Imagine visiting P.E.I. for the first time and rappelling off the Confederation Bridge.
Or perhaps being a fan of the legendary Anne of Green Gables book and having breakfast with a descendent of author Lucy Maud Montgomery.
Either one could best be described as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, something meetings and conventions expert Lynn Buckley thinks local organizers should shoot for when it comes to packing an experience for those who come to P.E.I.
“We already know they’re coming,’’ Buckley told those gathered at the inaugural Tourism Marketplace in Charlottetown on Wednesday. “You want to get them back.’’
Meetings and Conventions P.E.I. teamed up with Cavendish Beaches and the Dune Shores Tourism Association, TIAPEI and the Tourism Advisory Council to host this new event, bringing together more than 100 operations considered buyers and sellers in the marketplace.
Meetings and conventions are big business in the province. Last year, more than 17,000 delegates dropped by creating a boost to the economy to the tune of $19.5 million. The numbers this year are expected to match those in 2011 before soaring in 2012 when the convention centre opens in Charlottetown.
Buckley’s message is a simple one — develop a meetings package for those coming in for meetings and conventions that provides them with so much fun they’ll come back as tourists.
Those packages should be convenient and easy to understand and they should give people an exact idea of how much it will cost them.
“People want to plan and budget for a trip. They want to know what they’re going to spend. If they can pick up the phone once and budget for four to five experiences at once that is huge.’’
Buckley is with Agenda Managers in Halifax whose purpose is to provide clients with leading edge ideas and expertise for meeting and event creation, design and implementation.
She told meetings and convention planners it’s important to know their clientele, what their interests are and to tailor their experience on P.E.I. to that.
Their P.E.I. visit should be a defining moment, Buckley said, providing them with access to something they normally wouldn’t be able to do.
She cited one meeting/convention in Halifax that included repelling off the Angus Macdonald Bridge as an activity. For another event involving Sable Island, she included dinner with a Sable Island painter as a treat. Just a couple of examples of how meetings and conventions planning can enhance their guests’ experience.
“Make them feel like they didn’t do it all,’’ Buckley said, referring to the experience promised in that meetings and conventions package. “And it all started with a package.’’