A Discussion with Discover Prince William & Manassas CVB – Convention & Visitors Bureau- Virginia, USA

Welcome to the Industry Insider blog series. The Industry Insider aims to highlight common challenges across the tourism industry. From sales to reservations to accounting to operations, we all strive to operate efficiently and profitably. At the core of TourConnect is a passion for uniting the industry around the solutions to these challenges.

Today, we take a closer look at Discover Prince William & Manassas CVB, a convention & visitors bureau (CVB) that helps to market local suppliers in the Virginia region to domestic and international visitors.  We spoke with Mark Kowalewski, Discover Prince William & Manassas’ Director of Sales, to learn about the challenges they face in the tourism industry today.

For starters, can you please explain Discover Prince William & Manassas CVB’s background and the types of services that you provide?

We are the official tourism marketing agency promoting Prince William County and the City of Manassas to domestic and international visitors for the leisure, business and sports related markets.  We provide complimentary services such as itinerary planning, dining recommendations, discounts to attractions and assistance with hotel accommodations.

What types of Suppliers do you represent (hotels, tours, attractions, etc.)?

We represent a variety of restaurants, attractions and accommodations in our region, which is just 30 miles outside of Washington DC, in Northern Virginia.  The fact that we are not a membership based CVB allows us to represent all of our suppliers and provide unbiased recommendations; giving the visitor the best experience possible.

How do you market your Suppliers/region to other businesses (inbound, outbound, retail, etc.)?              

We proactively market our destination and suppliers through tradeshows, sale missions, familiarization tours and site inspections.

What advice would you give to a brand new Supplier in your region?

I would suggest any supplier to engage their local CVB.  Determine where your marketing efforts overlap and leverage the resources of both organizations.

To a new inbound tour operator?

To ensure they know firsthand all the suppliers in the area.  Not only what product and experiences they offer but get to know the supplier and develop professional and mutually beneficial relationship.

To a new outbound tour operator selling your destination?

Again, get to know the local CVB.  They are a great resource to recommend suppliers that are reliable and able to provide the experience your clients are looking for and expect.  They can also share with you unique, undiscovered experiences and keep you posted on anything new that might be occurring in a particular destination.

What are the most tedious or challenging issues that Discover Prince William & Manassas CVB faces?

Not having enough time in the day to do everything I would like to do.  I love my job and I love Prince William & Manassas.   I am fortunate to represent such a great area and have the support of so many incredible partners.  The challenge is that there is so much to see and do here,  that it’s hard to keep on top of all of the developments around the accommodations and experiences in the region.  To add to it, we then must fight to be heard amongst all the other destinations around the country and world.  This means it’s difficult to consistently deliver our key messages to the right tour operators and agents about just how special Prince William & Manassas is – and that’s crucial for us to drive more visitors into our region.

What are the most common questions, concerns, or frustrations that you are hearing from your Suppliers? From your inbound tour operators?

I think the same frustration is felt in any industry, and that is of time. We only seem to get busier and busier.  With everyone being connected by their cell phones 24 hours a day, people expect information and answers instantly, regardless of time or where they are.

Can you please explain your relationship with other CVBs/DMOs? Do you work together or is there competition?

Partnerships and collaboration is the key to success in this market.  We have strong relationships with our local, state and regional CVBs/DMOs.  We work hand-in to develop product and itineraries that are unique and can only be experienced by working together.

What are the most important/beneficial marketing tools that you currently use to promote your region?

Relationships.  The relationships that we have developed over the years have been the best marketing tool.  This includes our suppliers, other CVBs and of course buyers, both domestically and internationally.

What do the next 5 years look like for Discover Prince William & Manassas CVB/your region? What would you like to see happen/what would you like to focus on?

We have several developments occurring over the next few years.  A brand new baseball stadium for our minor league team the Potomac Nationals, the expansion of our world-class interactive museum, the National Museum of the Marine Corps and some new hotel properties including a 5-star resort being built along the shores of the Potomac River.

How can TourConnect help Discover Prince William & Manassas CVB? What do you hope to achieve from using TourConnect/why did you decide to sign up with TourConnect?

As mentioned, relationships are vital to success in this industry.  For Discover Prince William & Manassas CVB, I am looking forward to TourConnect creating new relationships and strengthening the ones already established.  I am looking for the suppliers in our region to embrace new technology early on to take advantage of the sales and marketing opportunities.  Our suppliers have an opportunity to showcase their great products while finding new partners to sell those great products.  In today’s fast paced world, it’s essential to take advantage of services such as TourConnect to stay connected to the industry and key partners.

