When meetings come to a city, it’s important to coax attendees out of the convention center and into the community. To get visitors to dine and drink, shop and sightsee, convention and visitors bureaus (cvbs) pull from a grab bag of marketing tools: social media deals, coupon books, dine-arounds, pub crawls and even trolley tours.
Ocean City, Maryland
It’s not difficult to get meeting attendees to enjoy what Ocean City has to offer.
“In my destination, that’s an easy thing to do; nobody comes here because of the facility or the geographic ease of getting here,” said Fred Wise, director of sales and marketing for the Ocean City Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Everything we do here is geared to get our people out — out of the building and into the community.”
During an Ocean City boardwalk stroll, trams take guests to bars and restaurants along the boardwalk. The Boardwalk Development Association — one of the CVB’s many partners — picks up the cost of the trams, and the local police “just love us because we’re finding a way for people to go out and have fun and stay safe,” Wise said.
Meeting and conference delegates can also ride the Ocean City bus for free with a flash of their ID badge. It’s “the easiest bus system in the world: The routes are northbound and southbound,” said Wise. The city’s 11-mile-long single main street stretches along the barrier strand.
The CVB encourages its members to offer deals to meeting attendees. That could be a brochure of restaurants that offer discounts for attendees or a coupon created for a specific conference. Recently, the Jolly Roger Amusement Park provided coupons to the Maryland State Firemen’s Association.
“They saw 200 to 300 people who they may not have seen,” he said.
The CVB also leverages its festivals and fairs. A couple of years ago, Ocean City was on the verge of losing the Maryland State Dental Association. The event was in the fall, when families didn’t want to come to the beach. So, the CVB worked with the association to move the convention to coincide with September’s Sunfest, an annual fair, music festival and carnival now in its 40th year.
“That’s a community event that goes on anyway, and we leveraged it to keep the dental association here,” Wise said.
Whether a meeting in Cheyenne, Wyoming, is 10 people or 1,000, each attendee gets a welcome bag from Visit Cheyenne, the city’s convention and visitors bureau, said Jim Walter, director of convention sales. Every welcome bag includes a visitor’s guide and a coupon book with discounts at Wyoming Home or the giant Wrangler store in downtown, deals at local restaurants and a brerak on museum admission.
“The coupon book is a big part of how we encourage people to get out of the convention and into the community,” Walter said.
For conferences with 250-room nights or more, Visit Cheyenne also offers a “Live the Legend” reception, which includes a $10 per person credit for food and non-alcoholic beverage. The reception can be held at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum, at the Cheyenne Depot Museum in the restored 1887 Union Pacific train depot or at the new Southeast Wyoming Welcome Center. For the reception, the CVB can set up a chuck-wagon dinner, arrange live music or bring in American Indian dancers.
“We encourage our conferences to think outside the box and get them out into the community,” Walter said.
The city also owns a fleet of three 26-passenger trolleys (technically buses painted like trolleys). A narrated tour on the Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley “is a great way that we get people out and especially show off the community,” Walter said. A 90-minute historical trolley tour can kick off a conference to give visitors an overview of the city or be arranged as an activity for spouses.
“This starts and ends downtown, so it’s a great way for us to get that convention-goer or spouse into the downtown area and off the hotel property,” he said.