By Bob Hoelscher
When you begin planning group tours to domestic destinations, you’ll find great allies in the CVBs that represent cities and towns all across the country. Here’s how to make the most of CVB services.
What is a CVB
CVBs are Convention and Visitors Bureaus. Virtually every large city and mid-sized town has one, as do many small communities. Sometimes they have slightly different names, but like tourism boards, state travel departments, regional promotion organizations, and even some chambers of commerce, their job is to promote travel and tourism to their specific destination, area, state, region or country.
If a group leader is interested in bringing travelers to visit a particular city or town, the CVB will usually be happy to talk with him or her, and provide as much assistance as possible to encourage and facilitate the proposed group visit.
CVB Services for Group Planners
First, a CVB is usually designed to serve as a centralized “clearing house” to provide information and promotional literature on a wide variety of tourism facilities throughout the community. Many CVBs will also be pleased to provide sample itineraries and advice on how to design the optimum tour program, as well as suggestions on selecting lodging and dining facilities for a visiting group, given the time and budget that the group has available.
A CVB is also a good source for contact information on local “receptive” tour operators and “step-on” sightseeing guides. Like cruise lines, many CVBs will assist the group organizer with complimentary promotional materials, such as DVDs and videos, posters and decorative items, brochure “shells” and small “giveaway” items.
Finally, a number of CVBs offer educational trips that will allow group leaders to visit and tour the community personally, in order to provide them with the knowledge to be able to plan their own specialized itineraries. Frequently such “familiarization” programs are offered in conjunction with a professional tour operator that is featuring programs to that specific destination.
Tips for working with CVBs
Group leaders should never be reluctant to call a CVB and ask for the information and/or materials needed to plan or promote an upcoming tour to the city or town involved. After all, the job of CVB employees is to encourage travelers of all types to come to the community and spend money there, so a group organizer making a request is simply helping them do their jobs.
From a practical standpoint, once you establish a relationship with a CVB representative, you improve the chances for that individual to confidentially provide specific recommendations on hotels and restaurants, even though giving such advice is officially frowned upon.