To plan an amazing trip to any destination, you need some help from the people who know it best.
If you hire full-service tour companies to take care of all your organization’s trips, you don’t have to put much more thought or work into making tours great. But if you plan and book any of the travel yourself, you can save a lot of headache and gain a lot of benefits by working with the destination marketing professionals in the places you plan to visit.
In cities across the country, convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs) are staffed with local experts who are eager to help travel planners like you put together compelling group experiences. Their services are free, and their expertise can make the difference between an average trip and one your group will remember for years to come.
Here are five ways CVBs, tourism boards, visitors councils and similar destination marketing organizations can help you plan engaging group trips.
1. Trip Timing
If you’ve ever been to Washington, D.C., in May or New England in autumn, you know that the timing of your trip can have a major impact on your group’s experience. When you’re considering a tour, the destination’s CVB experts can help you plan a time for your visit that will maximize fun while minimizing crowds and expense, unless crowds are what you’re looking for. They can even steer you toward the days of the week that offer the most optimal hotel rates for tour groups.
2. Hotel Help
When it’s time to research and book hotels for your group’s trip, you don’t have to start with Google or the Yellow Pages. Many CVBs act as clearinghouses for the hotels in their communities and offer accommodation assistance to travel planners. Tell your CVB representative when you want to come, how many rooms you think you’ll need and what your target price range is, and they’ll reach out to qualifying hotel partners around town to gather bids for you. These bids are often more competitive than what you could find on your own, and the hotels have been vetted by the CVB, so you know you can trust them.
3. Exclusive Experiences
CVB professionals have relationships with the most important people in their local tourism communities, and that often means they have access to experiences and activities that the general public doesn’t. When groups come to town, CVB representatives often help them arrange VIP experiences such as behind-the-scenes, curator-led museum tours or hands-on cooking classes with local celebrity chefs. Taking advantage of these connections will help you make your trips more memorable and add value to your tour packages.
4. Warm Welcome
Many CVB professionals love knowing that a tour group is in town and will go out of their way to make them feel welcome. That can mean meeting and greeting your group when you arrive in town, often with a special gift or local coupon book to hand out. They can also arrange a special welcome from the mayor or another local VIP. Some CVBs go even further, hosting welcome receptions at your hotel or offering full step-on guide service to give you a personalized tour of their hometown.
5. Itinerary Assistance
Many groups spend only a few days in any given destination, which means they need to make the most of the time they’re in town. To that end, one of the most helpful services CVBs offer is itinerary assistance. They will work with you to craft a travel plan that will include all the local experiences your group will enjoy most, and they’ll help you figure out the routing and scheduling to make sure your group is moving as efficiently as possible.