"We firmly believe it is our role to insure our clients have a positive and seamless experience from the moment the destination is considered as a meeting site, and, if selected, until the last delegate leaves town."
Martha Sheridan, CMP, President and CEO of the Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau and Chair of DMAI Board of Directors shares her perspective about the value found in using a CVB, and Destination Marketing Association International’s (DMAI’s) Terri Roberts acts as interviewer.
Martha is a sure and selfless leader, not only of her destination, but our industry! So, if you have ever worked with a CVB or are considering reaching out to make the connections for your next meeting, Martha’s insights will serve you well. And I don’t know about you, but after reading this post, I bet you are going to want to join me and check out Providence’s signature event WaterFire…it sounds amazing!
TERRI: Tell me a little about yourself and how you got into the CVB industry?
MARTHA: I got my first taste of the tourism industry as a tour guide at one of Newport’s historic mansions. From there I held other front-line industry jobs and found my way to a small DMO in coastal Rhode Island, which set the stage for my nearly 25 year career in destination marketing. I have held my current position at the Providence Warwick CVB for over seven years and still have great passion for this destination and this industry.
TERRI: What compelled you to serve on DMAI’s Board as Chair?
MARTHA: I have been active in industry associations for most of my career and find the relationships I have formed through these engagements to be among the most rewarding aspects of my professional life. DMAI has been particularly compelling for me because the staff, leadership and members consistently demonstrate a desire to work collectively to enhance the destination marketing industry and strengthen our engagement with customers and stakeholders. I knew serving as chair would be one of the most fulfilling roles to date and that has certainly been the case so far.
TERRI: What’s your opinion of the CVB value proposition as touted by DMAI in their planner education…”CVBs are the first point of contact to help planners find the best fit for any size meeting.?”
MARTHA: This resonates for me and my organization on so many levels because we truly believe, regardless of the size of a meeting in our community; our services not only assist the planner but also greatly enhance the delegate experience. From facilitating the site selection process, to developing comprehensive and easy-to-use micro-sites for attendance building, or simply connecting planners with just the right vendors in the community the resources we provide are vital to insuring that attendees have the best possible experience in our destination. We firmly believe it is our role to insure our clients have a positive and seamless experience from the moment the destination is considered as a meeting site, and, if selected, until the last delegate leaves town.
TERRI: Why are the services of CVBs free…really…what’s the catch? Nothing’s free!
MARTHA: Since the majority of DMO’s are funded through hotel occupancy taxes, our role is to insure that visitors to our community, whether here for a meeting or leisure trip, have an exceptional experience. There is no catch, our lawmakers entrust us with these public tax dollars to guarantee there is a trusted resource for visitor information and a reliable conduit between the visitor and the hospitality businesses in the destination.
TERRI: If I am a planner who has never worked with a CVB before, what advice would you give me?
MARTHA: Familiarize yourself with the services offered by a CVB, and take advantage of any and all that are available to you. Whether it’s lead distribution, site inspection itinerary development, or recommendations on off-site venues, activities or attractions, your CVB representative is THE destination expert and is there to make your job easier. If you aren’t utilizing your CVB to its fullest potential, you might be missing out on some great local gems you can’t discover on your own.
TERRI: If I am a planner who has stopped working with CVBs because of a bad experience many years ago, what advice would you give me?
MARTHA: Go right to the top! Contact the CEO or a member of the CVB’s senior management team and let them know about your past experience so you can gain assurances those bad experiences won’t happen again. There are many occasions where I interact directly with our clients to clarify a policy, or serve as a conduit to a vendor or service provider that might not be representing the destination in a positive light.
TERRI: If I am visiting Providence, what’s the one thing I should not miss?
MARTHA: Our signature event is WaterFire, an internationally acclaimed, multi-sensory art installation that features a series of bonfires along the river that flows through the heart of the city. It takes place about a dozen times a year and is an extraordinary event that is unique to Providence. This artistic marvel, combined with our superb culinary scene make for an amazing experience that can’t be had anywhere else.
TERRI: Lastly, what’s one interesting trend on the horizon in the meeting’s market you are excited about?
MARTHA: I’m particularly interested in seeing how the configuration of meeting space will evolve over the next decade. Clearly, the way in which we meet and learn is evolving and with that, the physical spaces we meet in will need to change. I’m hoping we engage the next generation of learners in advising us on what makes sense for the meeting space of tomorrow.