Will Trokey, National Sales Manager, Visit Charlotte, shares some great insights about the Queen City, and Destination Marketing Association International’s (DMAI’s) Terri Roberts gets the inside scoop.
After speaking with Will, you’ll know all about the hidden gems in the Queen City. Will’s vibrant and friendly personality reflects the southern hospitality of the amazing and growing destination he represents. He is based in Washington, D.C. as Visit Charlotte’s National Sales Manager. He is a local expert and a frequent visitor to Charlotte. He and his colleagues are ready to provide planners with support, creativity and affordable options from start to finish.
Tell me a little about yourself and your background in the CVB industry?
I’ve been in the meetings industry for about 12 years. My career path began in quite an unexpected way. After getting my bachelor’s degree in theater at Northeast Missouri State University (now Truman State University), I landed an internship at Center Stage, a theater company in Baltimore, which led to a full-time position at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., my home for the past 15 years. After working there for a year, I was ready to take a different route, and I found an administrative position at the American Institute of Architects (AIA). I collected registration fees and speaker bios and helped with the logistics of planning small continuing education conferences for architects. I was in the meetings industry and didn’t even realize it.
A colleague at AIA told me about an opportunity with the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the rest is history. I have always been based in D.C., but I’ve had the opportunity to represent four destinations: LA, Atlanta, Baltimore and Charlotte, where I currently serve as a National Sales Manager. Charlotte is a city I believe in and love—meeting attendees will too! When I’m not building relationships with planners and selling Charlotte, I spend a lot of my time serving as the chapter president for the Potomac Chapter of Meeting Professionals International (MPI). Some of my favorite pastimes include country western dancing and singing in the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C. I’m also a pop culture junkie. You can ask me anything about TV shows and I’ll tell you the answer.
What’s the best thing about your job?
The destination I represent and the people I work with. Charlotte is a city that surprises a lot of people. It’s not the same city it was five years ago; it’s grown dramatically. It’s exhilarating to sell a city with so much to offer both new and returning visitors. Someone who was here five years ago can come back and have a whole new experience. And the Visit Charlotte team goes above and beyond to make sure that experience is memorable and incomparable to other meeting and convention experiences. This team is the best team I have worked with, and they offer the same hospitality to their teammates and partners as they do to their clients. It’s exciting and motivating to know that each meeting and convention has a positive economic impact on the city and the organization. It’s a win for everyone!
What makes Charlotte a great meeting destination?
WILL: There are three key components that make Charlotte an ideal meeting location: 1) The city is compact. Hotels, restaurants, attractions, and off-site meeting spaces are available within walking distance of the Convention Center. The city is very walkable so it’s easy to explore great hotspots like the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Levine Center for the Arts, the Epicentre and dozens of restaurants and bars. 2) The city is accessible. Charlotte Douglas International Airport is the sixth busiest airport in the world with flights to Charlotte that are affordable and easy to find. The city’s also within a day’s drive of many major cities on the East Coast so it allows a lot of drive-in attendees. 3) The city offers a good value. With more flights at cheaper prices, affordable fare from the nearby airport, close off-site meeting space, and economical food, drink, and entertainment expenses over many major cities, Charlotte provides meeting planners and attendees with a competitive rate for a premier destination. And to top it off, Charlotte offers southern hospitality that really rings true. Charlotteans are proud of what their city has become and they want visitors to have a great experience too.
What is the one thing planners are always surprised to learn about Charlotte?
WILL: The sheer amount of events and activities in the city. Meeting planners and attendees are always surprised by how much is going on in Charlotte and how clean and safe the Uptown area is. The city is alive day and night with restaurants, bars and entertainment attractions that are packed every night of the week. There is so much for the attendee to do during their downtime or on group outings.
How do you see the value you provide to planners as a CVB?
WILL: We are the Charlotte experts. We provide value because we take the planner’s challenges and provide a variety of options for creative solutions. With our knowledge and relationships, we are able to give the planners choices to make the planning process that much easier. We do the research and put together a proposal of what the convention center and hotels in the area can offer. From start to finish, we give planners more time to focus on their other tasks and help them save money along the way.
What do you think are the advantages to reaching out to a CVB first when planning a meeting?
WILL: We know what the destination is capable of so if we identify what the planner is looking for, we can address any concerns from the very beginning. We help the planner save time and money, and most importantly, we develop a genuine relationship with the planner and become a champion for their success.
What size/type of meetings best fit in your destination?
WILL: From a city-wide perspective, groups that need 2,000 rooms or less on peak would find an ideal fit in Charlotte. When looking at the overall expense of hosting a convention in a major city, Charlotte provides top-tier amenities without the price tag. And for a group that wants to own the city, Charlotte is the destination of choice. An ideal location for any type of group, organizations of all kinds will find their niche in Charlotte, especially clients making the transition to larger conferences that are in need of an affordable option. With accommodations expanding outside of Center City, larger organizations may be pleasantly surprised by Charlotte’s capabilities. As the former host of the Democratic National Convention, the nation has seen what Charlotte can do.
What motivates you to provide the excellent service you are known for?
WILL: I love representing a city I am passionate about and giving people the opportunity to discover that same passion while delivering the best deal possible. Seeing how happy an organization is about the outcome keeps me going. The city delivers what they need and that motivates me to bring more organizations to the city or keep them coming back. The strong relationships I have developed with meeting planners and the trust they have in me inspires me. I represent a destination I believe in and am privileged to work with organizations and groups that believe in it too.
What would you like all planners to know about Charlotte and Visit Charlotte?
WILL: Charlotte is a pleasant and unexpected surprise that delivers an excellent meeting and convention, not just because of what the city has to offer but because of the exceptional service provided by Visit Charlotte. There is so much potential for groups to flourish in Charlotte and leave with a lasting experience that will have them planning their return.