Michelle Carlen, Howard Munves and Lauren Siring, CMP, all Sales Executives for the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau all share their unique perspective about their coastal destination and the value found in using a CVB, and Destination Marketing Association International’s (DMAI’s) Terri Roberts enjoys their insights.
Michelle, Howard and Lauren are three passionate, engaging individuals who represent Monterey County with flair. They, individually and collectively, bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to assist planners in finding just what they are looking for in the diverse community of Monterey County. So, if you are looking for a destination that is more affordable, accessible and easier to get around than you may think…read on!
TERRI: Tell me a little about yourselves and your various backgrounds in the CVB industry?
HOWARD: Growing up in Florida, I developed a passion for travel and understood the importance of the hospitality industry. Every Sunday was spent playing golf with my grandfather who taught me the valuable lesson of developing relationships in business.
After graduating from the University of Florida, my first position in the industry was with the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority based in Washington DC. I was fortunate enough to have great mentors there who remain trusted advisors. The next exciting opportunity in the industry was with the Detroit Metro CVB.
Currently, I am the Regional Sales Representative for the Monterey County CVB handling the Washington DC area, Chicago and Northeast accounts and I live in Bethesda, Maryland, with my wife, Lauren. Monterey County is a memorable destination that has helped me to appreciate the natural beauty of the California coast.
LAUREN: I am a native Californian and spent a good portion of my youth in Washington State. I have a Bachelors Degree in Psychology from Washington State University and moved to the Monterey area upon graduation. After working in retail I transitioned to a career in Hospitality and fell in love with the industry.
I became a part of the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau sales team in July of 2007 after nearly ten years working in sales at a local convention hotel. I achieved my CMP designation in 2005 and have crossed over many markets. In my current role I represent Nevada, all California state association and agencies; all Northern California federal agencies; and, 31+ peak room block programs within Central and Northern California.
I am an active member of the Northern California Chapter of Meeting Professionals International and California Society of Association Executives among other organizations. My husband and I enjoy the area for the scenic beauty, coastal lifestyle and diversity of activities. Some of our favorite things to do are to take our mutt Roxy to the dog-friendly beaches, sip wine at the many tasting rooms and hike in Big Sur.
MICHELLE: Born and raised in Pasadena, my first position in the industry was representing the Pasadena Convention & Visitors Bureau while I attended college at California State University Pomona where I studied and received my Bachelors in marketing.
Several years later I got married to my husband Steve and moved to the San Diego area where I began a journey in sales at the San Diego North CVB. When the opportunity arose, I joined the team at Visit Newport Beach where I spent time developing key markets. My time there really developed my passion for working with destinations and afforded me a chance to develop the Bureau sales department from the ground up with the Irvine CVB. Monterey had always been one of my favorite destinations, so joining the CVB team in promoting Monterey was something I could not resist.
TERRI: What’s the best thing about your job?
HOWARD: The people in Monterey County. They have welcomed me and made me feel like part of their extended family.
LAUREN: Connecting planners to what makes Monterey special and the perfect match for their meetings. I love being a resource to help planners make the most of what the destination offers for their meetings. It makes me feel good to open doors to the planners to the many options in Monterey County and bring the business to our community.
MICHELLE: Engaging planners and sharing my passion for Monterey excites me as I see Monterey as one of the most beautiful and desirable destinations on the planet. Monterey is truly outstanding, and once you’ve been, you’ll want to return.
TERRI: What makes Monterey County a great meeting destination?
LAUREN: The opportunity to amaze. Time and time again, you see how meeting planners are simply blown away by the beauty of the destination matched by the diversity of planning options. We have an incredible array of settings that appeal to a variety of budgets and each is guaranteed to exceed expectations. The best part is that moment you see the smile form on the planner’s face as they realize just how blown away their attendees are going to be.
TERRI: What is the one thing planners are always surprised to learn about Monterey County?
LAUREN: Planners are surprised at how seamlessly they can get from one area to the next within our diverse county, and how they can have such unique experiences just minutes from one to the other. They love how quick and easy it is to get to the variety of activities and venues from our countryside to the sea.
TERRI: How do you see the value you provide to planners as a CVB?
LAUREN: We are an enormous value add to the planner and the process they go through. There isn’t anyone who has a better grasp of our destination, what the planners need and how we can creatively fashion exactly what they need. Our relationships in this community are vast and deep, and we leverage those relationships to the mutual benefit of the planner and the hotels and facilities they are seeking. And we take the time to be creative and not just focus on what is necessary for a good meeting, but what is possible for an extraordinary experience.
TERRI: What do you think are the advantages to reaching out to a CVB first when planning a meeting?
MICHELLE: The MCCVB is the destination expert, your “on-the-ground” representative that works with you to ensure that from the very beginning you are connected to the right venues and contacts to ensure the success of your meeting. This is a huge time and cost savings when you are first sourcing your RFP and trying to identify the best vendors to service your group. And we don’t just think in terms of logistics but also consider ourselves a creative service agency focused on making the group experience truly unique.
TERRI: What size/type of meetings best fit in your destination?
MICHELLE: We welcome group sizes from a 10 person retreat up to a larger conference of 3,000. Our ideal size is focused on mid-level size ranging from 50 people to 500 people, both which can fit in the majority of our hotels and other venues.
TERRI: Can a planner of a small or a large meeting take advantage of your services?
MICHELLE: Absolutely! Regardless of the size of your group our expertise and services from sourcing, site inspection assistance, off-site event planning to marketing and collateral assistance can be utilized. Even if you have a request that you think is unusual, we encourage you to ask us if we can help anyway. The best thing about our services is that they are customized to what needs you and your group will have.
TERRI: Why are your services free?
HOWARD: A tourism improvement tax is paid by all guests in room rates – and a small portion of those funds go to MCCVB to provide services. We work with all tourism businesses in the county, but our primary goal is to generate overnight visitation so our primary stakeholders are the hotels.
TERRI: What motivates you to provide the excellent service you are known for?
HOWARD: Knowing that the community as a whole will be positively impacted by groups and meetings; from the restaurants along Cannery Row to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, golf courses, wineries and other businesses. We play a critical role in the Monterey County tourism economy that equates to jobs and quality of life in the community.
TERRI: What would you like all planners to know about Monterey County and the MCCVB?
HOWARD: Monterey is more affordable, accessible and easier to get around than some planners think. One or more of these factors always come up when we host a planner for the first time. Plus we love the “WOW” factor with first time planners – I mean, we have a reputation for our incredible scenic beauty, but until you see if for the first time, you can’t begin to understand how stunning it is.