"We encountered a unique, unfortunate situation and the CVB was able to help us come to a win-win solution for all parties involved. It’s something that I would not have been able to manage on my own."
Cheryl Wallen, Meeting Planner, Association of Zoos and Aquariums provides insight on her relationship with the Atlanta CVB and why she feels they add value to her planning process, and Destination Marketing Association International’s (DMAI’s) Terri Roberts records her thoughts for your reading and learning pleasure.
Cheryl has found value in CVB services, as well as the ability of the destination expert to help problem solve and trouble shoot in the destination when the need arises. She considers the expertise of her CVB contact essential to helping her save considerable time in research and also values the services they provide to her attendees that make for a richer meeting experience. It’s also noted that when problems do arise, and they always seem to no matter how well we plan, that a CVB expert can help facilitate WIN-WIN solutions in their destination.
TERRI: Tell me a little about yourself?
CHERYL: I graduated from James Madison University (Go Dukes!) with a degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management, with a concentration in Meeting Planning and Special Events. Upon graduating, I was offered the Meeting Assistant job at Association of Zoos and Aquariums and have been here ever since… almost 7 years now! Not long after being hired, I was promoted to Meeting Planner and am now responsible for all of the logistics for AZA’s Conferences and Meetings.
TERRI: What’s the hardest part of your job?
CHERYL: The week leading up to a conference is the most stressful and difficult because there are so many little details that need to be ironed out, but it’s also the time I receive the most emails from attendees with questions regarding the conference, so it’s difficult balancing getting last minute work done and responding to emails.
TERRI: How did you first become aware of the services CVBs provide?
CHERYL: I’ve known about CVBs since I started working at AZA, when my predecessor explained the benefits of their services.
TERRI: How long have you been working with the Atlanta CVB USA? How has your relationship with them grown/changed over time?
CHERYL: I personally started working with the Atlanta CVB and Susan Reid in 2008, in preparation for our 2011 Annual Conference held in Atlanta. I was not with AZA when the contracts were signed, but Susan proved to be invaluable when some issues were discovered that needed to be resolved.
TERRI: What do you most value about your relationship with Atlanta CVB and/or other CVBs in general?
CHERYL: I found in working with Susan for our 2011 conference that CVB destination experts can assist in problem solving and troubleshooting when circumstances arise and changes need to be made. We had out grown a previously contracted hotel and needed to move to another hotel that allowed us to access the convention center space. Susan acted as a resource in helping me make the necessary changes to keep our meeting in Atlanta.
We encountered a unique, unfortunate situation and the CVB was able to help us come to a win-win solution for all parties involved. It’s something that I would not have been able to manage on my own.
TERRI: Which specific services do you rely on?
CHERYL: If I know we’ll need to utilize more than one hotel or we have many hotel options, I prefer to have the CVB send out RFPs to the hotels. It makes the process much more seamless and organized for me.
I also enjoy their hospitality services onsite during our Conference: welcome signs at the airport and on the streets, discounts at local restaurants, assistance with maps and dining guides.
TERRI: What do you think is unique about the value CVBs provide compared to other planning partners you might use?
CHERYL: We actually don’t use any other partners. We do everything in house.
TERRI: What is most compelling to you about Atlanta as a meeting destination?
CHERYL: Having a zoo and aquarium in the same city is a huge draw to a destination for AZA. Having Zoo Atlanta and Georgia Aquarium share the hosting responsibility, as well as having our attendees able to visit a zoo and aquarium during the conference was invaluable to us.
Also, the Atlanta airport is one of the most accessible airports. We did see an increase in attendance and I think part of that was due to the amount of flights in and out of Atlanta each day.
TERRI: If you didn’t use a CVB, how would you replace their services?
CHERYL: I would spend hours doing research on my own and contacting multiple hotels.
TERRI: What would you like other planners to know about using a CVB?
CHERYL: It’s a free service and saves you time in researching and finding out tourist-type information about a city to enrich your attendee experience.