaustive, the key takeaway is this: always be thinking about what added value your DMO can provide to group planners to help facilitate a smooth event, encourage them to book future groups in your city AND of growing importance - to endorse and recommend your destination to other planners. Having a well thought out Marketing Action Plan (MAP) can help your DMO determine what priority meeting and group travel planners should be in your plan of work to generate the most economic impact for your destination. Define what their role is in your destination's success and what meeting and group planners need to believe for you to succeed with them. Then your staff can focus on executing the processes that will lead to success with them. And don't forget to list meeting and group travel attendees as a target audience in your plan as well - they have a very different role than the group travel planner but are critical to your success in a number of ways. For a closer look at how to get started, check out our MAP Workbook. It will get you asking the right questions and push you closer to reaching your ideal target markets with information about why your destination should be at the top of their list.