Quickly adapting to the “new normal” as the COVID-19 pandemic halted meetings, conferences and travel across the globe, the Explore Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau has released a series of virtual tools to help support both meeting planners and local industry partners in this moment.
With the current necessity of keeping a social distance, the Group Sales & Services Team has a renewed focus in keeping Asheville top of mind – providing a brand-new video overview of the destination, sneak-peek virtual site tours of hotels (including from above!) and insights on how this Blue Ridge Mountain city can exceed meeting planners’ top-level needs, when the time comes.
In preparation for that time, the team also launched the Asheville Cares Meet Safe Pledge, designed to lay out the shared responsibility, health-related guidelines and precautions that will be necessary for a safe restart of meetings.
It’s more important than ever to be an on-the-ground, trusted source for clients to stay up-to-date on community regulations, protocols and the status of area venues and suppliers that may affect prospective events, while also offering solutions. Explore Asheville’s Group Sales Team is continuing to demonstrate its value during an unprecedented period for the meetings industry, rolling out various initiatives to be of service now and into the future.
UNTIL WE MEET (IN PERSON) AGAIN
New Video Overview: Explore Asheville produced an 11-minute virtual site visit video with details on the destination’s accessibility, meeting hotel properties, cultural resources and Explore Asheville services. The video’s introductory messaging addressed the pause on travel and the Explore Asheville team’s ability to assist meeting planners – particularly in difficult times. Promotion of the video began in June as an alternative when in-person planner site visits aren’t possible.
Highest-Quality Virtual Tours of Primary Meeting Hotels: In support of Asheville’s hospitality community and in an effort to build the best virtual tour library possible, Explore Asheville partnered with licensed aerial drone and 3D-imaging operator, Destination Virtual Tours, in July 2020 to produce high-quality virtual site tours of 14 of Asheville’s primary meeting hotels. The top-quality footage is used by the Explore Asheville Group Sales Team and has been shared with local hotel sales teams as a way to continue to promote Asheville to meeting planners for the foreseeable future.
These assets provide needed convenience for meeting planners who can’t tour in person, while also assisting partners with closing business. The photography combines aerial drone footage of the hotels’ exteriors and is coupled with Matterport True3D virtual imaging. The tours have been added to a page on the meetings section of ExploreAsheville.com. Examples include:
“Mug Moments” Series: Take a 20-minute coffee break with Explore Asheville’s upcoming “Mug Moments” mini webinar series, featuring casual, virtual conversations with hotel partners about steps they are taking to host in-person meetings safely. Guest speakers will also respond to questions submitted during the live broadcast. View episodes here.
WHEN THE TIME IS RIGHT, ASHEVILLE IS READY
As the industry begins experiencing an uptick in meeting activity (both in holding meetings and contracting future meetings), a big concern on the minds of planners and organizers is, understandably, safety. They want to understand and have confidence a destination “gets it” with respect to keeping all parties safe. As such, Explore Asheville has developed the Asheville Cares Meet Safe Pledge.
“To respond directly to planners’ concerns, Explore Asheville CVB has been working with our meeting hotel partners to create a version of the Asheville Cares Stay Safe Pledge (leisure-focused) for the meetings segment of the business,” explained Dianna Pierce, Explore Asheville’s vice president of sales. “A community effort led to the creation of the pledge. We appreciate the support and commitment of time and effort required to make it happen.”
The pledge meets two goals by, first, creating a cohesive set of business protocols to communicate the safe standards put in place as related to meetings and, secondly, recognizing safety is a shared commitment – and everyone has a role to play. The practices noted for planners are quickly becoming “standard” in the meetings industry.
In the spirit of that shared responsibility, outlined in the pledge are guidelines for event spaces, event staff and meeting planners, alike, as well as those being followed by specific sectors of the industry (including hotels, attractions, retail businesses and restaurants).
STRATEGIC PARTNERS FOR PLANNING A MEETING IN ASHEVILLE
When an organization is ready to plan a future meeting, the fully-staffed Explore Asheville team can simplify planning by:
(1) Generating a cohesive response from the destination completely tailored to the meeting’s needs.
(2) Providing time-saving services and the Asheville expertise needed, particularly in challenging times.
(3) Qualifying the meeting for eligibility of up to $5,000 in incentives from Explore Asheville. Check out the Have More Fun on Us program.
The team also offers PlanWithPerks.com, compiling value-added perks from hotel partners (think complimentary room or suite upgrades, an Asheville art or brewery experience, Biltmore tickets, VIP amenities and more) for the time when groups can gather again.