Everyone here shares the same goal, to have our prospective clients select Atlanta for their meetings and conventions, and to leave very glad they did!"
Susan Reid, National Sales Manager, Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau shares her perspective about her vibrant destination and the value planners can find in connecting to a CVB first, and Destination Marketing Association International’s (DMAI’s) Terri Roberts poses the questions.
Susan, a proud Atlanta native has considerable passion for her destination and the planners and attendees it serves. She uses the 34 years of Atlanta hospitality experience to help planners find just the right match in her city. She expresses her confidence in Atlanta as a well wired community ready to exceed the needs of meeting planners and attendees. Keep reading to learn some interesting things you may not know about Atlanta today…it’s not the destination you visited 10 years ago. A lot has changed and Susan and the ACVB stand ready to show…not just tell you!
TERRI: Tell me a little about yourself and your background in the CVB industry
SUSAN: I am an Atlanta native, which usually surprises people, as so many of our residents have moved to Atlanta from other cities. I earned a degree in Journalism/Public Relations from Georgia State University, as I was beginning my career in the Hospitality Industry as a Front Desk Clerk at a suburban Atlanta hotel. I am now in my 34th year of working in the wonderful Atlanta Hospitality Community. I was very fortunate to get my national sales position here at the ACVB eight years ago, after many years of working in Atlanta hotels large and small, and in both operations and sales. It was a perfect path, as it seems all of my work experience leading up to 2005 was preparing me for my current national sales position at the ACVB. This city has always been my home, which gives me a knowledgeable and unique perspective, and I love introducing meeting planners to my hometown.
Outside of work, I enjoy serving on the Board of Trustees of my church, and love being the grandmother of two exceptional little girls, who are the joy of my life. I am also an admitted sports fanatic, and am a passionate fan of NASCAR, the Atlanta Braves, the Atlanta Falcons, and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets!
TERRI: What’s the best thing about your job?
SUSAN: Definitely the people from many different types of organizations I have the opportunity to meet, work with and get to know. I am always learning something about each and every one of them and their organizations. I also love what everyone in our industry knows about our profession…that no two days are ever alike, and it certainly is never boring!
TERRI: What makes Atlanta a great meeting destination?
SUSAN: Beyond the factual “bullet points”, which I will give you because they are important, I have to say it’s the people here. We at the ACVB realize everyday how lucky we are to have a genuine hospitality team in Atlanta! In all of our partners, from hotels and convention centers to DMCs and restaurants, to attractions and sports teams, we have phenomenal partners. Everyone here shares the same goal, to have our prospective clients select Atlanta for their meetings and conventions, and to leave very glad they did!
Now for those “bullet points”!
- Atlanta is simply the most accessible city in the United States. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport operates more than 2,500 flights per day, more than any other U.S. airport. Thanks to our good fortune to be the home of and the hub for Delta Air Lines, there are more direct domestic flights into Atlanta than any other city, and Atlanta has more direct international flights than all other U.S. cities, except New York. We are less than a two-hour flight away from 80 percent of the U.S. population!
- Atlanta’s convention district is compact and convenient. Our six largest convention hotels, totaling approximately 7,000 rooms, are within five blocks of each other, and are walking distance from the Georgia World Congress Center, dozens of restaurants, and Atlanta’s major attractions near Centennial Olympic Park.
- Atlanta also has the good fortune to offer something for everyone. We are the business center of the South, so we enjoy the reputation of being one of the best cities in the world for groups that are all about serious business. At the same time, there are more fun things to do in the heart of the city than you can fit into an entire long weekend, so we are also the perfect location for groups whose attendees usually bring their families and enjoy a vacation built around their meeting.
TERRI: What is the one thing planners are always surprised to learn about Atlanta?
SUSAN: I think it would be how compact and walkable our convention district really is. In a city as large as Atlanta, most are surprised to find 10,000 hotel rooms, the country’s fourth largest convention center, the Georgia World Congress Center, dozens of restaurants of many cuisines and price points, and soon-to-be five Centennial Olympic Park world-class attractions, including the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, National Center for Civil and Human Rights, Inside CNN Tour, and College Football Hall of Fame, all located in an area of only approximately four blocks by eight blocks.
TERRI: How do you see the value you provide to planners as a CVB?
SUSAN: First and foremost, no one knows a city and its hotels better than the local CVB sales staff. We know our hotels, we know all areas of our city, and we can easily interpret an organization’s needs, both inside and outside their hotels, and recommend the perfect fit. So, the assistance our clients receive with their initial inquiry is of utmost value. Beyond that, the assistance that a CVB provides by planning and facilitating thorough and time-efficient site visits, and then providing the subsequent professional marketing and promotional assistance are also of great value. And all of these services are free!
TERRI: Why are your services free?
SUSAN: Atlanta CVB is a 100-year-old private, non-profit organization. We are primarily funded by hotel room tax revenue and private sector membership fees and their program participation from the private sector. The primary use of these funds is to generate major economic activity from the industry which benefits Atlanta’s economy as a whole.
TERRI: What size/type of meetings best fit your destination?
SUSAN: That question directly addresses one of Atlanta’s greatest strengths as a convention destination. The fact is that all sizes of meetings are a great fit for Atlanta! We have fabulous hotels of all sizes in all areas of our city. Whether your meeting is for 35 people or for 35,000 people, we have the perfect hotel and/or convention center for you!
TERRI: Can a planner of a small or a large meeting take advantage of your services?
SUSAN: Absolutely! Our ACVB sales and services staff members specialize in meetings of all sizes. We have some ACVB personnel who specialize in groups of 10 to 50 rooms, others in groups of 51 to 250 rooms, then my group, which specializes in groups of 251 to 1200 rooms, and finally our trade show specialists, who work with our citywide conventions of more than 1201 rooms. We offer services, from RFP distribution and response management to site visit coordination to marketing and promotional assistance to all of our groups, large and small.
TERRI: What motivates you to provide the excellent service you are known for?
SUSAN: As I mentioned earlier, it is a great feeling to know that all of my efforts in bringing meetings and conventions to Atlanta are fully supported by the entire hospitality community. The “What do you need and when do you need it?” attitude of our members and partners in our ACVB sales and marketing efforts always motivates me. Our work together in recently hosting ASAE 2013 was a great example of that attitude. I am also motivated by the satisfaction I feel when a client’s meeting ends, and they tell me that their attendees loved being in my hometown!
TERRI: What would you like all planners to know about Atlanta and the Atlanta CVB?
SUSAN: I would encourage them to rediscover the Atlanta they might have known 10 or more years ago! The vibrancy of the city has changed immeasurably since then. With all that Atlanta offers in the way of accessibility, hotel choices, activities and value, we are now one of the country’s best meeting and convention locations. And I would add that contacting our ACVB staff is their best first step. Our staff here is among the best – knowledgeable, personable, and ready to help you plan a very successful event in Atlanta.