"We’ve had years to cultivate relationships with local hotels, facilities and service providers that we can leverage on a planner’s behalf."
Tina Brohlin, Director of Sales with Visit Amarillo recently shared her insights into what makes Amarillo, Texas a fantastic option for meeting planners. Her destination knowledge and enthusiasm is palpable as she talks with Suzzanne with Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI).
SUZZANNE: First tell me a little bit about yourself and your CVB background:
TINA: After a few years in hotel sales, I joined the Amarillo Convention and Visitor Council in April of 2007 as the SMERF sales manager. I’ve been the director of sales since June 2012, and am currently the dedicated sales contact for agriculture and sports within our 3-person sales team. Outside of work, I enjoy traveling, food, live music and spending time with my husband, two boys, daughter and dogs, especially in the outdoors!
SUZZANNE: What makes Amarillo a great meeting destination?
TINA: We have most, if not all, of the “big city” amenities, but there’s still a nice, welcoming, small-town feel. We often compete for meeting business with larger cities with bigger staffs and budgets, so we really do our best to roll out the “red carpet.” We want to make sure that every meeting or convention, regardless of size, feels valued and welcome in our city.
SUZZANNE: What is the ONE THING planners are always surprised to learn about Amarillo?
TINA: Amarillo is well-known for our cowboy culture and western heritage. However, planners are often astounded by the depth and scope of our area arts scene! We have a vibrant arts community, boasting more arts per capita than any other US city. There’s PLENTY to offer in all aspects of visual and performing arts. Art enthusiasts can also explore or shop art ranging from the fine art displayed at one of our museums to the crafty and quirky work of local artists within Sunset Art Galleries, on Historic Route 66 or one of the many other galleries around town. Planners can get a taste of the Amarillo arts by holding special receptions at one of our area museums, galleries or other arts venues or by including a show, concert or tour as an offsite entertainment option for delegates or spouses. In addition, many of our area partners in the arts offer special group rates and experiences, like “meet the cast” tours.
SUZZANNE: How do you see the value you provide to planners as a CVB?
TINA: We, like most CVBs, have a list of standard services available, but this is only the beginning! We’re realizing more that each group is entirely unique when it comes to what they require for success, so we are flexible with the services we provide. Our services are not tied to metrics based on number of attendees or room nights, etc. Instead, we strive to find out what the planner’s biggest concerns or challenges are in planning their meeting in Amarillo, and we develop our servicing plans to address that. I believe that having our team as your “boots on the ground” is priceless.
SUZZANNE: What do you think are the advantages to reaching out to a CVB first when planning a meeting?
TINA: Just as planners are the experts on their own organization and meetings, we are experts on our destination. We know Amarillo and our surrounding community like the back of our hand. We’ve had years to cultivate relationships with local hotels, facilities and service providers that we can leverage on a planner’s behalf. Once we understand your needs, goals and objectives, our knowledge about inner dealings of the city can save you time, money and frustration. Please, ALWAYS call us first!
SUZZANNE: What size/type of meetings best fit in your destination?
TINA: Amarillo is very versatile and can successfully host meetings from 10 people to 5,000+. However, currently our best “fit” is within SMERF or leisure type meeting groups who drive in and prefer to have a selection of hotel brands and price points.
SUZZANNE: What are the latest developments/happenings/events in your destination you’d like to share with planners?
TINA: There’s a LOT going on, especially with our hotel community! Wyndham Garden Inn, Amarillo’s largest hotel is wrapping up a multi-million dollar renovation, which should be complete in early 2016.
We’re also increasing our 6,000 hotel room package by more than 10% in the next 6 months with the addition of several select service properties including a new Hampton Inn, La Quinta Inn & Suites, My Place Hotel and a SpringHill Suites.
As a part of downtown revitalization catalyst project plans, ground is already broken for the Embassy Suites Convention Hotel, which will be open by the summer of 2017. This will add a 4-diamond hotel with 225 suites and 18,000 square feet of space adjacent to our convention complex.
SUZZANNE: Why are your services free?
TINA: We are completely funded by a portion of the hotel occupancy tax that is collected by Amarillo hotels. We invest in marketing programs and services that enhance Amarillo’s image and economy through tourism, as well as enriching the quality of life for local residents. Increased tourism creates jobs and additional sales tax revenue, which contributes to the city’s general fund. Our services are free, because conventions and meetings are a critical piece of the whole tourism pie. When delegates visit and have a great experience, they’re more likely to bring in their family for a future visit, to book another meeting, or even to consider relocating here to live or open a business.
SUZZANNE: What motivates you to provide the excellent service you are known for?
TINA: I love when our team has the opportunity to change minds, perceptions and attitudes about Amarillo! Believe it or not, every planner we’ve worked with in the past was not initially over-the-moon excited about coming to Amarillo. That’s fine. We WANT to go above and beyond, especially for those folks. The biggest sceptics can become the most compelling testimonials to share with others who haven’t yet met in Amarillo!
SUZZANNE: What would you like all planners to know about Amarillo?
TINA: There’s so much to tell that I’d rather SHOW them! Planners should contact me to schedule a site visit, road trip or vacation to Amarillo!