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Ten CVB Sites Worth Notice
©1999 Corbin Ball Associates

There are several convention and visitor bureau (CVB) sites that show how to make the most of web for regional marketing, sales and customer service. The ones listed below have been included for overall good design or an exceptional specific idea.

But first, here are the selection criteria:

Do’s:

A Web site must load quickly (12 seconds maximum using a 28.8Kbs-modem connection). It should be cleanly designed with a consistent look throughout the site. The navigation needs to be intuitive and a site map is a plus. Everything should work with no construction zones or broken links. Most importantly, there should be significant content relevant to the meeting planner and it must be current!

Don’ts:

Sites need to be more than simple on-line brochures. Make full use of the web medium with hyperlinks, color, and images -- not just pages of text. Do not litter your site with many animated GIFs. Instead, have a central focus for each page. Do not use "frames" (the technique used on some sites that break the screen into several windows) unless there is an overriding navigational need to do so. This rarely should be the case.

Two final peeves: do not use interstitial ads (the annoying pop-up secondary browser windows) and, please, do not have your home page play music!

1. ConventionBureaus.com (www.conventionbureaus.com)

To start with, ConventionBureaus.com is the best Web directory of CVBs and National Travel Offices available on the web. With categorized and searchable links to more than 500 CVBs and National Tourism Offices, this is an excellent place to start when researching CVB services available. Another helpful directory, with over 325 links is the International Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus (www.iacvb.org).

 

2. Anaheim/Orange County Visitor and Convention Bureau (www.anaheimoc.org)

When looking at CVB sites for ideas, it is helpful to look at the large "super-tanker" bureaus. With the experience of handling high-volume convention business, their procedures for dealing with convention business get finely honed. The Anaheim/Orange County Visitor and Convention Bureau is a great example. The site is clean and consistently designed. A major link on the home page is "Meeting Planners" leading to a well-organized section. Not a lot of bells and whistles -- just information in quick, organized manner. It contains extensive data and photos of the Anaheim Convention Center. All significant hotels (ranked in size by number of sleeping rooms and hyper linked to meeting specifications and floor plans) are also included. The alphabetized Convention Services Directory has more than 200 categories (from Accounting to Wineries) with addresses and email for nearly 1,000 CVB members. There is a staff listing, broken down by department and regional sales offices, and, importantly, all listings contain hyperlinked email addresses. Housing Bureau information and policies are also listed. There is a "hot dates" section showing date availability for major properties. The online slide library is a particularly useful feature. More than 100 slides, listed in quickly loading hyper-linked text, with thumbnail images appearing with a click. A faxable form then allows you to order the slides. This is a fast, easy to navigate, and content-rich site.

 

3. Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc. (www.go2orlando.com/cvb)

The Orlando CVB site has been built exclusively for the meeting and travel professional. Like Anaheim, it has been designed for high volume business, is cleanly designed and is fast. It has extensive hotel and meeting facility information, with a handy clickable map that will narrow down the search area. There is an on-line request for proposal (RFP) form to capture site visitor leads. Site visitors can sign up online for a free "hot dates" monthly email newsletter – but, unfortunately, this rate information is not available on-line. The service listing include housing, attendance promotion (with an extensive array of meeting promotion materials), and a full directory of Convention Services staff (with email hyperlinks and department/region listings). There is a convenient CVB member search area that can be searched by name, category and geographic area. Also available is a nicely organized on-line slide information listing and order form. Much of the information the meeting planner needs can now be viewed or ordered online 24 hours a day.

 

4. Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (www.lasvegas24hours.com/index.html)

I am not crazy about lots of blinking lights and loud colors on a Web site, but the animated marquis on the home page and the garish color scheme somehow fits for Las Vegas. The first link on the home page is "Convention Info" indicating that this site means business. As with the previous CVBs, there are many pages devoted to convention center and hotel meeting facilities. The "Las Vegas Convention Center" link has a plethora of information including 360° view tour, maps, services, policies, ADA information and a frequently asked question (FAQ) file. The "Hotel Meeting Facilities" section lists 85 hotels with key data (name, address, phone, meeting space square footage, number of guest rooms, and links to hotel web sites) – simple, easy-to-use, and helpful information for the meeting planner.

The "Convention Calendar" is one of the best available and can be searched by keyword, date, and filters for conventions, entertainment types, and types of special events.

The "Convention Services" link is exactly the way it should be – a hyperlinked list of services (AV, banquet facilities, charter bus, etc.) that will take planners quickly to the company contact data with hyper-linked email addresses. The "fun facts" link brings up some great statistics – for example: 9 out of the 10 largest hotels in the U.S. are in Las Vegas!

The "Hotel Hot Dates" section is current and lists specific dates available in specific hotels. Hotel contacts and phone numbers are listed, but, unfortunately, not contact email addresses.

With a site this large, the "Site Map" and the "Site Search" links are very useful. The major drawback to this site is that it has virtually no detail regarding CVB staff. Only the headquarters and regional sales offices are listed – no staff names, departments, or email addresses – just addresses and phone numbers. There is one final feature worth mentioning – the Web Site Survey. Actively soliciting site visitors for information on what they do and don’t like is a great way to get suggestions for improvements.

 

 5. Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau – HVCB (www.gohawaii.com)

This site is has many features worthy of notice. It starts with the visually attractive and extensive home page. The first link on this page is "The Islands of Hawaii" which offers a free 122-page vacation planner – if you will fill out a brief form. Capturing the names and demographic information about site visitors is an excellent way of finding out who is visiting, why they are there, and gives an opportunity for future promotion.

