How CVBs can work alongside meeting planners

Leading meetings and events specialists share their wishlist to CVBs.

PCMA and CEMA’s Sherrif Karamat: working with the community would make destinations more attractive.
PCMA and CEMA’s Sherrif Karamat: working with the community would make destinations more attractive. Photo Credit: Sands China

At the recent MICE & Luxury Forum hosted by Sands China at Sands Expo & Convention Centre, delegates learnt how meeting planners' new demands will affect the roles of CVBs.

The session on June 8, 2023 was entitled Meetings & Events in a Post Pandemic World: Status Quo or A New Game?

It drew panel speakers Dan Rivlin, executive chair and chief vision officer, The Kenes Group; Maureen Rogers, director, Global Meetings and Events, Baker & McKenzie; and Sherrif Karamat, president and CEO, PCMA and CEMA. Moderating the talk was Northstar Travel Group’s executive VP and group publisher, David Blansfield.

The key points are summarised here:

Involving the community

The Kenes Group’s Dan Ravlin said that to draw events, one has to look at broader terms. “Many of my clients are going to be interested in how they can bring an international event to a destination. If we can find that part of how we can help the local environment and not just the climate part - the local society in one way or another - that would be a positive factor in the coming years and even in the present in the decision-making factor,” he said.

For medical meetings, PCMA and CEME’s Sherrif Karamat said that certain aspects of a medical meeting need to be immersive. “Can we get that meeting in a medical facility? This is going to absolutely make it, but working with the community would make it even more attractive. So I don’t think any single destination has to have everything. But embracing the community will make it much more attractive.”

Baker & McKenzie’s Maureen Rogers said that her team would welcome more guidance from the suppliers and CVBs by letting her know what they have seen from other clients to learn best practices.

She added that the preferences for her company’s participants and attorneys would include looking at markets that are ideal for their event strategy. “We are looking for the right hotel and also the right price.” Ease of travel where there is enough airlift and the ability to get visas and passports are important.

Delegates taking a break in between sessions at the Reset Zone of the MICE & Luxury Forum: wellness in corporate events is serious business.
Delegates taking a break in between sessions at the Reset Zone of the MICE & Luxury Forum: wellness in corporate events is serious business.

Baker & McKenzie has a tool that will show travellers’ carbon output. “We give that to our stakeholders and attorneys in terms of what the options are so they can make the choice as to where they would like to go. Oftentimes, it might lean more towards a more sustainable airlift to get there,” she added. The personalisation of these events and paying attention to wellness are now top priorities compared to pre-Covid times.

Transparency in communication

Also, hotels and suppliers must be transparent about peak periods as this was crucial for delivery standards. “Let us know so we know when there is more availability.” She wanted stronger and more effective communication as the world is “changing so much and quickly.”

Ravlin reinforced Rogers’ comments with a new survey of their global audience, stating that the number one factor for choosing a destination was accessibility, followed by infrastructure, destination attractiveness or appeal, and as a fourth point, human relationships - where customers felt delivery standards were met. Fifth on the list was price, showing that people were prepared to pay more if the other factors were met.

CVBs as mediators and partners

Rivlin shared that the international segment has much more uncertainty today than ever before. “We don’t know when people are going to come - they register in the last minute whilst decision-making is taken far ahead of that. So what we are looking for in a CVB is to be a partner – to help us with conveying the message to every stakeholder – for example, price is playing a major role because of the uncertainty with inflation. So if we sign a contract two years ahead of time, we already need to fix rate registration, but the costs are not fixed, and with inflation of 8% or 10%, that could be a game changer.”

“Sometimes you come to a destination and not all hotels are playing ball. And for some of them, they are looking for short term gains after Covid. And we see that almost everywhere around the world. 90% are playing as part of the team but 10% are not. So we need the CVBs to help - this would be much more important to me than to show me how lovely the city is.

Being flexible with fast-changing needs

Flexibility would be needed for international meetings that move around the world, because by the time they come to top Asian cities, “only about 10-20% of the delegates will return”, said Rivlin. Therefore, for most delegates, these places are new to them, and with newness, there are more changes to delegate behaviour. Added Rivlin: “So I need flexibility so I can change things. So it can’t be the organiser that suffers and is the buffer, and all the stakeholders are saying ‘that’s the contract and that’s what you have’.”

To drive the message home, Karamat said that CVBs which continue to operate in an outdated model “will be extinct” if they do not change their operating model. “Most DMOs are operating the way they operated 30 years ago as a promotional arm. You have an opportunity to re-define yourself and be much more valuable in your community and play a leading role if you would approach it differently.” Such CVBs should look at which sector the local governments are aiming to grow and work with them, he added.