CVB Hitting The Road Hard In 2003

November 15, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — As subtle as it may seem, there is a difference between business travel and traveling for business. Business travel doesn’t necessarily always involve a sale, while traveling for business almost always does.

And the sales team at the Convention and Visitors Bureau does the latter, and soon they will be doing that a lot.

The CVB crew will be traveling for business next year even more than they have in past years, possibly taking up to three times as many jaunts to key business connections in 2003 than they will have when 2002 ends.

Why? Because next year they will be a year closer to the opening of DeVos Place, the new convention center.

The trips are being ratcheted up in an effort to raise sales for the building, which will offer a new convention and tradeshow experience to groups and organizations. Already 47 deals, worth about $21 million to the local economy, have been sealed.

What makes all this travel suddenly possible is that the CVB budget for next year is the biggest it’s ever been — $3.2 million.

“Just about every month of next year we are taking sales trips to Washington, D.C., Lansing and Chicago. In addition to that, we’re going to over a dozen different tradeshows for the meeting and convention industry across the country,” said CVB President Steve Wilson.

“Then we will be hosting events here in Grand Rapids, as well as on a statewide and national basis, to familiarize the meeting and convention industry with our new convention center, DeVos Place,” he added.

Washington, Lansing and Chicago are key destinations for the CVB sales team because many national, state and regional trade associations are respectively located in those cities. They plan to visit Washington and Lansing every month and Chicago each quarter.

“That means we’re doing this more often next year than we are doing it this year,” said Wilson, who added that the CVB also has a national sales rep based in the nation’s capital.

When the sales team makes those treks to meet with out-of-town meeting planners they will be taking along what Wilson called the Grand Rapids Road Show, which consists of a computerized virtual tour of DeVos Place along with information about the area and sights worth seeing.

Even though all the trips the team takes have value for the sales effort, there are a few events they’ll attend next year that could result in big payoffs for the local economy. One is Springtime in the Park. It takes place in Washington in May and is vital because the Greater Washington Society of Association Executives puts it on.

“As we work on increasing our marketing awareness and presence in the Washington, D.C., market, that is a very important show for us,” said Wilson.

Another key meeting the CVB doesn’t want to miss is the Professional Conference Managers Association, a medical group. Still, another is the annual get-together of the Religious Conference Management Association.

“We’ve already booked a couple of religious conferences for the new convention center and we feel that is a prime market for us,” said Wilson.

“We’re trying to cover as many bases as we can and get maximum exposure for our sales and marketing message.”

To help get the word out and to pave the way for the sales reps, the bureau will spend $130,000 on advertising with meeting-industry trade publications next year — the most it has ever spent and more than three times as much as it spent this year.

“This year, for example, we spent about $40,000. We’re spending $90,000 more in 2003.”

Wilson didn’t know exactly how many miles his sales team would travel next year, as they haven’t sat down and figured that out yet. But what he does know is that the final figure will be significant and most surely a bureau record.

“This is the most aggressive sales and marketing push that we have ever had,” he said.

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