Stella Awards 2021: Best CVB/DMO

NORTHEAST

Stellas 2021 Best CVB DMO

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Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau

During the darkest Pandemic months, the CTCSB kept its office open and assisted meeting planners and sports promoters in rebooking in creative ways. One of the first CVBs to host a virtual FAM tour for planners during Covid, the team kept potential clients aware of Connecticut's assets and hosted virtual meetings to report the latest news relating to an eventual reopening. The bureau redesigned its website, adding a page of virtual tours and other features, making it easier for planners to envision a someday return to the state.

If all that wasn't enough, the bureau maintained its relationships with key planners and promoters by participating in online and in-person networking and attending national industry virtual shows with one-on-one appointments. The team established the CTCSB Hospitality Heroes Recognition to honor entities and individuals for innovative business initiatives and community support. The project complements the bureau's Bring It Home Awards, presented to state residents who help its staff to secure and promote meetings and events, thereby generating revenue for their regions and the State's economy. 

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Visit Alexandria

The team at VA swiftly launched several strategic programs during the pandemic to help keep the city safe for meeting planners and attendees alike. Efforts included launching the ALX Promise Gold program in May 2021, which focused on ongoing training, reporting cases of the virus and employee vaccination efforts. The bureau held virtual and hybrid networking events to keep meeting planners engaged, and ran a series of timely EIC CMP-approved educational seminars for planners on topics such as hybrid meetings, new contract negotiations and more. It also established a pioneering library of virtual tours and experiences for remote site visits to top meeting hotels, and reported on new Covid recovery initiatives and curriculum from national recognized institutes. 

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Meet AC – Atlantic City

As passionate boosters of this fabled gaming Mecca, Meet AC is focused on the future and helping to promote the major revitalization taking place within the city's borders, with six of the nine casinos investing in multimillion-dollar renovations, including the effort by Caesars Entertainment, which has pledged to spend $400 million to revamp its three Atlantic City properties, Caesars, Harrah's Resort and Tropicana Atlantic City, by 2023. Included in the plans are towers of remodeled rooms, updated casino floors and new restaurants.

Finalist: Visit Williamsburg

As 2020 began, bookings were strong and Williamsburg, Va., was poised for a record-breaking year. When the global pandemic hit and everything had to pivot, Visit Williamsburg remained focused on the future, working to grow and enhance destination awareness and finding creative solutions to make meetings a success in whatever form they might take. Tactics included acquiring Pandemic Compliance Advisor certification, the distribution of monthly market recovery strategies, conducting virtual calls with new and existing clients, and attending and sponsoring virtual trade shows. Today the bureau stands tall as the meeting business begins to rebound.


SOUTHEAST

Stellas 2021 Best CVB DMO 1

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Visit Orlando

Continually ranked as the nation's No. 1 meeting destination by Cvent, the Orlando area hosts millions of meeting attendees annually from around the world, and Visit Orlando is there to help smooth their way. The bureau's Destination Services Team have more than 120 years of collective experience in the meeting industry, and most are Certified Meeting Professionals. They assist with everything from comprehensive RFP services and site inspections to attendance-building and marketing support. Groups that work with Visit Orlando also can count on exhibitor assistance to connect with local providers and insider tips for unique off-site events, dinners and behind-scenes experiences.

Visit Orlando and the destination it represents also are industry leaders when it comes to healthy meetings and business travel. As a result, the destination has safely hosted more than 60 in-person events during the pandemic era. Standouts to date include Magic Pop-Up Orlando, the WWIN Orlando Showcase, Surf Expo, the AKC National Championship Presented by Royal Canin, the 2021 Central Florida International Auto Show and the AAU Junior National Volleyball Championships — with much more yet to come.


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Explore Asheville

Last year, as the Covid-19 pandemic abruptly halted meetings and sales activities, North Carolina's Explore Asheville responded by rolling out a steady stream of tools to support planners and their community partners. In July 2020, the bureau created a series of high-quality 3-D tours of Asheville's top 14 meeting hotels, using drones, that were then hosted on its website. The Asheville Cares Meet Safe Pledge was developed to lay out health-related guidelines necessary for a safe restart of meetings. In October 2020, the CVB launched a series of 20-minute coffee-break-style conversations about safety protocols with local directors of sales. These tools and more were combined to create a Meet Safely in Asheville landing page, complete with case-studies from in-person meetings in Asheville. The bureau plans to continue this initiative as meetings happen with precautions still in place.

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Discover The Palm Beaches

The official tourism marketing organization for a collection of 39 Florida cities and towns spanning 47 miles of pristine, golden beaches, Discover The Palm Beaches is proud to note that its airport, convention center and attached convention center hotel, the Hilton West Palm Beach, have all received GBAC Star accreditation for safe sanitary practices and disease prevention. On April 8, 2021, organizations across the globe came together to support Global Meetings Industry Day and its theme of Meet Safe, and The Palm Beaches hosted a group of events with industry professionals to promote the destination's enhanced safety procedures and lead a workshop focused on innovative hybrid and virtual meeting technology. 

