"One of the most important advantages of reaching out to a CVB when first planning a meeting is the comprehensive knowledge the CVB sales staff possesses."
Meet Janice Jefferson, a destination expert with Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast. Janice has over 25 years of experience in the hospitality industry and is currently the Director of Sales with Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast. Janice shares with us some of her destination’s unique offerings and latest developments as well as why utilizing a CVB first when planning a meeting will help make a memorable meeting experience for attendees. Let’s find out a little more about Janice and the Mississippi Gulf Coast area!
SUZZANNE: What makes the Mississippi Gulf Coast a great meeting destination?
JANICE: The Mississippi Gulf Coast is a great meeting destination because of the variety of offerings available. The area boasts an abundance of golfing, charter fishing, gaming, cultural museums, historical museums, shopping and so much more. Happy attendees – both on and off-site – make for a successful meeting.
SUZZANNE: What is the ONE THING planners are always surprised to learn about the Mississippi Gulf Coast?
JANICE: I think planners are often surprised by the fact that we have meeting facilities in a wide range of sizes including the Mississippi Coast Convention Center. The Convention Center offers 400,000 square feet of flexible, state of the art meeting space. It’s a really great option for small, medium and large sized conventions!
SUZZANNE: What concerns/complaints/frustrations are you hearing from planners lately? How do you think the services CVBs provide support them specifically?
JANICE: One of the biggest complaints I have heard lately is cost; cost of meeting space and food and beverage costs specifically. One way that Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast is assisting groups is by offering Group Incentives to meeting planners or sports planners to help offset costs that they would not typically incur in another destination. With anything from Convention Center rental assistance to hotel/convention center transportation assistance or sports facility usage assistance, Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast will take into consideration what is needed to help alleviate those costs and make a meeting/event successful.
SUZZANNE: What do you see trending in the meetings market? How is your DMO proactively addressing the trend or staying current?
JANICE: CVBs are staying on top of their game by becoming accredited by Destination Marketing Association International, which provides best practice standards that are critical to follow. We are also constantly reviewing our offerings and making sure we consistently meet planner’s needs.
SUZZANNE: In what way do you think CVBs are most misunderstood by planners? What’s one planner perception you would like to change about CVBs in general?
JANICE: That CVBs will send out their requirements to ALL properties but in actuality most CVBs vet the business based on the needs of the client. At Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast, we work with planners on what their meeting needs are and will only send to properties that will best fit their meeting requirements.
SUZZANNE: That’s a great point to make, and when planners work with any CVB, all they need to do is ask and verify where the lead will be sent if they ever have any concerns.
SUZZANNE: What do you think are the advantages of reaching out to a CVB first when planning a meeting?
JANICE: One of the most important advantages of reaching out to a CVB when first planning a meeting is the comprehensive knowledge the CVB sales staff possesses. Many planners are not familiar with intricate details of a destination and the CVB sales team members are able to impart their knowledge of the destination as a whole to make their meeting planning easier and the attendee experience more enjoyable.
SUZZANNE: What size/type of meetings best fit in your destination?
JANICE: Size and types of meetings vary for the Mississippi Gulf Coast, as we have a myriad of facilities that can accommodate a convention group of a couple thousand attendees to more intimate meetings for 10 or 20 attendees.
SUZZANNE: Why are your services free?
JANICE: Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast offers complimentary group services to meeting planners to make their task of a successful meeting easier, and we always want to ensure the attendee experience of the Mississippi Gulf Coast is an enjoyable one.
SUZZANNE: What are the latest developments/happenings/events in your destination you’d like to share with planners?
JANICE: There are some really exciting things happening in our destination including:
- Island View Casino Resort added its Beach Tower in April 2015 with 14,000 square feet of meeting space and 970 hotel rooms.
- Pascagoula River Audubon Center opened October 2015 and serves as a gateway to the largest free-flowing river in the lower 48 states, where visitors can experience and learn about birds and wildlife throughout the year.
- Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort opened on December 9, 2015 and offers 300 rooms. Also featured on-property is Lava Links Golf Club, America’s finest miniature golf course.
- The Mississippi Aquarium is slated to open in 2019 in Gulfport, MS.
SUZZANNE: What motivates you to provide the excellent service you are known for?
JANICE: With each visitor, we want to provide a memorable experience and show them what makes our destination unique, which will in turn make for a repeat customer. We always want to keep them coming back!