Meilee Anderson, Business Development Manager for Seattle Southside, shares some great insights on the destination she proudly represents, and Destination Marketing Association International’s (DMAI’s) Terri Roberts gets the inside track.
My interview, as well as all of my interactions with Meilee are the same…delightful! She is a wonderful representative of her organization, as well as our industry. Meilee was excited to have the opportunity to share with planners all Seattle Southside has to offer and the tremendous resource connecting with a destination marketing organization brings to the table. Take a look at Seattle Southside through her eyes; I bet you see it in a whole new way. I know I did!
TERRI: Tell me a little about yourself and your background in the CVB industry?
MEILEE: I grew up in the hotel industry, literally. I started in housekeeping as a teenager and over the years I studied and worked really hard until I ended up in Management. I discovered a passion for working with groups. As a Director of Sales and Marketing for twelve years I made time to serve and chair committees at tourism offices on a local, regional and state level. Eventually, I helped found a new CVB. I love this industry.
TERRI: What’s the best thing about your job?
MEILEE: It’s never boring. Working with planners, there is never a dull moment. Seeing what we can accomplish collectively is a thrill. For example one time a planner called me with an unusual request. He wanted a mermaid at the banquet. I accepted the mission. I did some research and called him back and said “I got a mermaid three ways: ice sculpture, vocalist in costume singing to your delegates as they come into the banquet room, or life-size mermaid prop complete with palm trees and sand.” He got his mermaid!
TERRI: What makes Seattle Southside a great meeting destination?
MEILEE: We’re the gateway to the state of Washington. The Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is in our backyard. We make a great home base for groups to have their meeting here in the Southside and easily explore the region pre/post. Over 30 airlines fly into SEA-TAC, we have an Amtrak station, two Link Light Rail stations and we’re easily accessible from I-5 and 405. Not only is the Southside accessible, but we’re a great value for the dollar too. Many of our hotels have “value-adds” providing groups who are budget conscious with rates historically 20 to 30% lower than downtown Seattle.
TERRI: What is the one thing planners are always surprised to learn about Seattle Southside?
MEILEE: How wide our reach is; we have a very lean staff with just 4.5 employees, but we efficiently represent over 9,000 hotel rooms and nearly a million square feet of event space in our area.
TERRI: How do you see the value you provide to planners as a CVB?
MEILEE: We’re a planner’s eyes and ears in the local area and the relationships we have in place can help open doors. In addition, I try really hard to be the best resource I can be for a planner. I study webinars, read books and attend industry events to stay up to date on trends and issues planners face. In some regards, I feel like I’m the invisible person on their payroll.
TERRI: What do you think are the advantages of reaching out to a CVB first when planning a meeting?
MEILEE: Seamless communications! It’s a much smoother process for the planner, CVB and the venues if you start with the CVB/DMO first. Plus, you’ll save yourself a ton of time and energy. This reminds me of the time a frustrated planner called me. She had spent nearly two days online and making phone calls trying to find a hotel to accommodate her room block and T W E N T Y busses. 20! I promised her I’d see what I could do and within 30 minutes found a host hotel that could accommodate the parking too. She was relieved but was kicking herself for not starting with a CVB first.
TERRI: What size/type of meetings best fit in your destination?
MEILEE: Groups that require less than 500 room nights on peak. I can’t pick just one type of meeting. We love our groups. With the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport within walking distance from our office we welcome all kinds of groups: International Conventions, Tri-State Conferences, Regional Associations, Reunions, Sports, and social groups of all varieties.
TERRI: Can a planner of a small or a large meeting take advantage of your services?
MEILEE: Absolutely! We help planners find meeting space for small groups of 10, all the way up to an event center for 6,000 people.
TERRI: Why are your services free?
MEILEE: We’re funded by lodging tax. We encourage planners to use our services. Let us be a resource. Your delegates will pay lodging tax while they stay here. Let us work for it.
TERRI: What motivates you to provide the excellent service you are known for?
MEILEE: I’ve planned events. Once I understood the level of detail it takes to execute a successful event and was acquainted with the pressure that comes from being the person in charge – once I walked a mile in their shoes it upped my game. I know how much stress can come from trying to do more with less and still being expected to hit numbers, ROI, budget, attendance, etc. After 6 years of doing this, I still grin ear to ear each time I solve a problem, find a hidden gem of a venue, save someone time and/or money, help with attendance building – or just come up with a good idea for a group.
TERRI: What would you like all planners to know about Seattle Southside and the Seattle Southside DMO?
MEILEE: We’re unique in that we’re not a membership based CVB. When a planner needs to book a group into our area, we work as a total destination marketing organization, and I work with all of our venues. This gives the planner the full scope of experiences our region can offer their group.