By Michael Humphrey
As a planner who might be deciding between a handful of Missouri cities for your next event, it could sound a little funny to hear those cities’ Convention and Visitors Bureaus are cooperating with each like never before. You probably see them compete vigorously for your business, but they also see a bigger picture.
Just look at the agenda for the 2007 Missouri Association of Convention & Visitor Bureaus Annual Meeting, which was held at Sheraton Westport Lakeside Chalet in St. Louis. You find four sessions with the word “partnership” in it.
“We have to be willing to partner more broadly,” Missouri Division of Tourism director Blaine Luetkemeyer told the small market focus group during a breakout session. “More visitors to Missouri mean more potential visitors for your area. Partnerships that think in regional terms make that possible.”
Lt. Governor Peter Kinder, former Kansas City mayor Kay Barnes and St. Louis mayor Francis Slay talked about the importance of partnerships and tourism in redeveloping their downtowns. A panel discussion by St. Louis experts in development, sports markets, tourism and communications talked about keeping lines open with VIPs in your community.
“A key is to keep everyone in the loop, staff, board members, your partners, anyone essential to your success,” said Marc Schreiber, vice present of Marketing and Development for St. Louis Sports Commission.
And everyone agreed, Missouri should get the word out. That’s why one session was especially well attended – the presentation by Hoffman Lewis, Missouri Tourism’s new advertising agency. The agency talked about general strategy, which included intensively seeking out those potential visitors who live nearby.
Barnes said that Missouri has some unique opportunities to draw new visitors that aren’t so close by. She cited a business-generating trip she took with a Kansas City delegation to Germany a few years back. The group met with some very skeptical German tourism marketing professionals, who said they had some information of their own.
“They proceeded to tell us that beyond the large markets on the coast, Europeans have some interest in what ‘real’ America looks like,” Barnes said. “The three things they were most interested in were the Wild West, Barbeque and Jazz. And we said to them, ‘Do we have a story for you.’”
CVB leaders learned about enriching the experience once visitors do come to Missouri. Lee Anna Good, of Forest Park Forever, gave an intriguing talk about using MP3 technology to enhance tourism experiences. Mary Hendron and Nancy Milton, both of Insight Marketing & Communications, and Deborah Reinhardt Palmer, a managing editor for AAA, provided strategies for giving travel journalists the best experience when they visit.
The bottom line is outreach, Luektemeyer said, and that has to happen on larger scales than just one city at a time.
“Currently we are 13th in the nation in visitors, but 19th in revenue,” Luektemeyer said. “We need to bring that second number up.”
That means drawing people who will stay longer, spend more and range farther. And success there would be good news for every city in the state.
(Michael Humphrey is the Contributing Editor from Kansas City, Mo.)