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CVB Partnerships on a Global Scale


International cities trying to lure meetings on an international rotation pattern have also formed alliances. Houston became part of the BestCities Global Alliance in May 2012, joining Cape Town, Copenhagen, Dubai, Edinburgh, Melbourne, San Juan, Singapore, Berlin, and Vancouver. Every city in the alliance must undergo a stringent third-party audit to prove that it maintains a high level of service and meets certain qualifications, such as having more than 10,000 hotel rooms near its convention center as well as a major international airport. One of the biggest perks for BestCities partners comes twice a year, when representatives from every city bring an association client to one of the alliance destinations for a fam trip. “This summer, I went to Singapore and I spent three days with nine international association


clients,” said Jorge Franz, vice president of international group sales and tourism for the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau (GHCVB). “You can’t buy that kind of time.” For planners, BestCities helps with everything from event research to bid proposals and on-site services. The alliance also shares data and information about its clients between the 10 member cities, making the planning process seamless as a meeting rotates between cities. “With the third-party audit, we can prove to meeting planners that they’ll get the same level of service no matter what city they go to,” Franz said. GHCVB — which has an international ofice dedicated solely to meetings, as well as an entire department stateside that focuses on attracting international meetings, headed up by Franz — was “very interested in upping


the profile of Houston in the international markets,” he said. “I would almost say, in the international market, there was no perception of Houston. We went at it from the point of view of, how do we get from [having] very little perception to [becoming] a well-known, world-class city.” By joining BestCities, Franz said, “now we feel we can play with the big players.” So far GHCVB has booked the World Methodist Council Conference, and Franz is confident that more wins are to come. “We bid on some big ones [this year], and there were some losses, but we got to the table,” he said, “when before we never would have.”


For more information: bestcities.net


Beyond sales and marketing events, the alliance


is learning to combine its assets in other ways as well. “Are there suppliers that we can all go to as a collective unit to get more buying power?” Fulvi said. “We’ve started taking a look at advertising and other services that we all buy, like housing and online services, to spread our dollars further.”


Michael Smith


BUILDING ON A WINNING FORMULA When asked why he thinks the Three-City Alliance partnership has remained intact when so many others have petered out, Fulvi is quick to respond. “I really have to believe that it goes back to the fact that we’re built on a foundation of trust and friendship,” he said. “There’s got to be that con- nection between the partners, so it has longevity. They’ve become some of my best friends. When you work with a best friend, there’s a lot of trust there. If Mike in Portland or Brent in Milwaukee makes a decision for the partnership, I know they made the right decision.” The cities continue to build on their first jointly


hosted customer event at Springtime Expo, have partnered on customer events in Chicago, and are also working on other opportunities. “We split costs three ways,” Fulvi said, “so we’re able to do an extra-special event and stretch all of our budgets a little bit further.” The alliance has also started co-locating their booths at industry trade shows for easier


68 PCMA CONVENE FEBRUARY 2013


networking. “We have to push to have all three of us together, either in a straight line or across from each other,” Fulvi said, “so if I’m talking to a customer about Pittsburgh, I’ll ask them if they’ve ever considered Portland or Milwaukee, and if they haven’t, and they want to talk to somebody, I will walk that person over to one of my partners.” Foerster, Fulvi, and Smith even want to build a custom booth just for the alliance. Of course, there are times when the three don’t


operate as a unified force. “We understand the boundaries of the relationship, and we respect each other,” Fulvi said. “Whenever there’s a piece of business that we know one of the other two is part of the bidding process, then it’s competition like anyone else. But when we don’t have that, we try to work together.”


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Contributing Editor Jennifer N. Dienst is a freelance writer based in Charleston, S.C.


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ON THE WEB For more on the Three-City Alliance, visit: › planpittsburgh.com/three-city-alliancevisitmilwaukee.org/meeting-planners/3-city- alliance meetings.travel


portland.com/three-city-alliance


PCMA.ORG


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