By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Meeting planners who make a site visit to Norman tend to fall in love, convention and hospitality experts said this week. The staff of the Norman Convention and Visitors Bureau are commissioned with the job of promoting tourism and selling the city to conference, convention and sports tournament planners.
Getting those planners to town is half the battle, Michelle Hohlier told board members in her sales report this month. Coming soon to Norman is the Granny Basketball League. Other groups being courted include youth and high school sports teams and several professional associations.
“Norman has so much to offer, we blow away their expectations,” NCVB Executive Director Dan Schemm said.
Since taking the helm, Schemm has altered which trade shows his staff attends, aiming at those most likely to bring the highest number of leads based on the room nights, convention space and amenities Norman can bring to the table.
“We’re never going to get the big national shows,” he said. “That’s not who Norman is and it’s not who we want to be.”
The completion of the Holiday Inn currently under construction adjacent to Embassy Suites Norman will increase the convention portfolio of rooms. Leadership at Embassy said that area in the University North Park is becoming a nice campus for events.
Taylor Mauldin recently serviced several events, including the National Toothpick Holder Convention, the Iranian studies Conference, The OU Graduate School of Communications Conference and the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
Schemm also is hoping Norman residents who belong to professional organizations and leisure or hobby groups will give those leads to his staff. It never hurts to have a local who’s involved when trying to recruit a conference to the area, he said.
The NCVB will say goodbye to Susan Bash, who has taken a job as the general manager of Sooner Suites.
“We wish her luck,” Schemm said. “We’ll continue to work with her in her new role.”
Schemm said Bash’s departure leaves a hole in the sales staff, and they will be looking to hire soon.
“They (applicants) need sales experience,” Schemm said. “If they can sell, we can teach them hospitality.”
Schemm also told the board he hopes to downsize plans for a mobile visitor center. Rather than purchasing a large Fed-Ex type truck that would be challenging for staff to drive, he proposed saving money by specially outfitting a minivan.
Because it would be more drivable, the van could serve double-duty.
“It would be nice enough (that) we could take meeting planners on tours throughout the city,” Schemm said.
The van also would allow NCVB to eliminate the other company vehicle. The specially outfitted van would be wrapped with the logo and could have TVs on the back door and other elements when being used at an event.
“We would make it a bigger presence, but it would be easier to get around,” he said.
The annual NCVB luncheon will be May 13, and tickets are on sale. This year’s event will be a barbecue at the National Weather Center.
Board positions are currently being filled, and Kyle Allison of Andy Alligator’s was nominated as an at-large member. The board voted to expand membership by two seats to allow for the addition of more members in the hospitality field.
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