Did you know there’s an Austin…Minnesota?! Austin CVB experts aren’t all located down south. Suzzanne Ravitz with Destination Marketing Association International talked with Nancy Schnable, Executive Director of the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau, and found out why holding a meeting in Austin, MN is the place where “Minnesota Nice” isn’t just a term, but a way of life.
Suzzanne: Tell me a little about yourself and your background in the CVB industry?
Nancy: I’m the mother of two creative, spirited and incredible little boys and the wife to the most understanding and patient husband in the world. I am a Minnesota native and have lived in various places in the Midwest throughout my career. I started in the hospitality world in beautiful Door County, Wisconsin working as a Meetings Express Manager, which taught me both the lodging and catering aspects at a very fast pace. This fast pace track took me to a resort close to Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI to work with social, religious, tour and travel groups. After a few years I made my way back to Minnesota and worked as the Director of Transient for a group of hotels in the Rochester Mayo Clinic area. Just last year I transitioned over to the CVB side of the business and have been working at the Austin, MN CVB ever since.
Suzzanne: What’s the best thing about your job?
Nancy: The people! I am very proud to work with all of our partners in Austin, Minnesota. They (hotels, conference centers, event centers, attractions, restaurants) are constantly exceeding the expectations of our visitors and that makes my job fun.
Suzzanne: What makes Austin, MN a great meeting destination?
Nancy: We are located ideally on Interstate 90 in Southern Minnesota, easily accessible from the North, South, East or West. Meeting participants in Austin, Minnesota do NOT have to pay for parking or Internet and our lodging tax is only 3%! Additionally, we were recently ranked as the #7 most exciting place in Minnesota, so after a productive meeting there are a wide variety of things for attendees to do.
Suzzanne: What is the one thing planners are always surprised to learn about Austin, Minnesota?
Nancy: We are the home to Hormel Foods Corporation, the only Fortune 500 Company in Minnesota that has its headquarters outside of the Twin Cities. With Hormel in Austin, we have some unique things like the Hormel Historic Home & Event Center for meetings, the world-renowned Hormel Institute for educational tours, the Jay C Hormel Nature Center & Ruby Runner Auditorium and the SPAM™ Museum which is one of Minnesota’s top FREE attractions.
Suzzanne: How do you see the value you provide to planners as a CVB?
Nancy: We think of ourselves as colleagues to the meeting planners (just located in a satellite CVB office) and all working together toward the same goal. We know the local area, have built the partnerships with local vendors and together we can communicate and create success for everyone.
Suzzanne: What do you think are the advantages to reaching out to a CVB first when planning a meeting?
Nancy: At the Austin, MN CVB office, we strive to make a meeting planner’s job hassle & stress free. You can make one call to our CVB office and then we go to work calling all the lodging/meeting facilities and getting rates & availability. We then put it all together in one proposal and present it to the planner.
Suzzanne: What size/type of meetings best fit in your destination?
Nancy: Ideally any meeting that is up to 250 people is perfect for Austin, Minnesota. We have nearly 400 hotel rooms within a mile and over 10 facilities that accommodate over 250 people to give the planner options.
Suzzanne: Can a planner of a small or a large meeting take advantage of your services?
Nancy: Yes of course, there is no minimum or maximum to who can take advantage of our CVB services when planning a meeting in Austin. All are welcome!
Suzzanne: Why are your services free?
Nancy: Free to the clients because the Austin, Minnesota community has a desire to make sure all visitors and meeting participants that come to Austin have a wonderful experience. In fact, our commitment to this goal is so strong that we actually have a community concierge position.
Suzzanne: What motivates you to provide the excellent service you are known for?
Nancy: All the clients/meeting planners we work with become friends. When you provide excellent service time and time again people begin to trust you. It’s easy to call a friend and plan a meeting knowing that it’s in good hands.
Suzzanne: What would you like all planners to know about your CVB and the destination?
Nancy: Our theme for next year is “Enjoy Some AMAZING Cuisine, + Save Some Gr$$n = Meet in Austin, MN in 2015.” Many of the local tastes of Austin, MN have been highlighted in food traveler magazines and once you call for a proposal you will see how much value we provide while saving you money with our partners. Our full staff contact information can be found at www.AustinCVB.com or on our destination profile at empowerMINT.com and I can be reached directly at director@AustinCVB.com.