360 Destination Group is a national DMC with offices throughout California, Florida and Chicago. According to Joe Fijol, partner at 360 Destination Group, planners today are seeking more experiential programs that maximize attendees’ time, create an emotional connection between attendees and the company, and align with the business objectives of the meeting.
“I think the tipping point for why and how 360 is different is everything we do is an experience,” says Fijol. “We don’t look at it as a transfer. We don’t look at it as a tour, a centerpiece, or a trio, or an off-property event or an on-property event. Everything we do is an experience where we’re trying to move the emotional needle and create that return on investment for the person that’s coming in for the meeting.”
For example, 360 Destination promotes a lot of local speakers like Pat Williams in Orlando, which helps planners save on cost and deliver a more local experience. Williams was the general manager of the Detroit Pistons during the ‘Bad Boy’ days when the team won two world championships. He was also very instrumental in driving the decision to bring the Orlando Magic to Central Florida.
Culinary continues to be another area where planners can increase overall ROI.
“We do it differently though, we’ll bring people into Little Havana in Miami with a top chef, like a James Beard award winner, and we’ll shop for the groceries,” says Fijol. “Then we go to the Miami Culinary Institute where we demonstrate why the Latin influence is so big, not only in South Florida but globally today…. That to me is a much different experience than sitting in a cooking class at a banquet table in a ballroom.”
Another client who wanted to do a seated dinner for 80 people in the Everglades, so Fijol had to bring everything in by airboat to the islands. They had big fans in some places, and then 1,200 candles to create the right atmosphere around the perimeter. The best part was when everyone pointed their flashlights out into the water and all you saw were the eyes of the alligators above the surface peeking out back at you.
“At that point you really understand that you’re in the heart of nature,” says Fijol.
Okay, but what’s the ROI for dining out in the ‘Glades like that?
“The return on investment is that everyone is trying to accomplish the same goals, but we just do it differently by offering experiences that you can’t do on your own,” explains Fijol. “So we’re really trying to enhance what the local destination is, and the return really is when they leave, they’re going to talk about it, they’re going to remember it. And hopefully for that next incentive trip their company does, they’re going to outperform what they did the year before so they can go on that trip again.”
In addition, Fijol says these kind of events give planners a more compelling argument to go to their C-level people. It gives them a little bit more ammunition, and something that’s different in the approach.
Now with the economy back on the upswing, demand rising, and companies spending money on meetings again, we asked Fijol if planners are starting to book DMCs as much as they did before the recession.
“I think the people who truly understand the value of a DMC never went away,” he says. “Those people who go direct will go direct until they get burned. And that happens everyday. You hear stories all the time. The moment your VIP doesn’t get picked up because you went direct to a transportation company, and you didn’t have someone manage the transaction and reconfirm, is the moment you wish you had a DMC next to you.”