Host city attitude proves successful for Sioux Falls
By Amy Smolik
Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce
Bringing conventions, meetings and events to Sioux Falls has been the responsibility of the Sioux Falls CVB for more than 40 years. Part of holding a successful event happens well after the bid is awarded – when everything promised during the sale is fulfilled. And Sioux Falls has excelled at following through on delivery, visitor industry representatives agree.
"We´ve always said we were a No. 1 host city because of the hospitality. Our community wraps its arms around events to make things happen," said CVB Executive Director Teri Schmidt.
The CVB´s host city program, which includes management of the Falls Park Visitor Information Center and connections with the medical community, started in the 1990s because a Chamber board member suggested the CVB do outreach to visitors coming to Sioux Falls for medical treatment.
The Professional Bull Riders (PBR) came back to Sioux Falls for a second year in 2016. From L to R: Jason Brewer, PBR VP of Partnerships; Teri Schmidt, Sioux Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau; CVB Council Chair Dan Radigan, Radigan Enterprises; and Sean Gleason, PBR CEO.
Technology has enhanced the way that people can learn about a community since the 1990s - and the CVB uses social media, apps and mobile websites to share information about Sioux Falls and planning trips here. The CVB does outreach with the medical community and other places where people gather across the city to share information about Sioux Falls and educate visitors about available opportunities.
The CVB is part of the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce and is funded through a 1 percent lodging tax. In 2011, a BID tax of $2 per room night was added with the funds going directly to marketing the city. Since 2011, the number of hotel rooms has grown from 4,132 to 4,947 and the occupancy rate has gone from 47 percent to 54 percent. More visitors means more marketing opportunities - and more people spending money in the community.
"I moved to Sioux Falls in July and I have been impressed with the enthusiasm and drive of this CVB. They have an extremely effective sales force that is focused and aggressive in selling the city and this is evident with all the various organizations, groups and tours that you see visiting Sioux Falls," said Becky Vealey, manager of the Sheraton Sioux Falls Hotel.
The Sheraton was one of the host hotels for the recent NCAA Division I Women´s Sweet 16 Regional finals held in Sioux Falls as part of March Madness. The Sheraton hosted the South Carolina Gamecocks, including their team bear Eli, who was also welcomed with open arms, Vealey said.
"When you have all entities of a city on the same page about tourism and conventions it is easier to attract business of any kind. The visitors and conference attendees all have a better experience when they experience a thriving community," Vealey said.
Bringing the NCAA tournament to Sioux Falls was a collaborative effort between the Sioux Falls CVB, Sioux Falls Sports Authority and facilities. All needed to work together in order to meet the requirements of the NCAA. The CVB and the Sports Authority pitched Sioux Falls together and were successful in bringing several NCAA events to the city.
Summit League Commissioner Tom Douple has long been an advocate of Sioux Falls and its potential. He´s seen the city improve its facilities from the 2009 Summit League men´s and women´s basketball championships - and also improve attendance and add sponsors along the way.
The Sioux Falls CVB manages the Falls Park Visitor Information Center, which features Sioux Falls memorabilia and information.
"Sioux Falls is an outstanding host for sporting events – everything is in place for the event to be successful," Douple said. "Strong community support, great hotels and restaurants, first-class facilities and a hard-working volunteer base crate a winning atmosphere that fans, parents and participants enjoy while in Sioux Falls."
In 2015, travel generated $2.1 trillion for the U.S. economy, supporting 15.1 million American jobs, according to the U.S. Travel Association. In South Dakota in 2014, that equates to $2.8 billion in spending, $303.2 million in tax receipts and supporting 27,251 jobs that represent 9.5 percent of the labor force.
Tom Bosch, Vice President of Hospitality for Avera Health, is a former hotel manager who has worked with the CVB for many years.
"What I appreciate the most is their ability to bring together competitors and have them work together for the common goal of promoting our city as a destination," he said. "Simply put, our CVB wraps it up and puts a bow on it."
Those who work in the Sioux Falls visitor industry know the power of collaboration – they gather monthly to stay on top of industry and local trends and to learn from each other at monthly Sioux Falls CVB Advisory Council meetings.
Stacy Wrightsman, Sanford Health, joined the Advisory Council last year. She has assisted the CVB with bids, tours and helping to promote the city and the healthcare offered. She appreciates the monthly meetings to share information.
"Just like other successful endeavors in our great city, I get the opportunity to see first-hand the collaboration our CVB has with all industries in our city and Sioux Falls Area. The number of attendees at our monthly meeting is truly a testament to this collaborative spirit," Wrightsman said.
The CVB is currently conducting a "FAM Yourself" Punch Card Contest for Sioux Falls visitor industry frontline employees, with a goal of educating frontline employees so they are better able to share information with visitors on other attractions throughout Sioux Falls, encouraging visitors to stay in Sioux Falls longer and/or return for another visit.
"It is all about relationships when it comes to the visitor industry, as the only way our CVB is going to be successful is through the efforts of others," Bosch said. "The CVB understands the importance of working with a variety of different stakeholders within our community – and the only way this happens is a high level of trust and confidence built by strong relationships."
The CVB will celebrate the industry as part of National Tourism Week, held May 1-7, at its annual Visitor Industry Luncheon on May 10. Several awards will be distributed to industry representatives: Heart of the City, First Impressions, Business and Media. In addition, keynote speaker J.B. Bernstein will also talk about collaboration with his story about bringing baseball to India. He produced a reality competition to find India´s first professional baseball player, which was turned into the Disney movie, "Million Dollar Arm."
2015-16 CVB BID Board
Chair Thea Miller Ryan, The Outdoor Campus
Vice-Chair Char Roth, J&L Harley-Davidson
Secretary Steve Westra, Hegg Companies, Inc.
Past-Chair Shailesh Patel, Hampton Inn/TownePlace Suites/Baymont Inn & Suites/Microtel Inn & Suites
Scott Garrett, Holiday Inn City Centre
Jean Hoesing, Ramada Hotel & Suites
Randy Huber, Dakotah Lodge
Tom Morris, Kelly Inns, Ltd.
At-Large Member Mark Wahlstrom, First Dakota Title
Non-Voting Member Rex Rolfing,
Sioux Falls City Council
Non-Voting Member Teri Schmidt,
Sioux Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau
Advisory Council Board
Chair Dan Radigan, Dairy Queen/Orange Julius/
Karmelkorn, Radigan Enterprises
Vice-Chair Thea Miller Ryan, The Outdoor Campus
Treasurer Sara McMahon, Comfort Inn & Suites
Past-Chair Char Roth, J&L Harley-Davidson
Teri Schmidt, Sioux Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau
Jan Grunewaldt, Best Western PLUS Ramkota
Hotel & Conference Center
Frank Gurnick, Dakota Alliance Soccer Club
Ronette Hegg, Hegg Companies
Todd Heitkamp, National Weather Service
and Dakota Angler
Tracy Kolb, Hampton Inn of Sioux Falls
Chris Kray, Scheels All Sports
Patti Lyon, Sioux Falls Police Department (retired)
Chad McKenzie, KSOO Radio
Scott Petersen, Washington Pavilion
Nathan Schock, Locals Love Us
Stacey Sorlien, South Dakota Pork Producers Council
Paul Ten Haken, Click Rain
Tom Van Wyhe
Cindy Walsh, Dakota King dba Burger King/GreatLIFE
Stacy Wrightsman, Sanford Health
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