Finalist: Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau

Over the past 16 months, the ACVB has continued to put its customers' needs and safety first, from providing virtual site visits to developing CAD drawings of socially-distanced floor plans and collating updated Covid-19 protocols from partners. Indeed, the bureau's response to the pandemic and returning to in-person events is all the more impressive considering that Atlanta was one of the first cities in the U.S. to reopen for business last year. The city and its CVB helped set the standards and make the footprints that many other entities would follow.

Finalist: Fayetteville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

In Fayetteville, N.C., site of the famous Civil War battlefield, the FACVB's mission is to position the city and surrounding Cumberland County as a destination for conventions, tournaments and individual travel. In pursuit of that mission, the bureau tirelessly promotes its county's rich history and culture. From Fort Bragg, the country's largest military installation, to playing golf on one of the many area courses, the FACVB promotes a destination that's affordable, easily accessible, diverse and brimming with Southern hospitality. In October 2020, the bureau was reaccredited by the Destination Marketing Accreditation Program (DMAP) of Destinations International.


MIDWEST

Stellas 2021 Best CVB DMO 2

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Destination Cleveland

While facing the challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, Destination Cleveland's team focused on compassion to support clients, partners and the hospitality industry. While health orders put a halt to in-person events, the sales team successfully rescheduled more than 100 meetings by working closely and collaboratively with planners. This dedication to customer service highlights what the Destination Cleveland sales team does best: connect with planners on a personal level to tailor offerings that meet and surpass their needs and objectives.

To illustrate local businesses' prioritization of health and safety, the organization created a Clean Committed program, by which nearly 1,000 businesses were able to responsibly reopen while following guidelines developed with the region's leading health-care providers. As in-person events resume, organizers are offered Clean Kits to provide attendees that include a face mask, hand sanitizer and recommended safety practices.The DC team has also produced digital programming, hybrid meetings resources and an enhanced virtual site visit to provide clients the assets now needed to successfully plan, market and host future events. 


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Explore Branson

Even in the lowest of times over the past year, the Explore Branson team made sure the popular Missouri destination stayed top of mind. They reached out and engaged meeting and event organizers and hosted a first-of-its-kind interactive virtual FAM tour of the city to give planners from across the country a way to explore some of Branson's top meeting and entertainment offerings. Through live video on location, live drone videography and via an interconnected team of passionate local experts, planners were engaged and educated on the virtues of this exciting destination, with seeds sown for future business.

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Louisville Tourism

Despite the challenges Covid-19 presented to the meetings industry over the past year, Louisville Tourism continually sought out ways to keep planners engaged with the brand, offering authentic Southern hospitality through a combination of in-person and virtual events. Just weeks into the pandemic, Louisville Tourism formed the Hospitality Reopening Task Force, a group of community leaders representing over 50 organizations within the hospitality industry. These venues and facility leaders met often and developed best practices to safely keep Louisville open. After much work, including several virtual and hybrid events for planners and coordination with convention-center partner Kentucky Venues, the city welcomed its first group back in July 2020. 


SOUTHWEST

Stellas 2021 Best CVB DMO 4

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Visit Denver, The Convention & Visitors Bureau

The Mile-High City's CVB is committed to providing meeting professionals with the tools required to organize successful events, including up-to-date information about unique offsite venues, 11,000+ downtown hotel rooms (nearly 50,000 metro-wide) and a walkable downtown. Bureau reps never tire of promoting the city's 300 days of sunshine per year, a thriving arts and cultural district, and a culinary scene that has garnered national attention for James Beard Award-winning chefs, not to mention a diverse collection of gourmet food halls and markets that also make for unique event spaces.

Today the city is emerging from the pandemic and spending billions of dollars on infrastructure updates and new projects. Updated and new hotels, improvements to Denver International Airport and new creative venues will cement the city as a top choice for meetings and events, and Visit Denver will be there to show planners the way.


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Visit San Antonio

This iconic Southern Texas city, with it bourgeoning River Walk district of colorful shops and cultural attractions, is ably represented by a CVB that is dedicated to providing top-notch services for meeting planners, offering start-to-finish support including attendance-builder resources, a Show Us Your Badge program for local discounts, informative microsites and more. The team at VSA likes to consider itself an extension of an association's planning team to streamline the process while creating an experiential meeting that attendees will not soon forget.

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Visit Park City, Utah

Early on during the Covid-19 pandemic, Visit Park City promoted the theme "Let's All Stay Safe To Stay Open," and business indeed has since managed to continue in this famed mountain destination without much of a pause. This has occurred in part because Park City offers so many wide open spaces that keeping socially distanced is not all that difficult, but the bureau also has relentlessly touted the virtues of safety during this challenging time, encouraging visitors to comply with statewide restrictions and offering ways to get Covid tests and supporting information.


