Stephanie Soper, CMP, National Account Director, Seattle’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, shares some great insights about her completely unique destination, and Destination Marketing Association International’s (DMAI’s) Terri Roberts gets the inside track.
I can attest to Stephanie being as caring and passionate as she describes her colleagues in Seattle. During my chat with her, I found her charming and so knowledgeable about all Seattle has to offer. Having personally experienced Seattle as a meeting destination for DMAI’s Annual Convention in July of 2012, I know you will find her insight useful and refreshing.
TERRI: First, tell me a little about yourself and your background in the CVB industry.
STEPHANIE: I started in the industry just over eight years ago and never intended to be in sales. Like many folks, I had no idea the CVB world existed until I was in the hospitality and meetings industry. When I interviewed for the position I took a whirlwind, 24-hour tour of Seattle and absolutely fell in love. The walkability, foodie culture and beautiful water views reminded me of my hometown, Baltimore, and yet it is so distinctly Northwest, Seattle is unlike any place I had ever seen.
TERRI: What’s the best thing about your job?
STEPHANIE: I work with one of the greatest teams in the industry. My colleagues are among the most caring, supportive and passionate people, and we all share a common love for Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. The destination is one I am proud to represent all by itself, but in my opinion, it is the opportunity to work with professional and passionate individuals, and for a company who truly values you as a person that makes this job so special.
TERRI: What makes Seattle a great meeting destination?
STEPHANIE: For me, a great meeting destination provides everything you need in a compact environment with access to a variety of great dining, world-class and unique attractions, and an energy that allows attendees to feel they are accomplishing great work. Seattle embodies those traits and with an entrepreneurial nature, Seattleites value education and constant innovation across industries like healthcare, retail and technology.
TERRI: What’s the one thing planners are always surprised to learn about Seattle?
STEPHANIE: That it can be sunny! People come up to me frequently to exclaim, “When I was in Seattle, it was beautiful and did not rain at all!” Honestly, we try to help them anticipate that our winters are grayer than some parts of the country, but also educate everyone that our climate is significantly milder all through the year. The biggest shock I found was that they don’t really get thunderstorms in Seattle. The rain is more like a misty drizzle and my colleagues are amazed when they visit DC and see it raining sideways!
TERRI: How do you see the value you provide to planners as a CVB?
STEPHANIE: We strive to be the first point of contact and true experts for sourcing meetings in the Seattle area. We want to help clients find the best destination and venue for their meeting and we understand that is not always in Seattle. That said, we know our city like no one else and we want to share what makes it so special with others. Meeting planning is not just about making sure your space needs fit a hotel’s floor plan, it is about knowing what the destination can offer to drive attendance and help your event stand out as one in which your constituents have to be involved.
TERRI: What do you think are the advantages to reaching out to a CVB first when planning a meeting?
STEPHANIE: Utilizing a CVB is a great opportunity to get a feel for the city and identify properties and venues you might otherwise not hear about. We can provide first hand information about activities and events happening in the city as well as help make suggestions for venues to meet each group’s specific needs and goals. Additionally, Seattle’s CVB offers complimentary services to those planning meetings by assisting with RFP distribution, site selection and providing service resources including housing, transportation, promotional materials and microsite development. And while we certainly have lots of great hotel brands represented in the Seattle, we also have many wonderful independent properties and the CVB knows all the hidden gems.
TERRI: What size/type meetings best fit in your destination?
STEPHANIE: With over 12,000 rooms in the greater Seattle area, there is not really a meeting too small for the Seattle area and many smaller groups can take advantage of the unique properties both downtown and in our resort areas in wine country to host a truly unique meeting. That said, we do find that convention groups anywhere from 2,000-6,000 attendees fit best in our Washington State Convention Center (WSCC). The WSCC is a wonderfully stacked facility, right in the heart of downtown, so groups of this size really feel like “the big fish in a small pond” without feeling too cramped or spread out around the city.
TERRI: Can a planner of a small or a large meeting take advantage of your services?
STEPHANIE: We are happy to help assist planners with meetings of any size! From helping to identify the perfect hotel for a small board retreat to planning for an international convention, all groups have each a regional and a Seattle-based salesperson, and a convention services person available to assist them. Additionally, we have a great cultural and tourism team to help provide Seattle-specific information for attendees.
TERRI: What motivates you to provide the excellent personal service you are known for?
STEPHANIE: Our passion for our destination and the hospitality and meetings industry resonates deeply with our team. From my CVB colleagues to hotel salespeople to those we call our “tourism ambassadors,” representing Seattle is truly a personal thing for all of us and we want to share the city we love so much with everyone we can. I know that sounds cheesy, but when you see that our hotel partners are willing to change properties before they are willing to leave Seattle, you realize we have a really special city and a really devoted group of industry professionals.
TERRI: What would you like all planners to know about Seattle and the Seattle CVB?
STEPHANIE: How much blog space do we have? If I am limited to one take-away, it is that we want to be a partner to our planners and that our destination is often one that attendees have not visited so they take advantage of opportunities to attend meetings in Seattle. We welcome the opportunity to share our great city!