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The Destination Doctor is in

Doctor Holding a Phone

This post is by guest contributor and notable travel writer, Allan Lynch
Read more about Allan at

I have been on fam trips on four continents. There are great fam trips, good fam trips and unbelievable fam experiences.

My work, when I return to my office, is to interpret a place for readers who might be interested in bringing their corporate group or incentive program to the destination. It’s surprising how bad most destination Convention & Visitor Bureaus (CVBs) are with follow up. Face-to-face people will tell you, “Call me anytime, I’m happy to help.” I know they mean it. But then they disappear behind an impenetrable technological veil. It’s perverse that we are the most connected society in history, yet have all these impediments to communication. Things like a telephone menu that either doesn’t list the department you’re trying to reach or is only accessible if you know how a surname and how to correctly spell it.

In my work I have learned that accuracy is a loose concept for many destinations and properties. Why can’t a property offer consistent information about their facilities? Many hotels give conflicting information about simple things like room count or restaurant names. A restaurant may have been renamed and both identities are left floating on the information highway. Confusion grows when the website describes it as fine dining, a guidebook says it’s a bistro, a press kit calls it a lounge-restaurant. Have you one eatery or three?

For a piece I was doing for meetings magazine I needed to confirm a couple of details I couldn’t get from the resort’s website. The moment I heard the bright, enthusiastic fresh PR grad voice on the phone I knew I was in trouble. I wasn’t looking for a comp stay, free meal or to sell an ad. I wanted to know her property’s total room count, how many were suites, ballroom capacities and number of break out rooms. The woman I spoke with told me she wasn’t familiar with the magazine and didn’t think they wanted to associated with marginal media and hung up. Where is the harm in saying we have 400 guestrooms and 30,000 sq ft of meeting space?

I did what any self-respecting journalist would do and contacted their biggest competitor. That hang up meant the competition got exclusive mention and because of editorial cycles that first resort was shut out of the magazine for three-to-five years. They were also shut out of any Google searches a planner might do.

For many years I thought it was only media who didn’t get their telephone calls and email returned. I have learned that an astonishing number of meeting planners are also ignored.

As covered in Greenfield's November e-newsletter, the failure to return information requests is so rampant it prompted the Institute for Hospitality Management to conduct a secret-shopper style survey with 167 hotels. Only 15 percent of properties send a tailor-made offer based on client needs. This raises the question are staff working for you or the competition?

So what are three best practices to ensure you’re not working for the competition:

  1. Make sure requests are not only directed to the correct people but that they are being received by them. One destination made an incorrect assumption about who was managing their trade website. Because of my questions they found 400 unanswered requests from media, meeting planners, incentive houses, travel agents and tour companies. How much business was lost because of that?
  2. Have a policy detailing who handles media requests and ensure that the front desk, receptionist or whoever answers the telephone knows who to forward calls to. Media have deadlines. If the spokesperson isn’t available now, when are they back? And who stands in in their absence? Hotels always have a duty manager on site, so there should be a duty person to handle meeting planner and media requests.
  3. Items 1 and 2 are reactive policies. What about a proactive policy? Do you court media coverage? Do you know how to get media and meeting planners interested in your product/service/destination? Do you have a communications plan and a concise message for both traditional and social media? It’s great that you’re using multiple platforms from traditional and social media to face-to-face fams to connect with clients, but you need to have something to say beyond book with us. When someone asks why they should focus on your property don’t tell us it’s how friendly your staff is – smiles are your business. Sell us.
All of us work in a 24/7 world-wide environment. Your competition is no longer the place down the street, it’s every place and property down every street, in every time zone. You cannot afford to miss connecting with anyone who is interested in you on any level. Today’s board meeting could lead to a national conference. Every call, every request is important.