After this issue went to press, PRA announced that it had been acquired by Allied Europe.
Destination management companies have come a long way from being simple sign-holders in airports. Case in point: Carlsbad, Calif.-based PRA Destination Management, with 19 offices in the United States, plans expansion into Canada; alliances with Allied Europe, Allied Dubai and IVI Destination Management allow the powerhouse PRA to offer single DMC sourcing to more than 36 destinations. Here PRA president Laura Rednour discusses the long and winding road of DMCs from those early days to our modern eco-aware world.
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LAURA REDNOUR: As we all know, business in general has changed in the last five to six years, from the Sarbanes-Oxley Act to the corporate social responsibility [movement]. The requirements put on all sectors of our industry, as well as DMCs, has added a few challenges, or as we like to call them, “opportunities,” along the way. For example, meeting planners are expected by their management to do more with less. This puts a great deal of pressure on us to “outdo” the previous year with smaller budgets.
In many instances proposal deadlines have also been shortened, with decisions delayed for lengthy periods due to the multiple layers of internal review and approval required. We have to work with our supplier partners to design and develop the unique and innovative in 48 hours, and then at times wait weeks or months for decisions.
SPECIAL EVENTS: Does the Internet have a negative impact on business because people are capable — or believe they are capable — of researching information on their own?
REDNOUR: Inevitably, we have seen clients try to book elements of their event on the Internet in order to save on their ever-tightening budgets. The good news for us is that the exercise is demonstrating even more clearly why the local expert, your DMC, is unquestionably more valuable to a client in terms of knowing which sup-pliers are reliable and capable of handling that particular type of group request, as well as which have insurance, a good track record and, most importantly, are financially solvent and will still be in business when your group arrives.
A third-party supplier is also likely to work more effectively with the local DMC, respecting their buying power and volume of business in that destination more than an individual client's. Your DMC ties all the elements of the event together, communicates to all suppliers on a local level and ensures a seamless flow throughout its operation, saving you time and money and, just as important, reducing your risk. On too many occasions, we have been asked to pick up an event during the last stages when something has gone awry, usually due to poor communications between the multiple suppliers.
Booking suppliers on the Internet is easy, negotiating added value and developing strong and trusting partnerships with these third-party suppliers not so. For this reason, many of our clients are realizing the value of a local DMC and the benefit of this partnership.
SPECIAL EVENTS: Describe your “Go Green” program.
REDNOUR: We have been exploring and researching going green over the last two years. During our recent annual meeting, we made a system-wide commitment to developing and providing more socially responsible programs and practices in each of our destinations to assist clients in achieving their green meeting goals and objectives. The response has been phenomenal. An example is a recent event for a PRA Dallas/Fort Worth client [where we] transformed an exhibit hall into a park “green” with foliage, “green” with farmers' market fresh produce and “green” with eco-friendly decor el-ements such as 100 percent natural cotton linens and a breathtaking living fountain performance using [“recycled”] graywater. Recycling bins laced the common grounds. After the event, the St. Augustine grass and all greenery were do-nated to local Dallas parks and recreational centers. In addition PRA Dallas/Fort Worth is do-nating a percentage of the proceeds to the Keep America Beautiful Foundation.
We also are committed to incorporating environmental considerations in our own daily practices. Our new marketing and business materials are all on paper that meets the requirements of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. Rather than handing out giveaways, we have been supporting programs planting trees to offset some of the carbon omissions of our travel as well as that of our clients.
To contact PRA Destination Management, call 760/496-0540 or visit www.pra.com.