Keys to success: local knowledge and face-to-face relationships

Monday 18, October 2010


Keys to success: local knowledge and face-to-face relationships


34 participants from GCB German Convention Bureau member companies representing convention bureaus, convention centers, hotels and PCOs attended the 4th GCB Customer Advisory Board North America (CAB) on Monday, 4th October 2010 in The Westin Grand Frankfurt.


The aim of the CAB is to receive feedback from the industry about meeting and incentive destination Germany. GCB Managing Director, Matthias Schultze, stated in his welcome address, that the key objective was 'To advise the GCB and its members in all marketing matters, to identify trends and to facilitate GCB members' better understanding of and contact with the US market'. 


The 2010 Customer Advisory Board North America members include: Kristin Mirabel, Senior Meeting Manager, Optical Society of America; Jeremy M. Luski, Senior Meeting Planner for Global Programs International Council of Shopping Centers Inc.; Kristen Curnyn, Senior Meetings Manager, Kellen Meetings; Jeff Duncan, Chief Operations Officer, Meetingmax; Julie Benson-Famelis, Senior Manager Business Planning and Procurement, Carlson Marketing Group; and Lillie West, President Double Eagle World Golf Events.


Keynote speaker, hospitality business consultant Shari Millman, spoke about the 'Do's and Don'ts of Working with US Meeting Planners'. Time management and reduced resources are critical components of how North American meeting planners do business. 2010 witnessed an increase of 7% in meetings spend after a drop of 15% in the previous year. The good news is that Europe is on the US radar once again for 2011 / 2012. She advised her audience to use well-known German brands to their advantage in US sales promotions. GCB members should research information needed to target the right US sectors and cities for them, providing snappy arguments in their favor. 'The destination experience for US attendees always begins at home'. Shari Millman also stated that 'Many US corporations have recognized that curbing business travel is leading to profit reductions'. That's why incentive travel would rebound as the US economy recovers - in the financial services, IT and automotive branches in particular. Future incentive travel programs would feature an increased meetings / CSR component with 'less excess and fewer frills' compared to previous years.


Kristin Mirabel, emphasized in her contribution to the ensuing panel discussion, that knowing the client was essential to winning corporate and association business. GCB members should be knowledgeable about what companies and institutes are located in their regions and how these relate to potential customers. 'As an association', she stated, 'I am interested in knowing what institutes and companies within your region could attract me - more than just amenities that you may have in your city or what your hotels offer. You first have to get me attracted to your city. I would be more attracted if I know that there are industries there of interest to my members and to my audience'. Kristen Curnyn stated that 'Meeting planners need to be one step ahead of their clients. I need to be able to tell them what the trends are'.


Specific questions were discussed with the CAB experts in three workshops:


Image and Meeting Destination Germany:

Americans appreciated humor while working with business partners. While Germans were generally known for their expertise, efficiency and reliability and for their state-of-the art facilities and infrastructure, it was, however, important that they also communicated the message that they are friendly hospitable hosts with a healthy and fun sense of humor.


Working with US Meeting Planners:

North American planners approached purchasing with a 'shopping basket' mentality as opposed to 'an all-inclusive package-holiday' approach. They liked a full itemized list of options and prices with which they could 'pick n' choose' or 'mix and match'. They negotiate conditions and prices on each and every item before reaching a final agreement.


Trends in the North American Market:

The 'Pharma Codex' has affected the nature of pharmaceutical meetings and programs. Planners not only have to work within stricter procurement compliance and public scrutiny guidelines but also to strategic corporate meetings and program management guidelines. With the USA coming out of recession, incentive travel programs would recover in 2011/2012 due to the need to generate sales and recover market shares. CSR and 'green meetings' play a role when choosing hotels and venues within once a destination has been chosen. Germany is a world-leader in green energy and environment-protection so it should not be shy in talking about this.


Summing up his experience of the day's proceedings, Matthias Schultze, Managing Director GCB German Convention Bureau stated: 'I am delighted how both North American meeting planners and our GCB members appreciate the tremendous value of learning from each other via direct and candid dialogue. Establishing personal contacts between buyers and suppliers in the international meetings industry is not only crucial but also provides wonderful opportunities to present Germany in all its exciting facets.'


The GCB German Convention Bureau e.V. markets Germany as a destination for conventions, meetings, events and incentives both on a national and international level, and is the place to contact for all customers who are planning events in Germany.


Its 240 members include leading hotels, convention centres and destinations, car hire firms, event agencies and service providers of the German meetings and conventions industry. Maritim Hotels, Leipzig Tourismus und Marketing GmbH and darmstadtium science and convention centre are Preferred Partners of the GCB.  As Strategic Partners, Deutsche Lufthansa, Deutsche Bahn and the German National Tourist Board (DZT) support the work of the GCB.


The GCB is an interface between organisers of meetings and conventions and suppliers of the German meetings market, offers advice and support for planning and organising events, and provides contacts and addresses. Its website features an online search facility for meeting venues, newsletter, Germany guide, a CO2 calculator, and a lot more.


For more information and press releases about the German Convention Bureau (GCB) visit



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