by Kaylee Hultgren | February 01, 2010

After an 18-month beta test, Destination Marketing Association International last month launched a new meeting planner application for, the association's online repository of post-event reports provided by member DMOs. The feature, dubbed Planner Access, aims to provide more accurate meeting histories, help DMAI members better prospect potential customers and give planners the opportunity to engage in dialogue with DMOs. In addition, planners now are able to search and compare destinations, submit an RFP and contact destination management professionals directly.

Seeking planner input The updated version of EmpowerMINT (formerly known as the MINT, for Meeting Information Network) allows planners to register on the site and discuss information included in meeting histories -- such as number of room nights blocked vs. those actually picked up, the amount of exhibit space required and budget information -- with the DMO that entered the data.

In the past, the onus fell on the DMO to report accurate post-event information without conferring with planners. With these changes, DMAI hopes planners will log on both to verify meeting histories and prospect destinations for future meetings.

"We want to make sure we get planners in touch with the 2,000 destination experts we have available," says Donovan Shia, vice president of marketing intelligence for DMAI. Moreover, he notes, the service is free to anyone planning an event with a minimum of 10 room nights.

Not just citywides While the old MINT database specialized in post-event reports for large-scale meetings, the updated version aspires to include DMOs and event histories of all sizes. For smaller DMOs, including those without convention centers, that means greater exposure.

In addition to being a database of meeting histories, EmpowerMINT provides destination profiles, special offers and discounts, and the ability to submit an RFP directly to a DMO or hotel. At press time, planners were able to use the site to compare approximately 120 participating DMOs. The plan, Shia claims, is to have profiles completed for all 650 DMAI member bureaus by next month.

Richard A. Vaughn, CDME, CTA, senior vice president of sales and marketing for the Metropolitan Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau, says EmpowerMINT is particularly useful for updating planners on CVB promotions. "It provides a robust roster of special deals and values offered by CVBs around the country," he notes.  

"DMOs can enter special need dates for their destinations," Shia adds. "At the same time, they can find those open dates, submit information to the DMOs and receive responses -- all in real time."

Unbiased reviews The next step for EmpowerMINT will be to offer greater capabilities for planners. Currently, member DMOs post planner testimonials on their profiles. Soon, planners will be able to post feedback on destinations, venues and the experience of holding events there, says Shia.

In addition, DMAI is working on communicating across interface systems that power individual CVB websites. "With a profile in, you will be able to do business with all CVBs across our network," Shia adds. "All the historical information will be under one profile."