What is the role of a convention bureau? 
By Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB)
A convention bureau is generally established either as a city-level organization or a national one. Both types, however, share the same mission of attracting meetings to their destination. In this respect, they will support and help facilitate the organization of meetings, especially in the planning stage, in order to enable their smooth running and make the meetings successful.
The supporting role of the convention bureau usually covers a broad range of areas. These may include support to local associations or meeting organizers in preparing a bid or the offer of incentives to attract meetings. In general, associations can expect a convention bureau to help with planning, consultation and coordination on key essentials to ensure that every step towards the success of the meeting is secure, or any uncertainty is minimized. The key essentials are accessibility of the destination, selection of venue, arrangement of a site visit, selection of accommodation and service providers, connecting or liaising with relevant agencies and professional bodies for support and collaboration, providing information about meeting-related rules and regulations and coordinating with regulating bodies, marketing of the meeting, recommending pre- and post-tour programs or special activities, such as CSR activities, cultural learning, and visits to attractions at the destination.
Focusing on incentives, most convention bureaus offer in-kind support while some offer financial help. Assistance will depend on the convention bureau’s own criteria, for example, expected number of delegates, duration of the meeting, marketing plan to attract delegates, economic impacts of the meeting on the destination.
There are some differences between convention bureaus in different countries. Besides being either a city or national body, the role of the convention bureau may cover not only meetings but also the tourism or leisure market, such as festivals or sporting events, or it may focus solely on meetings. Certain convention bureaus have members as a source of partial funding while some are funded by their government. In some countries, the convention bureau is part of a national tourism organization, whereas in others it is a totally separate entity.
In Asia, Thailand is one country which has established a national convention bureau, Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB). The role of TCEB is generally not much different from that of other convention bureaus: it offers bidding support for local associations, and incentives and support for organizing successful meetings. TCEB is not a member-based organization but is fully funded by the government, being supervised by the Prime Minister’s Office. Therefore, TCEB can work and coordinate with all city destinations, associations, and government organizations at all levels. In this respect, TCEB provides non-fee and impartial services on planning, consultation and coordination to facilitate the organization of a meeting. Being founded as an organization which is separate from the national tourism bureau, TCEB’s mission focuses only on meetings, both association and corporate ones, or the non-leisure market, while exhibition or trade fair activity is also an area supported by TCEB.
When planning an association meeting, especially in an overseas destination, a convention bureau can serve as an entry point. With its necessary resources, the convention bureau will open a wider possible road for organizing the meeting. In connection to this, it is much easier for the convention bureau to provide effective help if the meeting owner or organizer provides the bureau with significant information. This may include size, duration, time and objective of the meeting, country of origin of delegates, professional focus, any code or ethical conduct of their professional field, especially conduct related to organizing a meeting, expected local partners and their expected roles, material to be imported, requirements for venue and local service providers, accompanying delegates, specific preferences and concerns of meeting owners and/or delegates, if any.
To maximize support from the convention bureau, it is in the interest of associations closely to inquire about – apart from conventional support – any special support campaign or package which a convention bureau sometimes designs to attract meetings in certain fields or meetings with a specified number of delegates or meetings occurring on a particular occasion. The criteria, terms and conditions of such special support should be carefully studied and discussed with the convention bureau, which will be more than willing to lend a helping hand.