The "Meetings, Conventions & Incentives" link has a significant focus on the recently opened Hawaii Convention Center. Following this link will take you to a very nice, interactive virtual convention center tour. The "tour by clickable map" is especially good bringing up floor plans that give 360° views of 15 locations throughout the center. This is one of the better virtual tour techniques around.

Another section that is particularly helpful is the "Regional Offices" link. This section contains the full a staff directory, with email, phone, areas of responsibility, and, what is especially good – photos! We are in a relationship-based industry – we like to know whom we are dealing with. Staff photos personalize the site and help start this relationship.

 

6. Greater Minneapolis Convention & Visitors Association – GMCVA (www.minneapolis.org)

The GMCVA made history as the first CVB to offer on-line, web-based group housing registration over two years ago. It still is among the few to do so directly. From the "conventions & meetings" link on the home page, click on the "Housing Registration form" which takes you to a registration form demonstration area. GMCVA has recently signed on with Passkey (see next section), so this section may change soon.

Another innovative area is the "Forms & Requests" link where media requests, postcards, stickers, brochures, visitors guides, and just every other type of promotional item can be ordered online on one convenient page. This is a great way to use the web site to automate the information request process.

 

7. New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau (www.neworleanscvb.com)

Despite the cluttered, inconsistent, and visually unattractive home page, there are two points that I like about this site. First of all, it is multilingual, offering visitor information in five languages. One of the strengths of the Web is that it easily allows a multilingual option without a great deal of extra costs, but surprisingly, not many CVB sites provide this.

The second is that this is only CVB site to date with a link to Passkey Systems for on-line hotel room reservations. Clicking the "Online Reservations" button at the top of the home page takes you to one of the most elegant housing reservation systems available. The behinds-the-scenes beauty of Passkey, however, is for group travel management. It draws from actual hotel inventory giving immediate confirmation rather waiting to be processed by hand. Passkey has been contracted for citywide convention housing with CVBs in 9 cities, and is under contract for specific groups in 3 more cities as well as with independent housing agencies in 6 additional cities. More information about Passkey can be found at www.passkey.com.

 

8. New York Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc. (www.nycvisit.com)

Although the NYCVB home page loads like cold molasses (42 seconds with a 28.8 modem), there is good content once the home page finally comes up. The home page contains four main icons (visitor, meeting professional, travel professional, and press). Under the "meeting professional" link, I like the simple text message about the "Top 10 Reasons to Choose New York City for your Next Meet." The strength of the site, however, is the site directory: nearly everything is searchable: events (by dates and type with on-line ticket links), hotels (indexed by neighborhood and costs), restaurants (indexed by price, neighborhood and cuisine), transportation, museums/attractions, nightlife, CVB member services, and much more. Although primarily directed toward the leisure visitor, these search capabilities make the site quite useful.

 

9. Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau – GBCBB (www.bostonusa.com)

The GBCVB site has a many good features in its clean, easy-to-navigate design. Similar to New York, there are the same 4 main icons (visitor, press, meeting planner and group travel). Under each category, there are "drop-down" search menus for accommodations, meetings, festivals, attractions, nightlife, sports, theater, tours, transportation and more. All have key-word searches and many additional filters. The "Meeting Planners" section has a full staff directory (with email links), a promotional materials section (with handy on-line order form), and press information.

Two interesting features should be noted: The first is the clickable Massachusetts map at the bottom of the home page that links to all of the other convention bureaus in the state. This cross-promotion is helpful for the site visitor and good business for the CVBs by promoting the region.

The other feature is the link on the "meeting planners" page to www.meetingpath.com. This nicely designed site is a very useful meeting planning database for the six New England states. It contains links to about 500 meeting facilities, 80 categories of suppliers, and 20 New England CVBs (5,000 businesses total). There is an excellent short term "hot dates" (12 weeks or less) section showing availability with day-by-day room inventory. There are special offers and a sophisticated request for proposal (RFP) module.

 

10. Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau (www.austin360.com/acvb)

The ACVB is a content-rich site, especially for a second-tier city. It has useful information and some fun spots as well. The second button on the home page is "Planning a Meeting." This link will take you to the convention services provided: meeting planning, sales, housing, film office, music office, PR. The "Accommodations" link is divided conveniently into properties with and without meeting space. Unfortunately, the most of the hotels are not hyperlinked to their own web sites. The Services Directory list is complete except that it also does not list supplier web sites. There are links for transportation, the Austin Convention Center, other convention facilities, the airport, and more.

Lots of visitor information can be found: a searchable restaurant guide; a photo gallery; an online gift shop, maps, and attraction information. Two interesting sections are: "Heritage Marketing" and a "101 things to do with Austin Heritage." Highlighting the rich cultural history of an area is a great way to market a city. There are also "101 things to do" sections for arts, museums/galleries, theaters, and music as well.

It is good to lighten up a site by including areas that are just for fun. For example, the "dialect" link in the "All about Austin" area provides an English to Texan dictionary ("oil" for example, is pronounced "awl" for folks in Austin).

Finally, this site links to the new Austin-Bergstrom International Airport site (www.ci.austin.tx.us/newairport) which has one of the very best virtual reality tours on the web. Follow the "Virtual Reality Tour" link and follow the instructions.

A great way to get ideas for your site is by looking at what works well with others. The CVB sites and covered here contain useful examples and tested methods for site improvement.

 

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