Most professionals have probably noticed that Convention & Visitors Bureaus (CVBs)/Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) work closely with associations. And, they’re also somewhat “secret” industries that few people are familiar with. Since this sector is worth exploring if you’re thinking about a career change, I interviewed Jan Tolle MacDonald, CMP, CMM, Business Development Director, Midwest USA for Travel Alberta.
Charlotte: CVBs/DMOs and Associations seem like two different worlds. Yet, both areas are represented within organizations like ASAE and the Association Forum of Chicagoland. What do you think the two industries have in common?
Jan: The main reason CVBs/DMOs belong to ASAE and the Association Forum of Chicagoland is because most of their customers or potential customers belong as well. The DMOs want to market their destination for future business like an annual meeting, incentive trip or board meeting. Of course, we also go for the education, so we can understand the challenges and needs of our customers.
Charlotte: How would you describe a CVB to someone?
Jan: Here is the definition of a CVB/DMO, straight from Wikipedia: A destination marketing organization or convention and visitor bureau promotes a town, city, region, or country in order to increase the number of visitors.
Charlotte: What do you like about working in a CVB?
Jan: I have a lot of fun at what I do because most clients are happy to be planning a meeting or convention to my destination, Alberta, Canada. Since, I am a problem solver, I propose things that a client may never consider – like coming to Alberta in the winter when most people think “sun and beaches.”
Charlotte: What advice do you have for those who might want to work in a CVB?
Jan: There are colleges that offer degrees in hospitality. This couldn’t be said 20 years ago. I also strongly recommend doing a paid (or unpaid) internship at a CVB/DMO for experience. In addition, I encourage you to belong to an association like MPI, PCMA, Association Forum, ASAE, etc. Most offer student rates and you can volunteer to get your name out there, learn skills and become educated about our industry. An association is also a great place to find a mentor who can help answer questions and provide career guidance.