by Maura Gast, FCDME | December 01, 2004

If you’ve never tapped the services of a convention and visitors bureau, you might be missing a golden opportunity to delegate some of your meeting chores to experts at your destination.
    Often confused with a chamber of commerce, a CVB is fundamentally different, although both are community cheerleaders. The key difference: The chamber exists to get businesses and people to move to town for good. The CVB wants you to come to town and then leave but come back again and again.

What We Do
The CVB’s purpose is to support a wide variety of travelers and travel influencers meeting professionals, travel managers, procurement types, trainers, third parties, volunteers, the media, meeting attendees and people on vacation. That support comes in a wide range of services, beyond visitor guides, maps and other area brochures. And most services provided by CVBs are complimentary.
    Many CVBs serve as the “meeting planner’s meeting planner,” filling in the gaps on an as-needed basis. We provide vendor recommendations, name badges, imagery, registration assistance, pre-event marketing, local dignitaries and more. A good bureau knows the meetings experience must be customized; a one-size-fits-all solution seldom works.

Our Expertise
The CVB knows the resources in a community and how best to access them. While that knowledge gets tapped most often for vendor recommendations (think limo services and local sign shops), it’s also useful for many other needs.
    Did your keynote speaker cancel at the last minute? The CVB can round up a local expert to fill the gap. Looking for a community-service project to use as a team builder? The CVB can point you to community organizations in the most need. Have a posse of antique fire trucks you’d like to bring through Main Street? The bureau charms the path at City Hall for parade permits, street closings and police escorts.

Bureau Myths
Don’t let the following misperceptions deter you from using a CVB.
    CVBs are only for citywide conventions. This simply is not true. We’re ready to serve any size group.
    CVBs get kickbacks from vendor recommendations. While member-based bureaus will steer you toward their members, they do not receive a commission when you do business with someone they have recommended. 
    CVBs have to send your specs to every member. Nope; in fact, if you want only preferred brands or vendor categories, give the CVB that direction so we can provide a targeted list of contacts.

Other Uses
Planners working with hotels’ national sales offices often overlook the CVB as a resource. But part of your end-decision on a destination is about the grounds surrounding that brand. Who better than people who know the city to provide this insight?
    Involve the CVB in your site inspection. Meet the CVB staff, especially the services staff, in addition to people at the properties you’re evaluating. Even if you’ve already identified the hotel you want to book, the CVB will work in partnership with that property to get your business.
    At the end of the day, the CVB provides consistent and complete destination information. With no ownership in the various assets it represents, the CVB does its job best by being service-savvy “information brokers” bringing the right buyers at the right time to the right sellers with the right resources.
    You can find a listing of CVBs around the world at the website of the International Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus (