AFTER A 28-YEAR career matching meetings groups to hotels with his Washington-based Krisam Group, Chris White says the move to destination management has been a “rebirth” of sorts. “In the DMC field, it's all creativity,” notes the chairman and CEO of international DMC network Global Events Partners, also based in Washington.
While energizing White, who says the partnership was created in 1999 to establish brand recognition and quality standards in the destination management industry, GEP has sought to give its partners access to best practices and new clients. The group now claims close to 55 DMC members in major cities around the world, including San Francisco, New York, Paris, Rome and Sydney, Australia. White explains that each DMC operates as an independent business, while adhering to protocols — among them 48-hour RFP turnaround and 14-day invoice settlement — set by the GEP organization. Partners also are required to include GEP branding on their Web sites, stationery, business cards and other marketing materials, he adds. He estimates that the company is now known to “maybe 5,000 clients worldwide.”
In return for their pledge to follow company policy, partner DMCs enjoy such benefits as participation in trade shows like IT&ME “at a much lower expense than they could on their own, or with their [local] visitors' bureaus,” White says. Partners also have the chance to contribute to and get exposure via a monthly electronic newsletter that GEP distributes free of charge to “20,000 quality clients,” he adds.
The biggest benefit to members, White says, is GEP's annual retreat, which brings together representatives of each DMC along with about 100 top clients — two of which are invited to the event by each partner. “There is no other arena where owners of DMCs can get together and talk about problems, strategy and the way they do business except at our event,” he explains.
At this year's retreat in Los Angeles in June, partners discussed such hot topics as introducing high-tech services — Web conferencing and electronic registration among them — as a way to retain clients and add value during tight economic times and a decrease in business travel. They also had a chance to pepper clients with tough questions: “‘What's the tenor of your business these days? When are you coming back? By the end of this year? Next year?’”
According to White, “Clients respond very honestly.” This year, he adds, that honesty is being paired with a positive outlook. “Often they will say, ‘Due to the fact that we didn't do much for the past year and a half, I am getting more pressure to do more internationally,’” he reports. “From our client advisory board, there was a tone of optimism and encouragement.”
Global Events Partners 2501 M St. N.W., Washington, DC 20037; 202/775-5800; www.globaleventspartners.com
“If you're bringing a meeting to a hotel that really doesn't need to go off site, maybe just needs a little bit of a theme party at the hotel, maybe needs a little transportation picking up VIPs at the airport, this is not brain surgery. You don't need to go to a professional DMC outside the hotel to get that service rendered — an in-house operation can do that. But if the client decides [it wants] to entertain 300 of its best salespeople … generally creativity and implementation of that creativity will be better achieved using a quality DMC than an in-house operation.”
KNOW THE LOCALS
“The DMC should know every single supplier in their community like the back of their hand, so that the bus shows up on time, the bus is clean, the bus has a tour guide on it who knows how to speak intelligently.”
WHERE TO NOW?
“Hawaii is exceptionally hot, and I think it will remain hot. San Francisco took a terrible hit for the first time ever, but I think they're coming back quite strong. New Orleans has enjoyed enormous business, and I can see them continuing to do that. Right now internationally Ireland is very hot. Spain is very hot — my Spanish partner had [its] best year ever this year, and [it's] looking forward to an even better year in 2004.”