FAR WEST

Stellas 2021 Best CVB DMO 3

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The Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau

Southern California's Long Beach CVB is consistently recognized for its white-glove approach to service by working closely with hotels, venues and city staff to create a seamless experience for clients. From first contact with its sales team to after-conference follow-up, the bureau provides clients with five-star concierge attention to detail. Due to the uniquely strong relationships between the CVB, the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, hotel partners, city management and attractions, customer service in Long Beach is top-notch, and with the convention facility's in-house assets, planners are able to save as much as $500,000 on event design and deployment.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the bureau went above and beyond to maintain its connections with clients and provide digital meetings solutions, working hand in hand with the convention center to develop and deploy a new state-of-the-art hybrid events platform, Long Beach Live, enabling dynamic online events during 2020 and in-demand hybrid events in the future. The CVB's team look forward to helping plan more on-site events in 2022 as the easing of pandemic restrictions evolves.


silver star 1

Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau

After successfully supporting its vibrant and resilient Idaho city through the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau has set itself up for a stellar future. The bureau's staff works tirelessly to support meetings and convention business in partnership with local stakeholders such as Boise Airport; Boise Centre, the city's premier convention facility; Albertsons Stadium, and a steady-handed team of sales managers and area experts who are eager to offer planning assistance, advice and services to make an event successful.

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San Mateo County/Silicon Valley Convention & Visitor Bureau

Like many organizations, the San Mateo County/Silicon Valley CVB in California dealt with unprecedented challenges in 2020, but the team quickly pivoted to meet the needs of its partners, becoming industry advocates and conducting virtual educational webinars on a host of topics including sanitation protocols, air-travel recovery, and ways of reimagining meetings and events. The bureau also became a clearinghouse for planers on ever-changing Covid rules and regulations. The bureau looks forward to a much-improved 2022, when its destination with all of its resources, infrastructure and venues will once again shine.

Finalist: Sonoma County Tourism

From the onset of Covid-19, Sonoma County Tourism has proven a vital central point for planners to access information about the destination and the ever-shifting regulations regarding the business of meetings during the pandemic. The bureau's staff are fierce advocates for their bailiwick, a land of acclaimed food and wine, relaxing spas and stunning beauty just 30 miles north of San Francisco. SCT team members also are known to be knowledgeable advocates for sustainable travel, offering solid tips on the bureau's website.


INTERNATIONAL AND U.S. TERRITORIES

Stellas 2021 Best CVB DMO 5

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VisitScotland Business Events

The team at VSBE works with Scottish industry and across key sectors to ensure that Scotland remains a world-class destination for business events. The bureau further believes that business events are a catalyst for social and economic transformation; to that end they are a driver to tackle climate change and be a voice for human rights. They are also a fun and imaginative group of people.

Case in point: VSBE hosted a virtual event in summer 2020 for planners and media to connect through storytelling. Guests received a cocktail kit and engraved glass prior to the event. Guest star chef Darren McGrady told anecdotes about his time at Balmoral and serving Princess Diana, while preparing a Scottish dish. After the event, guests received a signed copy of McGrady's book and recipe cards to replicate the Scottish dish at home. The event highlighted Scotland's culinary incentive product and inspired future planning ideas, but more importantly was an engaging and fun experience rooted in Scottish tradition.


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Aruba Convention Bureau

The team at the ACB responded to the challenges of the pandemic by collaborating with local health authorities to fine-tune protocols and safety measures, so that when the country's borders opened again in June 2021, guests could be welcomed with a safe and enjoyable experience. Aruba was one of the first islands to develop a stringent code of Covid protocols for resorts, restaurants, retailers, activity tour companies, working in tandem with the business sector and health department. Some 3,000 local companies signed on to the resulting Aruba Health & Happiness Code.

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Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation

Charged with promoting a group of 16 islands, including the Abacos, Andros, Bimini, the Exumas, Freeport and Nassau, the capital, the BMTA expertly tells their story while highlighting the unique traits of each. When it comes to enticing event planners, the bureau is a knowledgeable source of information for the many group-friendly hotels that offer superior meeting space, team-building opportunities and just plain fun. From the iconic Royal at Atlantis to the sprawling Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach, the BMTA is a reliable guide to the best places to convene in this gorgeous chain of islands.

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Singapore Tourism Board

Over the past year, the STB has stayed true to its mission to ensure that tourism remains an important economic pillar through long-term strategic planning and by forging partnerships and driving innovation in the business and leisure sector. It continues to market Singapore's multifaceted appeal in part by offering empowering and customized experiences. The bureau has brought its "Passion Made Possible" campaign to life by differentiating Singapore as a vibrant destination that inspires people to share and deepen their passions.