The door opener to each city, region or country! 
by Christian Mutschlechner, Director, Vienna Convention Bureau
More and more destinations – cities, regions and countries – are establishing Convention Bureaux to serve better the needs of the association meeting planner.
A Convention Bureau is a dedicated 'company' (basically not-for-profit) to promote and market a city, region or country to the meetings industry, mostly covering association meetings and corporate events. The Convention Bureau is not always a stand-alone entity, quite often it is a dedicated and specialized department of the related tourist board or city/regional marketing body and sometimes also part of the local chamber of commerce.
Funding of Convention Bureaux is not standardized: very often one will find a mixture of private membership and public funding or even completely public funding, but also totally commercial structures can be found. It is recommended to ask a Convention Bureau about its structure when you get in touch with it.
If the meeting planner of an association or the association's secretary general or CEO is interested in a destination, the local Convention Bureau should be the first point of contact to seek information about the meeting infrastructure of that destination. Convention Bureaux have a complete overview of what is available in the destination in question, not only as meeting venues, but also issues related to hotel accommodation, accessibility, public transport and locations for side events. The key advantage for the association representative is that Convention Bureaux are neutral partners for the association, helping to find the best solution for the meeting in that destination.
Being an unbiased and impartial resource, a Convention Bureau acts as the destination's accepted official point of contact and takes care initially of any meeting-related request.
However it is important to emphasize that, by a large majority, Convention Bureaux are not commercial companies, they are not-for-profit, and they provide their services free of charge.
They provide information about the key suppliers in their destination, such as PCO’s (Professional Congress Organizers), AV companies, interpretation services, unique venues but also about tourist services. They also provide support and help related to visa application procedures as well as customs rules and regulations.
Further services you can expect from a Convention Bureau are promotional materials about the destination focused on the meeting planner's needs. These might include promotional videos, films, free pictures, brochures or a meeting planner's guide. They can help also by organizing educational trips to the destination in order to introduce the infrastructure to the meeting planner. They support PR about the event you are planning: they will publish, if you agree, your event on the web-page of the Convention Bureau, and they might use, again based on your approval, your event as a referral for the successful work of the Convention Bureau.
What else can you expect?
+ Assistance with official bids
+ Support for the final presentation about the destination to the appropriate decision making (site selection) body
+ Preliminary bookings of the infrastructure you will need (mainly conference venues and room blocks for accommodation)
+ They may provide support for the meeting in the form of a promotional booth at a preceding meeting, signage in the city, cooperation with public transport companies, supply of destination information to the participants (such as city maps), a hospitality desk at the congress, etc. (The services vary from one Convention Bureau to another)
In a nutshell, for the association representative, the meeting planner of an association or the secretary general, it should be logical to talk first to the Convention Bureau before starting planning in detail. It is the one-stop-shop for the destination and offers a tremendously helpful hand.