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Event Professionals Speak Out on their Experience with Sonoma County Tourism

Springtime in Sonoma Wine Country

Researching and reporting on Sonoma County Tourism’s (SCT’s) suite of products and services in the last post left me wondering how industry professionals were honestly using these services — so I asked!

In a short survey, and through planner testimonials, I found five interweaving themes on what they found surprising, particularly helpful, and how it kept them on track:

1.       Saved Us Time and Money

Agreed. This is by far the main reason I (and apparently others too) use destination management organizations (DMOs) such as SCT. As planners, we know our time is our money. Spending two hours digging through websites for capacities only to find that all-important, “U-Shape” unlisted is, by far, the worst. “You mean I have to pick up the phone?”

Start with a request for proposal (RFP) no matter how rough, and SCT will not only send it out for you, they’ll give feedback on what they feel will work best.

Celeste M. Powers, CAE, of ILMA said, “Sonoma County Tourism saved me time and energy in being my lead voice to the hotels in the county that fit our needs, and got us to this fabulous destination.”

2.       Honesty is the Best Policy

I asked Sandy Rim, CMP, of Meetings Info what tips she had for event planners working with DMOs (Destination Marketing Organizations), and she said, “Be honest and upfront with what you are researching.”

Event planners are expert negotiators; amenities, discounted rates, points, etc., we’re looking for the best possible combination of service and price while remaining fair to our business partners. Point being, we’re reluctant to give our bottom line right away, if ever.

I’m here to tell you, fear not! SCT is a nonprofit organization whose sole purpose is to assist us in reaching that perfect price/service combo. The sooner you can give budget figures, and vision, the faster you’ll meet your match.

3.       They make me look good!

They certainly make your client/boss look good, which in all seriousness is a win/win for you. It can mean repeat business, or perhaps a promotion if this is a pattern of yours (wink-wink).

Darla Huckaby, CMP and Global Account Executive of Conference Direct, had much to say on this very subject, “The partnership with SCT provided outstanding assistance to my client and, in turn, made me look good. The site research, comprehensive info about the area, and cash incentive in particular.”

SCT can tie a big fat — tailored — bow around the research you need to support your event, and who doesn’t love that?

4.       An Excellent Wine Country Resource for Planner AND Guest

SCT will provide the research and resources you need to package and share your event, sure. They’ll also provide tangible day-of resources to your group for added support. I’m going to raise my hand here and say I’ve neglected this service on more than one occasion, in more than one U.S. city (palm-to-face).

Paula Shimizu, Consultant for County of Sonoma, General Services, reminded me, “Sonoma County Tourism expertly sent out an RFP with my conference needs and provided me with informative and beautiful visitors guides and maps for my conference attendees.”

Take advantage of this! These easy-to-follow, amazing-to-look-at guides/maps are not only informative, they’re a fun keepsake post-event.

5.       Trust and Professionalism

Nearly every planner-partner and testimonial I encountered had something to say about the professionalism and trust they felt instantly with SCT. To comment on the cash incentive, complimentary research, and materials, was to be expected. Complimenting the team as a whole wasn’t a requirement, but it happened time and time again:

  • “I consider the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau a true partner in my event planning process.”

— Jessie Korosec, Meeting and Event Manager, Equipment and Tool Institute 

  • “A fabulous group of experts!”

— Celeste M. Powers, CAE, Executive Director, ILMA

  • “I was comfortable placing my group without doing a site visit first.”

— Sherri Hodge, Tri Exceeding Inc.

  • “We have never been treated so royally as we have been in Sonoma County.”

— Leah Hawkins, Department Secretary, Family & Community Health Services California Rural Indian Health Board, Inc.

To enlist the services of SCT, submit your RFP here or contact them directly here, [email protected] or 800-576-6662

Up Next: Wine Country amenities. Local fun finds for the ultimate first impression.


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