Cheryl Hopkins, National Corporate Sales Manager with the Irving Convention & Visitors Bureau shares her insights into the vibrant meeting destination of Irving, Texas and the value of utilizing a CVB with Suzzanne Ravitz of Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI)
SUZZANNE: First tell me a little bit about yourself and your CVB background:
CHERYL: I’m from the Dallas area and after college I worked in both residential and commercial real estate. The hospitality industry always intrigued me but I didn’t realize the hospitality industry encompassed so many overlapping fields. I had an opportunity to work at a hotel in Irving and had frequent interaction with the Irving Convention & Visitors Bureau. When a position opened, I applied and was fortunate to get the job. That was over 23 years ago!
SUZZANNE: What makes Irving a great meeting destination?
CHERYL: Irving’s location will always be its strongest selling point– adjacent to DFW Airport, near Love Field Airport and in the heart of Dallas and Ft. Worth. Additionally, people from both coasts can be in Irving within a four hour flight.
SUZZANNE: What is the ONE THING planners are always surprised to learn about Irving?:
CHERYL: That “Las Colinas,” one of the largest master-planned developments in the United States, is actually “in” Irving. A lot of people think Las Colinas is its own city. Another surprise is the number of corporations Irving has—more than 2,000 and 400 corporate headquarters including global headquarters of multiple Fortune 500 and 100 companies.
SUZZANNE: How do you see the value you provide to planners as a CVB?
CHERYL: Bureaus are experts on their destination and can answer any questions the planner might have about the city, hotels, attractions, and more. The time saving factor alone is a huge value. Our services are complimentary and we can source a planner’s RFP to the hotels of their choice. We do not get into rate negotiations, but we follow up with the planner to make sure they have the proposals from the hotels and any additional information they might need. Once the meeting is booked at one of our hotels, there are all kinds of complimentary services the planner can take advantage of.
SUZZANNE: What do you think are the advantages to reaching out to a CVB first when planning a meeting?
CHERYL: I imagine a meeting planner or a third party planner can get overwhelmed when it comes to not only sourcing numerous cities, but also numerous hotels within each of those cities. If Irving is fortunate to win the business, our CVB can assist with all types of complimentary convention services such as customized name badges, lanyards, registration assistance, off-site venues—even Marketing/PR support when necessary.
SUZZANNE: What size/type of meetings best fit in your destination?
CHERYL: Anywhere from 10-4000. Our 70+hotels, both full-service and limited-service provide so many meeting options. The Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas, opened in 2011, has almost 100,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space and created a lot of opportunities we did not have in the past.
SUZZANNE: What are the latest developments/happenings/events in your destination you’d like to share with planners?
CHERYL: A headquarter hotel adjacent to the Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas! The 350-room full-service Westin hotel, slated to open mid-2017, will have 16,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 10,000 square foot ballroom.
Also on the horizon is the Irving Music Factory, an 8,000 person indoor/outdoor concert venue with special event outdoor plaza, more than 25 restaurants/entertainment venues plus retail-all within walking distance to the Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas.
SUZZANNE: Why are your services free?
CHERYL: The Irving Convention & Visitors Bureau is a division of the City of Irving and is funded through the Irving hotel/motel tax. The tax dollars the Irving CVB receives go right back into promoting and selling the destination, including our hotels.
SUZZANNE: What motivates you to provide the excellent service you are known for?
CHERYL: We recognize that no two groups are the same, no two hotels are the same and no two planners are the same and because we are a smaller bureau, we are able to provide personal service and customized experiences. There is nothing better than knowing I may have had a small role in the success of a meeting.
SUZZANNE: What would you like all planners to know about Irving?
CHERYL: That we are Ir-VING, Texas, not Ir-VINE, California….And that if the Dallas-Ft. Worth area is a meeting destination you are interested in, you definitely want to take a look at Irving/Las Colinas!