Updated: Wed, 08/21/2013 - 00:08

Meetings and conventions: A mid-year retrospective

Photography by Randy Thompson Jeff Hewitt, Vice President of Business Development
Photography by Randy Thompson Jeff Hewitt, Vice President of Business Development
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Visit Savannah focuses on reaching out to meeting and convention planners and organizations each year with the purpose of bringing meetings and conventions to fill hotels and facilities in the Savannah area.

Now that we’re halfway through the year, Visit Savannah’s meetings and convention sales department has taken a look back at its efforts thus far to analyze progress and chart our course for the remaining months.

So far, the 2013 sales effort has increased its attention on state and regional markets. This business is generally smaller in attendee size with a shorter planning cycle and able, in most cases, to fit into one hotel.

This, together with our efforts in our convention markets (greater D.C. area, Chicago and the Midwest and the greater Atlanta area), has produced a balanced sales strategy that addresses the smaller near-term needs of the local hotel community as well as the larger, longer-term business that allows the hotels to drive rates.

The sales team will continue to focus efforts on those time frames where the hotels have expressed their greatest need for support.

While national sales managers continue to focus on larger groups that require multiple hotels and the convention center, Visit Savannah has expanded the responsibilities of two sales positions to include assisting with the smaller group placements.

The meetings and convention sales team hosted representatives from 39 organizations from January through June 2013. Potential customers are introduced to Savannah’s array of hotels, facilities and the many attractions and entertainment options to be used for future conventions.

This is a positive indicator because history shows the more planners who experience the destination, the higher the bookings for future business.

Since January, the meeting and convention sales department also has attended key industry trade shows and has had strong participation from our hotel and trade center partners.

Target customers are those who have an interest in bringing their meeting and/or convention to Savannah. The team also has conducted sales calls to potential customers’ offices hosted “Road Show” events in Atlanta and Washington D.C.

Trips and trade shows that took place in the first half of 2013 included the PCMA Convening Leaders Conference in Orlando and the South Carolina Society of Association Executives in Columbia, S.C., during January; sales calls in Chicago in February; the Destination Showcase in Washington, D.C., in March; sales calls in Chicago, a road show in Atlanta and sales calls in New York, New Jersey, and Pennslyvania in April; the Springtime Tradeshow in Washington, D.C., and the Georgia Society of Association Executives Annual in Augusta in May; and the AIBTM in Chicago, the Collaborate in Denver, the PCMA Leadership Conference in Denver and a road show in Washington D.C., during June.

In addition, The Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf, Pro-Am Tournament FAM brought in three senior-level meeting and convention executives affiliated with national associations and corporations for a four-day golf event.

The sales team conducted tours of various convention facilities, hotels and area attractions with each of the clients, showing them options for how their events would fit in Savannah.

Visit Savannah’s efforts this year have been recognized by the readers of two nationally acclaimed meetings publications for its outstanding levels of service.

In June, Successful Meetings honored Savannah with the Pinnacle Award, one of the most respected awards in hospitality since 1985. Later that month, Visit Savannah was voted a winner of the 2013 Award of Excellence bestowed by readers of Corporate & Incentive Travel.

Jeff Hewitt is the vice president of business development for Visit Savannah. Contact him at 912-644-6416 or JHewitt@VisitSavannah.com.

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