The Internet is bringing new meaning to the term site inspection. Just consider the experience of the Arlington (TX) Convention and Visitors Bureau, which recently landed the meeting of an organization whose planner visited the CVB's Web site.

Karen Schifelbein-Jordan, president and CEO of the International Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus (IACVB) points to this and other examples of how the Web is becoming an important source of information for people planning meetings.

The Arlington meeting, which was held last February, was booked by the local coordinator for the 400-member Star Warriors Guild after he and his seven-member site selection committee visited the city's home page, Jordan says. The Star Warriors Guild is made up of individual Internet enthusiasts from across the country.

Being able to plan the meeting online and communicate with the Arlington CVB through e-mail streamlined the coordinator's planning and eliminated so-called telephone tag, piled-up faxes, and other snags that can accompany more traditional forms of doing business, Jordan says.

"Time is today's currency, and every way we can save time is important," she says. "The Internet is one way."

IACVB is encouraging member CVBs to follow it on to the information superhighway. IACVB unveiled its home page about a year ago, and at that time 45 CVBs were on the Net, says Jordan. Since then, the number of online CVBs has jumped to 68, all of which are hyperlinked to IACVB's Web site (http://www. iacvb.org).

The IACVB Web site contains information about the organization, a calendar of IACVB and other industry events, news items, and Jordan's column from IACVB's monthly Crossroads newsletter. It also offers an online job opportunities bulletin board for members.

SURFING THE CVBs At least four CVBs-Austin, TX; Arlington, TX; San Jose, CA; and Minneapolis, MN-offer an online housing service for meetings. Meeting planners fill out a form online, Jordan says. "The CVB's housing bureau then e-mails the attendee to confirm hotel accommodations and the hotel follows up by mailing out a printed confirmation."

CVBs also provide an overview of their destinations, including information on convention centers, hotels, restaurants, entertainment, and attractions. Some CVBs have gone beyond the basics to include floor plans for convention centers and hotel meeting rooms, according to Jordan.

"Say you have to begin planning a convention requiring 1,500 hotel rooms," Jordan says. "You can surf the Net to determine which destinations have the facilities to meet your needs. You can then e-mail your dates to the CVBs and ask them to respond with their availability.

"It's an incredible time-saver. The meeting planner doesn't have to pick up the phone and relate the same thing over and over again to several different CVBs or send out a fax that may wind up sitting on a pile of other faxes somewhere."

Once the booking is made, corporate executives should consider listing the CVB's Web site in promotional materials so "participants can learn about the destination online; it's a wonderful way to promote the site," Jordan says.