Many CVBs have Web sites with helpful information about their members, but Boston's meetingpath may be the only interactive service of its kind developed just for meeting planners. Launched earlier this year, meetingpath.comallows planners to access information on more than 2,500 New England companies serving the hospitality industry--from hotels and convention centers to catering companies and equipment suppliers. Best of all, the Web site comes equipped with two exceptional features: a powerful search engine that allows planners to pinpoint facilities and services, and a comprehensive request for proposal (RFP) service.
Originally developed to aid corporate planners, who don't turn to bureaus as easily as association planners do, meetingpath serves the convention market as well, says Leslie Hogan, vice president of marketing for the bureau, because "once a meeting is booked, there are still services to research andto sign, and that's where meetingpath is a real value add for association business."
The service was developed and is managed by MarketStream LLC, which receives revenues from the enhanced listings. Hogan felt the service would be much more complete if it included the New England area, and the 19 bureaus of the New England Convention and Visitors Bureaus signed on eagerly.
In order to use meetingpath, planners go to the site, send in basic information about themselves, and are e-mailed back a password. The RFP feature is an easy-to-use option that allows planners to e-mail selected companies or bureaus. In the case of hotels, the RFP goes directly to the director of sales. Planners can store their own RFPs and customized distribution list. A recent addition, Stardates, alerts planners to last-minute hotel space--a great feature for those planning small meetings in today's seller's market.
San Diego: Doing the Right Thing When a convention delegate suffered a heart attack during a meeting at the San Diego Convention Center in January, security chief Kelly Klatt and security officer Stephen Gallagher jumped in and administered CPR until paramedics arrived. The two were later awarded American Red Cross Citations and Certificates of Merit for helping to save a life.
"You hope when the moment comes, you do the right thing," remarks Klatt. He heads up a comprehensive security program that includes mandatory CPR training for all security personnel. Recently, security services merged with guest services at the center, and a training program similar to hospitality programs used in major hotels was launched.
"We want our guests to approach anyone in a uniform and feel taken care of. We encourage hosts to walk with our guests, leaving their posts if needed. . . . [we want them to be] even better problem solvers," Klatt says.
Creative problem solving took place during the August meeting of the 17th Annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games, held at the center's sister property, the San Diego Concourse. It was easy enough to solve the accessibility problems by building an exterior ramp and modifying three smaller rest rooms not previously accessible. A tougher challenge was the buffet service: How could wheelchair-bound guests get their food and then be able to return to their table?
Dino Dimitriou, food and beverage manager at the concourse, searched high and low and found a company in Arizona that supplied the facility with special trays that guests could place on their laps yet still move around freely.
Tampa: Seamless Service Who works for the convention center and who is an independent contractor? At the city-run Tampa Convention Center, you'll never know under the center's "seamless service" policy, according to Wilhemina Boyd, director.
The center insists that contractors providing in-house services have an office on site and not be treated as "stepchildren." in decision-making. "We operate on the level of teams, with city and noncity employees working side by side," Boyd says.That is one innovation undertaken by Boyd, who joined the center in 1993. Here are some others:
A training program that teaches staff how to identify people who have had too much to drink and to deal with them tactfully. Designated drivers are given free non-alcoholic drinks, and tipsy guests are given a free cab ride home if a designated driver can't be found.
Boyd suggested expanding a quarterly taste-testing put on by the center's catering team so that it became a combination of a mini-fam and site inspection for meeting planners. Chefs explain the menu options, banquet managers demonstrate theme possibilities and table decorations, and everyone enjoys a sampling of food. Outside vendors like photographers, bakeries, and other companies that a planner might need during a meeting are invited to attend. Several people from marketing explain booking policies, and event coordinators talk about room set-ups and other details. "It's been a great success not only for new business but for repeat business as well," Boyd remarks.
The most innovative program of all, she says, has been the center's full-service, in-house television station, which has become a strong revenue producer. The station produces TV segments for in-house events, which are shown on 30 television monitors around the complex. Originally, the programming featured only information about individual trade shows--with advertisers being primarily exhibitors. But the TV segments may now include information and advertisements about where to shop, eat, and find entertainment in Tampa. "It's been a great way to involve the community, a big part of our mission statement," Boyd says.
Puerto Rico's Pledge "We had to take a hard look at the facts and ask ourselves if there was some way to turn the situation around and provide meeting planners with the assurance that our service offerings are a powerful and valuable commodity," says Executive Director of the Puerto Rico CVB Jorge Pesquera. After examining the most common complaints voiced by planners, his team came up with the following pledge:
1. Provide personal, responsive service through our team of experienced sales professionals.
2. Respond to an inquiry on the same business day and follow up with hotels to insure that planners receive proposals within the time specified.
3. Thoroughly qualify group business leads to insure that they will only be distributed to hotels and resorts that most appropriately match qualifications.
4. Provide up-to-date information and materials on hotels, resorts, meeting facilities, and attractions.
5. Schedule, accompany, and transport planners on site inspections only at properties that match their stated qualifications.
6. Furnish contact for local suppliers who are members of the bureau and who maintain the highest standards of quality and reliability.
7. Provide support in marketing expertise and professionally produced promotional materials for meetings.
8. Act as partners in assisting independent meeting planners . . . never soliciting business from their clients.
9. Be the most informed source on every facet of planning a meeting or convention in Puerto Rico.
10. Stay close to the customer by remaining accessible via a broad regional sales network, and make planning a meeting in Puerto Rico an enjoyable, efficient, and, ultimately, successful experience.