5 Things Meeting Planners Want Destination Organizations to Know Now

By Myha Gallagher, Destination Analysts

As one part of a gauge on the meeting planning industry in the current environment and to help DMOs gain a greater sense of how they best support these critically important clients right now, Destination Analysts interviewed meeting planners and asked them to discuss their perspectives on the impact of COVID-19 on the meetings industry now and into the future, as well as their advice for DMOs. Following are key highlights from what they shared.

1. DMOs can be an valuable resource for planners who are having to turn their in-person meetings into virtual ones. Meeting Planners are grappling with the new frontier of taking their live/in-person meetings into a virtual setting. This has caused a litany of issues including estimating attendance to their virtual meeting to create an appropriate budget, all with little to no data to support their calculations and weeding out new vendors who have flooded the market with promises of making their virtual meeting successful. Navigating this new space has been nothing short of stressful for planners. However, DMOs have indeed been able to provide much needed support. One planner noted that she has received numerous communications from DMOs in this time, and one of the most useful content pieces she received was a webinar hosted by a DMO about meeting virtually. This webinar included other meeting planners who have successfully adapted their live meetings to a virtual environment and shared best practices on how to do so. Sharing similar content and/or best practices, vetting vendors, or even coming up with creative other ways to help with meetings that have had to turn virtual, can be a meaningful way DMOs support their meeting planner clients.
“We are having to do so much research on virtual meetings to understand what we don’t know about this space so we can cover all of our bases.”

2. A regularly updated list of local hotel re-openings and closures would be a vital asset to planners. In addition to clear communication about safety policies and procedures being enacted in the destination, meeting planners also want DMOs to provide them with a list of property closures and re-openings on a regular basis. A meeting planner we interviewed hailed Destination DC for providing such a list on a weekly basis. “If all CVBs could do the same that would be priceless.”

3. Meeting Planners want DMOs at the table to help facilitate negotiations with
providers in their destination. Planners working with strapped budgets and an evershifting
environment are having difficulties re-booking their live meetings with hotels
who are pushing them to commit to dates or face steep cancellation fees. “Having
[DMOs/CVBs] at the table to help would be instrumental.”

“CVBs need to do more than just market their destinations, I need them connect the dots
between me and the providers in their city. They should also regularly review their book
of business and be more proactive about connecting with planners who have upcoming
meetings and offer help with re-bookings.”

4. While many meeting venues and hotels have shared their protocols for meeting room
set-up/capacity limits and safety protocols, this has not been the case for some
convention centers. This is especially problematic for 2020 convention center hosted
events that have been rescheduled to 2021 or beyond. Without this important safety
and procedural information meeting planners are having an incredibly difficult time
planning future larger-scale events. DMOs have an opportunity to lead the local
processes with their convention centers and be the aggregator and communicator of
such important information.

5. Meeting planners are confident that meetings business, specifically live/in-person
events, will rebound. The current shift to virtual meetings has been out of necessity as
large gatherings have not been viable with the pandemic raging. However, the meeting
planners we interviewed said that without question, live meetings will return in full
force—once the health crisis has been mitigated. “When this first started everyone was
excited about Zoom meetings but now everyone is fatigued. People feel isolated and
miss human connection. Now more than ever I think in-person meetings and events are
going to be more important. This has made people appreciate the face-to-face
interaction even more.” DMOs often serve as cheerleaders for the industry and it
appears meeting planners feel there is reason to keep up faith.

For fuller insights on these topics and to learn more on how to most effectively market to
meeting planners during a crisis, tune into Destination Analysts’ breakout session at DI Annual:
Marketing that Brings Meetings.

About Myha 

As Destination Analysts’ Senior Director of Research, Myha thoughtfully designs and manages the implementation of Destination Analysts’ suite of research services. With nearly a decade of experience deeply analyzing quantitative and qualitative data on leisure travelers, meeting planners, DMO stakeholders and tour operators, she is incredibly effective at distilling actionable insights and marketing intelligence that support our clients’ missions. Her creative flair and design skills also guide the visual story-telling and layout of Destination Analysts’ report deliverables.