The Site Experience Program

The San Diego Tourism Authority made it a mission to tackle inconsistent planner experiences across its hotel community. “We have customers coming to town and we have not historically done a good job of showcasing our destination consistently across the community, so we wanted to fix that,” says Margie Sitton, Senior Vice President of Sales & Services. The result, the Site Experience Program, puts planners’ needs top of mind, providing a better planning experience across the board.

Preparing hotels to do the heavy lifting for planners

The CVB set a goal to raise the bar of their hotel community, and it tasked itself with providing them the means to do it. The Site Experience Program does as much of the heavy lifting for planners as possible. The CVB sends a video to let the planner know who will meet them at the airport and sends hotels a detailed account of what the planner is looking for, along with a schedule, so no time is wasted. After each site visit, planners give feedback, including answering whether it was a good use of their time. The effort results in happier planners, and hotels showcasing the best they’ve got. Sitton says that “the whole community comes together to achieve this because they understand how important meetings are to the overall destination.”

Using consistent evaluations to improve the entire experience

CVBs work to make their destination as welcoming as possible. This is especially true in the world of event planning, where they know that every visitor from an event has a positive economic impact on the community and could be a repeat visitor, depending on their experience. To that end, the San Diego Tourism Authority created a San Diego Meeting Certified program. Sitton says one of her goals is to train every general manager and DOSM on how to best present the brand of San Diego. Consistent messaging and experience is key, and stakeholders are taught to think about what attributes are unique to San Diego and their specific community. The San Diego Tourism Authority knows it’s critical that the entire experience, from top to bottom, puts the planner at the center. After all, how can a destination meet a planner’s needs if they can’t put themselves in their shoes?

The evaluations from the Site Experience Program continually show hotels and the CVB what they’re doing well and what they can improve on. Sitton says there were more than 1,000 evaluations last fiscal year. To show their appreciation for the hard work the hotel community is putting in to elevate the destination, the San Diego Tourism Authority gives out quarterly and annual awards, as well as an award for best salesperson and best sales team. Weekly evaluation cards hold the entire community accountable, but in a way that benefits the destination as a whole. “The reason I started this program was because we can own this process to the very end, and the hotels weren’t always on the same page as us. They now understand that we are equal partners.”

Executing the client’s vision

The effort to lead the charge and change the industry isn’t an easy task, but the San Diego Tourism Authority took on the challenge with a positive mindset. “We have so many people in this community who do want to work on behalf of this industry. I think it’s our job to make that first great impression.”

The San Diego Tourism Authority is an example of the level of work CVBs put into improving the destination experience. CVBs can cut through the clutter for planners and use planners’ time more effectively. Don’t hesitate to ask CVBs how they will execute your vision of an event, and which venues and hotels are best suited to your needs.

Plan your next meeting in San Diego. Learn more here.