"It’s a place where people fall in love with our town, culture, atmosphere and friendly people."
Linda Ekeland, Director of Sales, Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau, shares her perspective about her destination and the value found in using a CVB, and Destination Marketing Association International’s (DMAI’s) Terri Roberts takes note.
Linda, an industry veteran, who revels in representing her entire destination, has a lot of passion for her ability to offer up to planners all Chapel Hill and Orange County has to offer-castle included (read on)! She also hopes to educate planners who have not yet used the services of a CVB about the meetings industry’s best kept secret! So if you are looking for a small town setting with big city options check out Linda’s view of Chapel Hill and the services the CVB provides.
TERRI: Tell me a little about yourself and your background in the CVB industry?
LINDA: In 1985 I moved from NY to NC where I had my first encounter in the hospitality industry. I started in a hotel as a reservationist and moved quickly to the sales department. After 7 years I took a position as a regional sales manager with Thomas Cook Travel and stayed with them until the buy-out by American Express. In 1998 I joined the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau starting my 15th year this past April. I work with all markets at the Bureau and find each one exciting and interesting.
TERRI: What’s the best thing about your job?
LINDA: I like representing all the hotels and other facilities in the area compared to just one. This allows me to offer so many options. I can help them find just the right facility to fit their needs to make any event a success. One of my favorite things to do is set up site tours for possible programs. I enjoy showing off our town, our hotels, landmarks and sharing the history of the area. I always surprise planners when I tell them Chapel Hill has a castle and of course I will take them by to see for themselves.
TERRI: What makes Chapel Hill a great meeting destination?
LINDA: Chapel Hill is unique in every aspect, from being a college town, the variety of hotels, privately owned restaurants and activities. Chapel Hill has an environment and flair that people fall in love with as soon as they arrive. It’s hard to put in words, but as soon as I say I represent Chapel Hill the response is “I love being there” or “what a fabulous place.”
TERRI: What is the one thing planners are always surprised to learn about Chapel Hill?
LINDA: We are affordable and our suppliers will go out of their way to help work within any planner’s budget. We have 2 Four-diamond properties, which is unusual for a town this size, but we also have full service, boutique and funky to limited service hotels which allow all kinds of options.
TERRI: How do you see the value you provide to planners as a CVB?
LINDA: CVB’s are the best kept secret for any planner that never used our services. They don’t realize the wealth of information a CVB can provide, whether looking at hotels, restaurants, activities, transportation and so much more to help plan the a meeting or conference. Best of all our services are free!
TERRI: What do you think are the advantages to reaching out to a CVB first when planning a meeting?
LINDA: A Bureau is the source of all kinds of information for any planner. We can save them time from their busy schedule and make recommendations and suggestions they may not have considered. So many times after speaking with someone they say “you can do that for me?” It’s a good feeling to know you have helped and can make them look good to their boss, co-workers and attendees.
TERRI: What size/type of meetings best fit in your destination?
LINDA: Chapel Hill has over 60,000 sq. ft. of meeting space among several hotels and private meeting facilities. Due to our location to the Research Triangle Park and Raleigh/Durham International Airport we attract many medical and pharmaceutical companies for training, workshops and conferences. Chapel Hill is home to the University of North Carolina and promotes many educational seminars and educational association conferences. We also find many students return to Chapel Hill to plan their wedding or anniversary. It’s like coming home again.
TERRI: Can a planner of a small or a large meeting take advantage of your services?
LINDA: A Visitors Bureau will help with small to large meetings, activities outside the main event and can make recommendations for various restaurants. We are happy to accommodate groups from 10-400 people.
TERRI: Why are your services free?
LINDA: Our town and stakeholders understand the value and service to the community a Visitors Bureau can provide. All revenue provided to the Bureau is paid through the occupancy tax collected by the hotel visitors allowing us to represent all facilities. Unlike some Bureaus we are not a membership based organization allowing us to represent everyone.
TERRI: What motivates you to provide the excellent service you are known for?
LINDA: It is such a satisfaction to help someone looking for that right location and knowing you have helped the planner and can let them relax just a little. Making sure their program meets all the requirements for a successful event is extremely rewarding to me personally.
TERRI: What would you like all planners to know about Chapel Hill and Visit Chapel Hill?
LINDA: Our staff is here to help. Like someone with a beautiful home we want to show off Chapel Hill to our visitors and let them know how great our area is and what they have been missing. It’s a place where people fall in love with our town, culture, atmosphere and friendly people.