"Our region understands the importance of tourism and supports our organization’s mission. We are fair and impartial advocates of the region and can offer an authentic, un-biased, un-bought and genuine perspective to planners."
There are certain destinations that conjure up a specific image. Niagara USA definitely is one of those destinations. Most people immediately think of the huge beautiful waterfalls, but Niagara USA is so much more than amazing cascades, especially for meeting attendees. Recently, DMAI’s Suzzanne Ravitz spoke with Jennifer Gregory, Sales Manager with the Niagara Tourism & Convention Corporation about how Niagara Tourism & Convention Corporation (NTCC) works with planners to create memorable meeting experiences and other exciting happenings in the destination.
Jennifer started working with NTCC in 2015 after several years working with the Empire State Development Corporation. Prior to working for New York State, Jennifer studied tourism recreation management and business administration at Niagara University and worked in the hospitality industry for companies including Walt Disney World, Six Flags, and other tourism organizations. Outside of the office, you’ll often find her at dance class (most recently break dancing!) or dining out in Niagara USA.
SUZZANNE: What makes Niagara USA a great meeting destination?
JENNIFER: Niagara USA is an internationally known destination which is on the “travel bucket list” of many attendees, plus their spouses, friends and families. Our conference & event center and convention hotels are all within walking distance of a natural wonder of the world, Niagara Falls.
SUZZANNE: What is the ONE THING planners are always surprised to learn about Niagara USA?
JENNIFER: Many first time visitors are surprised to learn that “Niagara Falls” is a set of three waterfalls (American, Horseshoe, & Bridal Falls) which are all located in the USA which are free to view, any time of year, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
SUZZANNE: What concerns/complaints/frustrations are you hearing from planners lately? How do you think the services CVBs provide support them specifically?
JENNIFER: Limited time, resources and funding are ever present struggles for meeting planners. Call us! DMO’s can help minimize each of these challenges and our services are complimentary. We are your “destination consultants” here to help planners find the right locations for meetings and events of ANY size.
SUZZANNE: What do you see trending in the meetings market? How is your DMO proactively addressing the trend or staying current?
JENNIFER: Meetings are becoming more experiential and planners are constantly being challenged to deliver authentic experiences. Alerting planners to unique meeting and off-site locations, new ideas for team building and overall interaction are all ways we can help.
SUZZANNE: In what way do you think CVBs are most misunderstood by planners? What one planner perception would you like to change about CVBs in general?
JENNIFER: CVB’s are absolutely misunderstood (by planners and the general public). There has been some inconsistency in our vocabulary. There are so many acronyms which all mean basically the same thing – CVB, DMO etc. Regardless of how you wish to refer to us, know that we make planners lives easier by the fact that we are impartial with our suggestions.
SUZZANNE: You are right; there is some confusion about the vocabulary of CVBs, DMOs, etc. The important thing to remember for planners is that CVBs are not-for-profit organizations that are free to planners. They are funded by those in the destination that are vested in the tourism industry.
What do you think are the advantages to reaching out to a CVB first when planning a meeting?
JENNIFER: CVB’s are a one-stop shop. Instead of making many calls, planners are able to call me and I provide all of the options that would suit you best and do the legwork for you.
Secondly, I have taken calls from panicked planners who are experiencing a challenge and need immediate help for an event that is less than 2 weeks away. If I was not looped into the event from the beginning, I have no idea the needs and challenges of your group. Keep CVB’s looped in from the beginning of the planning process so that we can be your advocates and provide information and resources as needed throughout the planning process.
SUZZANNE: What size/type of meetings best fit in your destination?
JENNIFER: Niagara USA can best accommodate meetings between 10 and 300 attendees.
SUZZANNE: What are the latest developments/happenings/events in your destination you’d like to share with planners?
JENNIFER: Exciting things are happening in Niagara USA! Our Niagara Falls State Park is undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation to add accessibility and to help improve the up close and personal experience to the Falls, as well as increasing the amount of greenery and parking.
We also have a new Wingate by Wyndham now open, and look forward to the opening of the new Doubletree by Hilton Niagara Falls, Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott and La Quinta Inn & Suites properties.
SUZZANNE: Why are your services free?
JENNIFER: Our region understands the importance of tourism and supports our organization’s mission. We are fair and impartial advocates of the region and can offer an authentic, un-biased, un-bought and genuine perspective to planners.
SUZZANNE: What motivates you to provide the excellent service you are known for?
JENNIFER: Cities are my passion. I have been carving a professional and personal path to learn what makes great places that authentically bring people together. I LOVE sharing my destination knowledge and it makes me so happy to change perspectives through site visits and passing along the latest information to my clients.
SUZZANNE: Thank you so much Jennifer for taking the time to talk with us, I’m excited to learn about all of the exciting things happening in your destination!