GainingEdge Advisory Issue

What to ask associations beyond ‘will you be rebooking’?

DMOs and CVBs (and) convention bureaus are wired to be focused on generating business demand from the marketplace.  As integral components of the supply side, DMO/CVB value has long been measured by the ability to ensure a steady flow of group business into the destination.  For the most part, DMOs/CVBs have traditionally acted as supplier representatives in the relationship between buyers and sellers. 

With business demand severely curtailed because of COVID-19, destinations are scrambling to determine how best to create value now and in the future.  We suggest DMOs/CVBs need to ensure that in addition to lead generation and bid development expertise, they also work to help associations deliver on their purpose.  A good place to start is understanding why an association exists in the first place and then building your destination’s value proposition with that at the core.

Destinations that understand associations from the ‘inside out’, rather than the ‘outside in’, will be in a much stronger position to recover and rebound from this crisis.  In a risk adverse world, building strategic relationships with associations will have a longer-term benefit than those that are purely transactional.  Being a solid partner builds trust and loyalty, which can lead to new and repeat business and a strong brand reputation.

We are by no means suggesting DMOs/CVBs should not be finding out whether an association plans to book or rebook its event in the future.  What we are saying is that during these turbulent times, destinations should be sharpening their business development skills to ensure critical questions are also being asked of associations to help bridge the gap of knowledge that might otherwise exist.   The following are queries the DMO/CVB should ask to expand their insight into the association.

What is the vision and mission of your association? And how can we help you continue to progress towards your vision now and moving forward?

At the outset, a DMO/CVB should endeavor to find out the essence of the association, why it exists and what the association hopes to accomplish as a result of its activities.  Associations do not exist to meet; they are created for an essential purpose. Conferences and meetings are not an end in themselves, but a means to an end. Asking your client of the higher-level aim of their association, and exploring ways to contribute to this goal, will create a stronger sense of trust that the destination is not just out to sell but is there to help.

How is the crisis impacting your industry/sector?

DMOs/CVBs should conduct research and inquire into the impact of COVID-19 on the industry or sector most relevant to the association. This background will provide context when speaking to the association of their issues and opportunities in the near to immediate term. Determining COVID-19 impacts on the broader sector will enable the destination to discuss implications on the association in an informed way.

How will the current crisis affect your business practices such as your meetings, exhibition, sponsorship or membership strategies in the short and long term?

The COVID-19 situation is forcing associations to confront realities that will impact on fundamental operational matters now and in the future.  DMOs/CVBs that try to get a better understanding of the association’s situation, including not only their events, will offer a closer glimpse into what matters most to the association as it works its way through this crisis.  One of the most important considerations will be whether associations that once met globally will now be adjusting to more regional meetings.

Are you considering any adjustments to your events model and/or format to facilitate remote participation of attendees at your events?

As remote meetings take hold, deep discussions are being held within and between associations on how best to bring their members and stakeholders together for meetings in the future.  The earlier DMOs/CVBs have discussions with clients about what that might look like will better prepare the destination to meet these needs.  Destinations that offer solutions to associations that facilitate engagement of remote, along with in-person, will be better positioned to succeed.

How will your event programme be impacted by the crisis? e.g. change of content to respond to new market priorities as a result of the current crisis?

As connectors between the association and the destination, DMOs/CVBs are able to help client’s source local expertise and knowledge that enhance the content offerings of the event.  It is worth discussing how the current situation is shifting topics of interest with the association, so the destination can identify relevant people and organizations of interest in their community that will assist in being prepared for future opportunities.

In closing

Destinations and associations that find a place where purpose and intent intersect will be better positioned to support one another in achieving mutual results during and after COVID-19.  Clients will seek DMOs/CVBs that have a firm grasp of their pain points and goals. Destinations are likely to retain and be recommended by clients to whom they provide value, and hence will provide them a competitive advantage.

DMOs/CVBs can help themselves by moving to a deeper understanding of the associations they are hoping to work with. It is our view that finding areas of commonality is the ‘sweet spot’ of success and should be given even more attention during these challenging times. Doing so will help to establish a trusting relationship between the parties, and lead to business opportunities down the road.

“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery. “
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire