Rob Anaya and Maranda Tippin, Sr. Site Experience Managers for the San Diego Tourism Authority, share how the SDTA is providing new virtual site tours to accommodate the needs of meeting planners in the era of COVID-19. While Maranda’s last day with us will be Friday, August 7, we want to assure our planners and our partners that the virtual site program created by Rob and Maranda will continue to be a vital and successful part of our sales process.
What is a virtual site and what is different about the SDTA’s virtual site program?
Rob: I think the real differentiator is that each site is created for a specific client and for that client’s specific program. Our goal is to give clients the confidence not only that San Diego is the right destination but also that they have selected the right hotel for their needs.
Maranda: SDTA is known throughout the industry for our ability and skill at customizing our site visits. It is no different when it comes to virtual sites. We know that it is key to nail down every detail during the site visit, so we make sure that our virtual sites provide that level of insight.
Rob: We’ve taken our expertise at conducting site visits and just translated it to the virtual world.
How do you put a virtual site together?
Rob: First and most important is to understand the needs of the client and their program, ensuring our clients will find true value in what we are creating. That conversation starts with the SDTA’s National Sales Directors and the client, then the Site team is brought in to iron out the details and walk the client through the process.
Maranda: Our National Sales Directors have such close relationships with our clients, so we have a real sense of what they need to make their program successful. At that point, the Site team will work directly with our hotel partners to ensure we are showcasing all the elements of the client’s program at each property.
How have customers responded to the virtual site program?
Maranda: The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Before we started this program, we interviewed our clients to get a good grasp on what they needed. It was interesting because some clients wanted live virtual sites, and others want prerecorded sites that they could watch on their own schedule. Because of that initial feedback, we made sure we could deliver the virtual site in whatever format the client wants.
Rob: The clients we’ve worked with have really appreciated the initiative, coming from a DMO, and our personalized approach.
Maranda: Our clients have been pleasantly surprised that we can provide a customized experience but that really has always been the SDTA’s bread and butter, delivering tailored site visits.
What has the response been from our hotel partners to the virtual sites program?
Rob: They have been nothing but eager and supportive. For them, these virtual sites are a symbol of things returning to normalcy in the future.
Maranda: So many hotels have limited sales teams now, and they appreciate that we are there to help them grow their business. Sandra Rankin, sales director at the Estancia Hotel told us that “the SDTA virtual site visit was excellent and gave us a road map for how we might want to do our virtual site program. What your team did was really helpful, and it was great to work with you both.”
If someone is interested in a virtual site—either a potential customer or partner—how can they work with you?
Maranda: First and foremost, work with your SDTA National Sales Director.
Rob: If you have a business opportunity for San Diego, connect with your SDTA National Sales Director. Our sales team works closely together, so once your short list of preferred properties is established and you are ready to find that perfect property for your program, your National Sales Director will bring the Site team in for your virtual site experience.
What are the challenges or lessons you’ve learned as you’ve put this program together?
Maranda: The biggest thing was learning how to film in a consistent manner that is seamless and visually appealing.
Rob: Essentially you have two salespeople who are now taking on filming and editing.
Maranda: Let’s just say we’ve learned—and laughed—a lot through this process.