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A Destination Detective

Have you ever been lost in the virtual weeds of the web, clicking through page after page of a CVB’s website to discern whether a city makes sense as a site for your meeting?

It’s a frustration faced by nearly all time-pressed meeting planners, and it’s a big reason Destination Marketing Association International developed The web portal allows planners to go to one place to compare the meeting attributes of a large number of U.S. cities and learn more about them.

“One of the things that we hear from planners is that it is difficult to compare offerings from destination to destination,” said Terri Roberts, who handles communication and training support for is a destination detective, and it is a virtual classroom as well, with educational materials for planners.

Here is a look at the site and its main features.

Digging Into Destinations

Among’s biggest benefits is the way it quickly and easily allows planners to compare destinations.

An easy-to-view template lets planners see how destinations differ based on a number of factors that are important to meetings: the total amount of exhibit and meeting space, the square footage of the largest meeting venue, largest ballroom, the number of rooms at the largest hotel, the number of hotel rooms within a mile of the convention center and the distance from the city to the nearest airport.

You can compare cities by listing them. If a meeting must be held in a particular state, you can enter the state name to see a comparison of the meeting destinations in that state.

Using the template, planners can send an RFP to one or multiple cities, make a quick request or download the information in Excel. In total, there is information on nearly 300 CVBs, most in the United States but a few in foreign countries, especially Canada.

About 160 CVBs have paid for detailed listings that provide planners with a  destination overview, meeting venue maps, the services offered by the CVB, CVB staff contacts and client testimonials.

Planners can go to a destination’s profile to look at photos, watch videos, study maps that show where meeting venues are and read recent news articles  about the destination. The destination map is a welcome visual aid because it allows planners to quickly understand a city’s layout. Destinations can also post special offers for planners. For example, the Amarillo CVB is offering a free site visit and conference space at its civic center for meetings booked now through March 2018.

The contact section also makes it easy to figure out who handles a particular meeting segment. Each salesperson’s photo, phone number, job title, job focus and email address are included.

Many Ways to Learn

Educational information is delivered in varied formats. For planners who prefer written materials, there are blogs, articles and email. Those who are visual or auditory learners can sign up for webinars or podcasts.

Many of the blogs are in a Q&A format. CVB staff might be interviewed about their destinations as well as issues in the meetings industry.

For example, in a recent blog, Barry Hoehn, director of convention sales and marketing for the Greater Birmingham CVB, talked about Birmingham’s restaurant scene, his favorite golf course and recent developments in his city.

Planners who are interviewed talk about frustrations and challenges but also offer stories about how they worked closely with CVBs to solve issues at their meetings, such as overbooked hotels or shuttle transportation

Another option for news and updates is Insights, a bimonthly email of tips, articles and announcements about monthly webinars that tackle topics like site inspections (“10 Stupid Things We Do to Mess Up Our Site Inspections) and room blocks (“5 Ways to Avoid a Half Empty Room Block”). Beyond the current webinar are many others in a well-stocked archive. In the future, meeting planners will be able to earn CMP certification credit by watching the webinars, according to Roberts.

A Meeting Planning Madness Podcast offered bimonthly is by DMAI’s’s Christine “Shimo” Shimasaki and Roberts. The 30-minute podcast offers planning tips and strategies.

For more information about DMAI’s, contact Roberts at