The TourConnect Take
Below, we break down the interview to share relevant experiences, analysis, ideas, and thought provoking questions with the industry.

Discover Prince William & Manassas CVB is the first destination marketing organization (DMO) or convention/visitors bureau (CVB) that we have interviewed for the Industry Insider.   These organizations are often government organizations set up with the purpose of bringing visitors in to experience the region and spend money in the local economy.  Typically, these organizations provide unbiased connections between suppliers based in the region and tour operators and wholesalers that send visitors to the region.

As Mark said above, one of the biggest challenges for DMO’s and CVB’s is being able to maintain consistent communication with their suppliers while still searching for new ways of driving business in the area. They have a lot on their plates with balancing supplier relationships, attending trade events, and working in conjunction with other CVB’s.  Discover Prince William & Manassas CVB is looking to technology to help reduce their workload and  allow them to keep focused on what is most important to them – increasing tourism interest in their region.

The tourism industry, like many others, is constantly challenged with staying competitive by using technology.  Discover Prince William & Manassas CVB is an organization that embraces technology; however, not every organization needs to lead the charge in embracing technology.  The key is to be open to, and searching for, new opportunities while understanding what is most suitable for your company.  This will make embracing technology part of your company culture and ensure you stay competitive.

To help understand how your organization sees technology, I thought it’d be interesting to look at the 5 main groups of adopting technologies.  Each have pros and cons, but the main goal is to know the approach your organization prefers so that you can jump on new solutions when they come into your sweet spot.  Here are brief summaries of the 5 groups based on research in Everett M. Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations:

  • The Innovators– These are the companies that will proactively go out and search for new ways of making current processes more efficient. They assume the most risk because of the fact that they are using valuable resources to look for new solutions that they could be using to drive sales but if they find a winner, they will benefit the most and have the biggest competitive advantage.
  • The Early Adopters– These are the companies that are likely to try a new technology in the early stage of being released to the market. They won’t usually be the first ones to try a new idea but they are willing to give a new technology a try if they have seen other companies having success with it.  They will still gain significant competitive advantage from the technology.
  • The Early Majority– These are the companies that will start using a new technology after they have seen several other companies having success with it. Typically this is the largest group of businesses because they won’t want to risk spending resources on something if they aren’t 100% sure that it will be valuable for them.  These companies will experience positive gains from the technology, but will get diminishing competitive advantage.
  • The Late Majority– These will typically be older, more conservative companies that are content with the way they already do things. Most of the time, they will not be very socially active and will require more persuasion to try something new because of the fact that they don’t see any problems with the way they operate today. They will not see any significant competitive advantage.
  • The Laggards– These are the last companies that will start using a new technology.  These will usually be extremely conservative because they don’t have enough resources to spend on researching new ways of making their businesses more efficient; however, after most of the other companies in their industry have adopted a new technology and it has become common and reputable, they will finally decide to start using it. They will be very skeptical in nature and will require several recommendations from close friends or colleagues before they are willing to try something new.

Discover Prince William & Manassas CVB is a great example of a company in the Innovator/Early Adopter stages of technology adoption.  They understand the importance of finding new ways of staying connected with their suppliers as well as being able to continue to bring more business to their region with new business partners for their suppliers to work with.  They are actively seeking technology solutions that will help them achieve their business goals.

Not everyone can be innovators, and spend the time and resources to proactively look for new solutions, but it is clear that there are significant benefits to adopting technologies sooner rather than later.  After reviewing the different stages of technology adoption, where does your company fit in? Are you willing to try new technologies in order to do business more efficiently or are you simply content with the way you are currently doing things?  As an industry, the more we challenge ourselves to be innovators, the greater heights we will all reach.

TourConnect would like to thank Mark at Discover Prince William & Manassas for taking the time to share their experiences and challenges that they have as a CVB and also for being a company that is willing to take some risk and try new technologies that can help grow their business.

Have you or your company experienced these challenges?  How have you addressed them?  Comment below so we can all learn and relate.

Would you like to be featured in an upcoming Industry Insider blog?  Send us your details, and we’ll be in touch soon.

We look forward to sharing more of these insightful interviews with our ongoing series, Industry Insider.  Be sure to follow us on Facebook or Twitter to stay up to date on all of our blog posts and system releases!

Andrew Coulter

Author Andrew Coulter

Andrew brings limitless energy and an appreciation for quality relationships to business development. He delivers results while identifying new ways to help his clients every day. Surprisingly, Andrew speaks more German than all three of the German-named Herrmann’s combined!

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