Meet The New Convention & Visitors Bureau. Same As The Old CVB
An independent Beverly Hills Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) might look very similar to its incarnation as part of the chamber of commerce, according to several CVB executives interviewed by The Courier.
These organizations’ presidents, chief executives and executive directors say an independent CVB is a more specialized entity that solely focuses on tourism and isn’t distracted by local politics.
It’s about putting “a body in a bed,” said Costa Mesa’s Executive Director Diane Pritchett.
“Our chamber is involved in politics. We don’t really do that,” said Gary Sherwin, president and chief executive of the Newport Beach CVB. “The work of our bureau; it’s a marketing arm. It’s very technical and executes sophisticated plans. It works with travel writers, media planners, domestic tour planners. It specializes and is very programmed-oriented.”
The goal, Sherwin said, is to demonstrate “why Newport Beach is relevant, why you come down to experience it, why you need to say ‘yes.'”
Sherwin said he has been in this industry for about 25 years and believes independent CVBs, or destination-marketing organizations (DMOs) as he also calls them, work best when “good, solid governance (and) strong input from the community” is included.
The byproduct will be an independent CVB accountable to its board members,” Sherwin said.
However, Sherwin acknowledged that there are so many ways to self-govern, hold oneself accountable, choose a CEO and select a board of directors that Beverly Hills has almost unlimited options. Choosing a transition program as the City has can make sense, he said.
It will be critical for any newly created CVB board of directors to establish specific guidelines for its CEO, board members, mission statement and plan to execute it. Sherwin said his CVB has a paper trail for anyone to follow if there are money questions.
Much will fall to Executive Director Kathy Smits, who will have the final say. Santa Monica CVB President and CEO Misti Kerns said it shouldn’t be any other way.
“That’s critical,” Kerns said. “That’s her expertise, and she should be able to show it.”Sherwin said, “Our city council believes in promoting tourism, but they’ll be the first to tell you that they don’t know what is an effective marketing plan.”
Other aspects to consider:
• Decide to whom you’re accountable, and how. Sherwin mentioned a paper trail. Pritchett said she receives all funding from hotel guests, who pay a special 2-percent tax. Financial reports are given annually to the city, although the city contributes no funding.
• Decide the target demographic and how to reach it. Pritchett knows it’s people from Arizona, Nevada, Los Angeles and central California who drive, so she spends money advertising in the newspapers and radio and TV stations. Kerns said she knows that 72 percent of guests don’t drive in Santa Monica once they arrive, so she has to give them places accessible by foot.
• Decide an office location, and how many offices. Newport Beach has three: in the city, L.A. County and Northern California. Beverly Hills City Manager Rod Wood said if an independent Beverly Hills CVB wants its own office, it would be expensive.
• Decide on a toll-free telephone number. Many CVBs have them.
• Finally, remember this: “We are a hospitality organization,” Sherwin said. “We have to sell the entire community and the sum of its parts.”
By Lee Barnathan, Special to The Courier