We spoke with some of the most active CVBs in our Western CVB Roundup, comparing mountain and desert destinations and what’s new at each.
Home to the annual Sundance Film Festival, Park City, Utah is perhaps best known for staging one of the west’s most prominent events in one of its tidiest mountain communities, with 125,000 square feet of meeting space and about 4,000 rooms. While Salt Lake City has long been poised to capture festival overflow, the big news is the recent opening of nearby Provo’s $41 million, 130,000-sq.ft. meeting facility. It’s set to host approximately 140 events signed through the end of 2013, according to Utah Valley CVB president and CEO Joel Racker.
“The highest value events are ones that use hotels, convention center and restaurants. That’s what we go for,” Racker says, adding that tax numbers are the biggest signal that things are looking up in Utah County. Racker is targeting groups that will shop, play, eat and sleep in Utah County facilities, which currently include some 3,000 hotel rooms.
Serving the meetings industry is the umbrella organization “Meet In Utah,” a partnership of DMOs representing not only Utah Valley, but also the state’s eight other premier meeting destinations: Logan, Ogden, Davis Area, Salt Lake, Park City, Heber Valley, Cedar City-Brian Head, and St. George. Working cooperatively, these entities promote Utah as the place for meetings and conventions of all sizes—including the 2009 MPI World Education Conference in Salt Lake and the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.
“The domestic meeting market has always been our target,” says Rich Koski, director of sales for the Ogden/Weber CVB. “Because of the affordability and accessibility of our destination, we have seen more opportunities with the improving economy, but have also seen increasing competition for that business. Competition makes us better and results in better meetings and conventions for our clients.”
Welcoming more than 60 million visitors last year, Colorado broke records in both volume and expenditures of about $17 billion. Although business travel saw an increase of only two percent year over year, its 100-member-strong DMO, Destination Colorado, hopes to fine tune the marketing of available meeting services for events of all sizes year round. Meeting planners, can for example, use a fully aggregated website not only to find facilities, conference centers and accommodations, but also to send out simultaneous RFPs to providers statewide.
Vail Mountain opened The 10th, its newest, on-mountain, table-service dining experience for group events and meetings. The more than 13,000 square foot structure, located just off the top of Vail’s new Gondola One, features a main dining room with fantastic views of the Gore Range, a cozy bar and lounge with fireplace, as well as a south-facing outdoor area that captures afternoon sun. The venue is open for regular service during the winter ski season, and hosts weddings, private events and functions in the summer. Total seating capacity: 160.
Boulder Hampton Inn & Suites marked the first new hotel opening in Boulder in eight years. Located near some of town’s best free attractions including the Celestial Seasonings factory tour and the Boulder Creek Winery, the property has 100 rooms (including 30 suites), a conference room, board room, pool and workout facility. In keeping with Boulder’s environmental efforts, the hotel, at just three stories high, is no taller than the city’s cottonwood trees. Boulder’s brand-new Valmont Bike Park is a natural draw for outdoor team-building events, with sun-drenched trails and jumps within view of the famed Flatirons at the feet of the spectacular Rocky Mountains.
Palm Springs has long ramped up during the winter months, offering year round value to those with the foresight to book well in advance, says Scott L. White president and CEO of the Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“As rates continue to rise, clients want to ensure they have their preferred dates and rates secured,” he says. “Many meeting professionals don’t realize we have more than 100 hotels offering many different price points and types of product, from small historic inns and mid-century chic to full-service resorts with national brands. The destination can accommodate a group with thousands or create that unique and intimate setting with a few people.”
Undergoing a citywide facelift in recent years, the quintessential oasis for golf, arts and culture, shopping, gaming and entertainment has also seen over $200 million in new hotels and major renovations. These include the opening of the 246-room Saguaro Palm Springs (formerly Holiday Inn Palm Springs Resort). The 228-room Spa Resort Casino Hotel, Renaissance Palm Springs (Formerly Wyndham) has been full renovated; as has the 197-room Hyatt Regency Suites. The legendary, 406-room Riviera Resort & Spa also re-opened last year after a sweeping, $70 million rejuvenation.
Given the sophisticated of the city’s re-branding efforts, meeting planners may be overwhelmed by the choices available, cautions White.
“We strive to provide the best and most personalized services for our customers,” he says. “We have a team of seasoned professionals that understands the industry and the needs of the customer. We customize all of our lead services, site inspections, and keep all of their information confidential.”
Promoting one of Arizona’s most popular desert destinations, the Metropolitan Tucson CVB officially became Visit Tucson after a year-long effort on behalf of tourism partners, stakeholders, local business leaders and elected officials. A new vision, “Free Yourself,” has been launched to define Tucson and Southern Arizona within the global tourism marketplace. Among the available resources in a comprehensive online toolkit, new e-promo postcards can help increase the number of meeting attendees with a choice of three custom designs driving to a unique event webpage.
The neighboring Las Cruces CVB kicked off its new brand, “Explore. Experience. Discover,” reflecting the New Mexico locale’s one-of-a-kind qualities and experiences.
“Las Cruces is a community on the verge of great change and discovery,” says executive director Phil San Filippo. “It combines authentic people and experiences with traditional culture and cuisine, allowing you to explore your senses.”
The renewed branding comes with a new logo, merchandise, updated photos and print ads, and a new website and social media design in process. Promoting more than 3,000 hotel rooms and 128,000 square feet of meeting space accommodating groups from of up to 1,400, the campaign builds upon the State of New Mexico’s “True” campaign, while also establishing a unique identity for Las Cruces.