Janiece Sneegas, Ph.D., Director, General Assembly and Conference Services, for the Unitarian Universalist Association shares some great insights on meeting planning “intel,” and Destination Marketing Association International’s (DMAI’s) Terri Roberts listens in.
Janiece’s years in the industry, as well as her candid approach, makes her appraisal of CVBs fascinating reading. Here’s a look at her personal insight on the value of using a CVB, we hope you decide to add partnering with a CVB to your own planning repertoire.
First, can you tell me a little about yourself and your planning background.
I have been the Director of General Assembly and Conference Services for the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) for the past (almost) eleven years. I have been in the meetings industry since 1996 when I was hired by my professional association at the time, the American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA), to be their conference coordinator.
How did you first become aware of the services CVBs provided?
I was looking for a hotel to hold one of ATRA’s meetings in Indianapolis and called their CVB to see if they could help me identify some properties. They sent one of their staff to take me to the different properties – it was an eye opener as to the services a CVB can provide!
I was surprised at both the breadth and depth of services the CVB provided. In Indianapolis, they were willing to have a staff person spend an entire day with me, driving to different hotels for a meeting of 500 people. That was Paul Williams, Sales Manager, and he set the bar for my expectations of a CVB salesperson. He was so helpful and interesting. I was surprised that they provided that level of service. And then when I began at the UUA, I learned CVBs would put together a bid book, host our site visit, help with marketing, provide housing services!!
How long have you been working with Travel Portland? How has your relationship with Travel Portland grown/changed over time?
I did a meeting for ATRA in Portland in 1999 at the DoubleTree Hotel so I connected with the CVB then. When I began working for the UUA in 2002, the first site visit I did for our city wide General Assembly included Portland and we ended up choosing Portland as the site of our 2007 General Assembly. Our CVB rep at that time was Sylvia Robles and I met Mike Smith then as well. We have since selected Portland to be the site for our 2015 General Assembly. Over time I have learned that Travel Portland is a team I know I can trust to give me the straight scoop.
I have heard that many groups are afraid to book Portland for a city wide because the Oregon convention center and some hotels are on the Lloyd Center side and many hotels are downtown, and they don’t know how that will work. But the Max moved our people easily, affordably and efficiently – the attendees loved the experience! Travel Portland assured us the MAX light rail would work for our group on the other side of the river and it did!
What do you most value about your relationship with Travel Portland or other CVBs in general?
I have worked with a number of people at Travel Portland and they all are professional, competent and genuinely nice people. I believe they are working with me to help my meeting be successful. CVB’s in general save me a tremendous amount of time. They put together proposals that help us determine whether or not their city is a match for our meeting. They work with the hotels to offer rates that work for us. And once we choose a city, the CVB stays involved in helping us with our housing, our pre-site meetings, marketing, on-site information for our attendees and the myriad of other details that putting on a meeting for thousands of people entails.
How would you describe the relationship? What would you compare it to?
A CVB is like a really great public library because it is chock full of resources, helpful people, readily accessible, and free to the user (I know we support libraries with our tax dollars, much in the same way CVBs are supported by tax dollars in their own communities!)
Which specific services do you rely on?
We rely most on site selection services, and housing bureaus. A good housing bureau can make a huge difference in our planning process.
What do you think is unique about the value CVBs provide compared to other planning partners you might use?
CVB’s provide such a range of services – and if they can’t provide you the service they can tell you who can. They are an invaluable resource.
What is most compelling to you about Portland as a meeting destination?
Portland is such a special place! What draws us there is our shared values of inclusiveness, diversity, sustainability and authenticity. It is friendly, affordable, cool, funky, and at the same time sophisticated. And having Travel Portland as a partner is such an important draw for us.
Why do you choose not to go it alone on the internet when planning a meeting?
Quite simply we do not have the time to do the research and contact all the hotels. Often the information on the internet may not be up to date and is unable to tell us what will be changing between now and the time of our meeting – we book four or more years out.
How do CVBs make your job easier?
They save us time, provide us with up to date information, and can inform us of future plans and changes. The housing bureaus are incredibly important in helping our attendees book their rooms.
If you didn’t use a CVB, how would you replace their services?
I honestly feel that they are irreplaceable.
What would you like other planners to know about using a CVB?
I would urge planners to use CVB’s as they know their city and hotel partners best. They can save time, and are the best resource available.
That said, not all CVB’s are created equal – some have developed better partnerships with the hotels than others and some have more influence with the hotels than others. Travel Portland is at the top of my list along with a few others.