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Group Travel Essentials: Working with CVBs

Planning trips can be a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work. Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of legwork for your next trip by working with a convention and visitors bureau (CVB).

Also known as tourism boards, tourist offices, visitors councils or similar names, CVBs are public agencies staffed with local travel experts. Their job is to promote their destinations and help people like you bring groups to the city. And their services are free.

CVB experts have helped with many travel planners before you and offer a wealth of information about what tour groups enjoy doing in their cities. Working with a CVB to plan your next group tour will save you lots of time and trouble and help you build a better trip than what you could come up with on your own.

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Business Basic: Gather Itinerary Ideas

You may know the cities you want to visit, but chances are you’re a little hazy on exactly what to do when you get there. When you start researching a travel destination, your first step should be to reach out to the local CVB to get suggestions for your itinerary. The staff can help you plan how much time to spend at the most famous attractions in the area and suggest lots of other activities to complement the experience. They’ll also be able to assist with shopping and dining suggestions, step-on-guide referrals and logistical details to make sure your itineraries are robust and well thought out.

Best Practice: Check Your Timing

The timing of your trip can have a major impact on your group’s experience. Local CVB experts know their destination’s traffic patterns well, so they can help you plan a season for your visit that will maximize fun while minimizing crowds and expense. They also know the patterns for business travel and other hotel occupancy for any given week — some places are cheaper on weekdays; others offer better rates over the weekend — and can steer you toward the days with the most optimal hotel rates for tour groups.

Innovative Ideas: Arrange Group Exclusives

One of the biggest selling points for group trips is the ability to offer your customers travel experiences they can’t get on their own. When you’re looking for these exclusive group perks, CVBs offer a major source of intelligence. They can leverage their local expertise and relationships to help you arrange VIP experiences such as behind-the-scenes, curator-led museum tours and hands-on cooking classes with local celebrity chefs. Taking advantage of these connections will help you make your trips more memorable and add value to your tour packages.

Pro Tip: Get Hotel Assistance

Savvy travel planners rely on CVBs to help them identify the hotels in the areas best suited to their groups’ needs. Many CVBs can forward travel planners’ inquiries to hotel partners around town. Tell your CVB representative when you want to come, how many rooms you think you’ll need and what your target price range is, and they’ll gather bids for you. These bids are often more competitive than what you could find yourself, and the hotels have been vetted by the CVB, so you know you can trust them.

Growth Opportunity: Take FAM Tours

If you’re on the fence about a destination, the best way to make up your mind is to visit the place ahead of time and decide for yourself. To assist with this, many CVBs offer familiarization tours, often referred to as FAMs or FAM tours, for qualified travel planners. These trips, which can happen individually or with groups of travel planners, give you a chance to experience the destination and identify activities your group would enjoy. The CVB usually covers your hotel accommodations and meals; but FAM trips aren’t meant to be free vacations — you should only take one if you’re seriously considering a group trip to the destination.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.