Tori Piersante, Vice President, Sales with Traverse City Tourism provides insight into how Traverse City works to make memorable meeting experiences for all attendees with Suzzanne Ravitz of Destination Marketing Association International. Prior to joining her current team at Traverse City Tourism, Tori worked at Visit Salt Lake. While there, she was a Director of Convention Sales and worked with citywide groups in the national education and SMERF markets. Her CVB experience has brought her full-circle, as her first experience working in a CVB started with the Lansing CVB as a Senior Sales Manager.
Let’s find out more about Tori and Traverse City Tourism…
SUZZANNE: Where would we find you on a typical Saturday?
TORI: Too hard to answer! Traverse City is so dynamic; each season it feels like a whole new city. One of my favorite things to do is wine tasting – we have over 40 wineries with tasting rooms and it’s always a fun and educational tour.
SUZZANNE: Outside the industry, what is your dream job?
TORI: I’d like to become a master carpenter. I really enjoy working with my hands and there’s a great sense of accomplishment when you finish projects of that nature. It’s a wonderful creative outlet and the tools are a blast to play around with!
SUZZANNE: What makes Traverse City a great meeting destination?
TORI: We have great accessibility, outstanding meeting properties, and a solid reputation that creates a higher than normal attendance. All of those things happen because we have unbelievable natural beauty with Caribbean colored water, rolling hills, the Sleeping Bear Sand Dune National Park, and well planned access to waterfront parks all over the city. Throw in a very vibrant and charming downtown with boutique shopping and unexpected restaurants, wine trails with 40+ tasting rooms, and genuine Midwestern hospitality, and we have a recipe for strong attendee engagement.
SUZZANNE: What is the ONE THING planners are always surprised to learn about Traverse City?
TORI: It’s hard to identify just one, but I’d say the most common thing we hear from planners is “I had no idea Traverse City had so much to offer.” Prior to visiting us, many of them know we are a wonderful resort area but they have not yet experienced the many cultural and culinary offerings we offer that rival larger cities in Michigan.
SUZZANNE: How do you see the value you provide to planners as a CVB?
TORI: We represent the power of knowledge and exceptional service. We are the planners’ resource for comprehensive bids, site inspections, hotel block sourcing, off-site activities and events, working with our municipalities, and just about anything a planner needs to put together a highly successful event.
SUZZANNE: What do you think are the advantages to reaching out to a CVB first when planning a meeting?
TORI: Really streamlining all of the processes. We help planners skip hours of research for hotels, venues, restaurants and various amenities. We know what’s new, what’s happening and how that all impacts your events. We also have firsthand knowledge of creative ways our member properties have hosted events, like dinners on golf courses, in vineyards, near ski slopes, beach events with bonfires, s’mores and storytellers. And, best of all, we all love doing it!
SUZZANNE: What size/type of meetings best fit in your destination?
TORI: We are fortunate to continually host International, national, statewide and local events throughout the year. Traverse City has a great variety of options for meetings and events that allow us to host board meetings and executive retreats for 10 people as well as conventions of just over 2,000. We have 4,500 guest rooms in our area and our meeting properties range from historic downtown hotels, full service waterfront hotels, luxury suite hotels, as well as golf, spa and ski resorts.
SUZZANNE: What are the latest developments/happenings/events in your destination you’d like to share with our readers?
TORI: Our largest meeting property, the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa has completed a renovation of their tower hotel rooms and we anticipate our new hotel, Hotel Indigo, to open mid-fall of this year.
SUZZANNE: Why are your services free?
TORI: Traverse City Tourism, like most DMO’s in the country, is a non-profit organization funded by a county wide room assessment that allows us to provide services at no charge. We are the entity charged with marketing our destination to a variety of visitors.
SUZZANNE: What motivates you to provide the excellent service you are known for?
TORI: People who gravitate to the hospitality industry are by nature, hospitable! We genuinely love to hear about people enjoying our wonderful destination. It makes our day when visitors and meeting attendees let us know their expectations were exceeded.
The other side of that is that tourism is an excellent economic driver. What we do helps keep local businesses, hotels, restaurants, gas stations, theaters, the arts community, etc., flourishing and our local people employed. We don’t do it alone; it’s a community effort that works best when everyone understands the value of direct spending dollars that tourism represents to a community.
SUZZANNE: What would you like all planners to know about Traverse City CVB and Traverse City?
TORI: We are a very unique option for group business. Our natural beauty features 234 continuous miles of Lake Michigan Shoreline. Our beaches are nicknamed the Caribbean of the North, our wine country, and craft brew scene is distinctive and fun, our golf options (Golf Magazine – America’s summer golf capital), a foodie destination that “can’t be missed” and our attractions and amenities. Combine all that with world class properties that anticipate the needs of meeting planners and attendees and deliver exceptional service and you have a destination that provides a productive, fun and memorable experience. One you just have to see!