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City Officials Begin Meetings To Determine How Best To Split CVB

Now for the hard part. Having determined to separate the Conference and Visitors Bureau (CVB) from the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce, the City must decide what an independent CVB looks like and how to get there.
The first step comes today (8-29), when the ad hoc committee, consisting of Mayor Barry Brucker, Councilwoman Linda Briskman, City Manager Rod Wood and Assistant City Manager Katie Lichtig, meets to begin creating the blueprint that will lead to an independent CVB in 12-18 months.
The exact date for an independent CVB also needs to be decided. Briskman seemed to favor 12-18 months from the Nov. 1 deadline given by the city council to formulate a plan. Brucker thinks it’s possible in 12-18 months from Monday.
Regardless, Brucker said the committee’s goal is to create a plan that will separate the CVB “intelligently and decisively.”
Briskman said she wants “to get there as fast as possible but not sacrifice quality.” So, she will ensure CVB head Katy Smits gives her input, although Smits said Wednesday that she wasn’t aware of any ad hoc meeting, having just returned from a family vacation in Hawaii; nor has she been asked to attend any meeting.
“I’m anxious to meet with both Barry and Linda,” Smits said. “We’ve done very well under the chamber (and) we’d do our very best independently.”
Smits said she wants to get input from the area retailers, restaurateurs, hoteliers, salon and spa owners, The Paley Center for Media—“anybody who has a stake in tourism,” she said. “That casts a very wide net.”
Wood likely will provide an important voice, having worked in cities with independent CVBs. He said that whatever the city decides, officials must remember this: They no longer can view Beverly Hills as a small town.
“Beverly Hills has acted like a small town and has approached it like a small town,” Wood said. “We’re a huge city in terms of world identity.”
For a long time, Wood said, Beverly Hills was able to sell itself as an exclusive West Coast or American destination for such high-end retail shops as Gucci and Louis Vuitton. He estimated that in the last 10 years, the market has changed dramatically, with locations as diverse as Las Vegas, Martha’s Vineyard, Palm Beach, Fla., and Dubai attracting wealthy Europeans who used to come here.
“The extremely wealthy winter in Dubai,” Wood said. “It’s closer (to Europe) and more spectacular.”
As a result, the city needs to remember it can no longer sell exclusivity. It needs to sell the experience of coming, dining, staying and shopping in Beverly Hills, and then it needs to deliver.
Las Vegas is the closest and best example of selling an experience, Wood said. Just about every hotel on The Strip has a convention center. Add in gambling, shows, golf and shopping, and it’s easy to see why Wood estimated 25 percent of all conferences and conventions now occur in Las Vegas.
There currently are 969 conventions listed on the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority Web site, including one scheduled for Aug. 3-14, 2021.
To Beverly Hills’ credit, Wood said, it has heeded Smits’ advice that a three-year marketing plan is needed to reach the right people. In fact, the CVB completed its first three-year deal, with advertising agency M&C Saatchi for the “Love, Beverly Hills” campaign, earlier this year. Wood said a new three-year contract is in effect now.
Also, at least one other independent CVB welcomes the news that Beverly Hills is separating its CVB.
“We’re thrilled to see that Beverly Hills has made a good decision in acknowledging the importance of the tourism sector to its local economy,” Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Misti Kerns said as she traveled in the Florida Everglades.
“Certainly, Beverly Hills will now be included in the industry standard. I mean, independent CVBs are pretty much the standard in most high-profile destinations.”
Many eyes are on Beverly Hills. Time will tell if success arrives with the tourists.
Editor’s Note: A fifth member of the ad hoc committee, City Director of Economic Development and Marketing Alison Maxwell, is out of town until next week.

By Lee Barnathan, Special to The Courier

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