CVBs prepare as the economy gains momentum
As the saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Just ask convention and visitors bureaus throughout the country, which, after a two-year battering from an economic recession, funding cuts and misguided perceptions about meetings, have become leaner, meaner—and, they’ll tell you, smarter.
They’ve had to be. Their hotel partners’average daily rates plummeted by 8.8%, according to Smith Travel Research. Hotel occupancy taxes are down—or have been siphoned off by their cities, which are also hurting, for their general fund. Meetings and incentives have been put on hold or cancelled outright. The bureaus are under increased scrutiny and pressure from boards, members, city councils and other stakeholders to meet or exceed performance goals that may not match the reality of the marketplace. And they’re working with planners who have their own set of new realities, from ROI responsibility to strategic meetings management programs, with equally reduced budgets.
Moving into Q3 of 2010, and for many bureaus the beginning of their new fiscal year, the picture may not look entirely different. But there are encouraging signs about the economy and the health of the industry. “There’s definitely been an increase in hotel occupancy [seen] by all the professional firms that track the industry, projecting it to come back a little, about 3%, in that area,” says Michael D. Gehrisch, president and CEO of Destination Marketing Association International, an umbrella association for DMOs worldwide. “No one can say the industry has totally recovered, but the numbers are moving in a positive direction.”
Some CVBs are already seeing the shift. The Tri-Valley (Calif.) CVB, for instance, saw a double digit occupancy jump in May 2010 (13.8%) over May 2009, according to President and CEO Amy Blaschka.
Atlantic City experienced a 5% increase in total bookings for the first six months of 2010, compared to the same period in 2009, says Jeff Vasser, president of the Atlantic City CVA. “That represents a 22% increase in estimated room nights and a 35% increase in total square footage being used.” The number of attendees is estimated to grow, as well. In other words, meetings are coming back.
And from all accounts, 2011 is looking to be the breakout year, with the return of the economy and a more robust meetings picture, fueled in part by pent-up demand. According to Richard Scharf, president and CEO of Visit Denver, The Convention & Visitors Bureau, “2010 is a strong year for us, and 2011 looks equally good.” The sentiment is echoed by Michael Krouse, senior vice president, sales for LA Inc., The Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We’re ahead of booking pace for all future years. The pace is very strong—ahead of the best years.” One notable thing, he mentions, is that the average size of conventions has been growing significantly for future years. “It grew 13% last year over the prior year, and I suspect it’s grown even more than that this year,” he says.
“Cautiously optimistic” is still the buzzword for many, however. “I don’t think [the surge in the economy] is like a ‘V’—it’s much more like a ‘U,’” says Joel Racker, president and CEO of the Utah Valley CVB. “The economy came down; we’re there, and working our way back up. My biggest fear is that it will be a ‘W,’ where we’d start a recovery and dip back down.”
On the potential plus-side for DMOs, pent-up demand could also trigger the pent-up desire on the part of hoteliers for an increase in room rates, a trial balloon that has been popping up on the horizon for some time. Some brands have already put increases in place, including Marriott International, which announced last month that its second-quarter revenue climbed 8%, thanks to a boost in room rates and fees.
According to Anne LeClair, president and CEO of the San Mateo/Silicon Valley (Calif.) CVB, planners are beginning to realize that hotel rates are going to climb, and are booking multi-year contracts.
To get a finger on the overall pulse of the industry, Smart Meetings interviewed CVBs in the U.S. and Canada for their thoughts on the challenges and trends they’re facing, and what action plans they’ve put into place to prepare for the anticipated uptick (see also the sidebar beginning on page 57). It’s a revealing snapshot of the times.
DMOs have been battling a full spectrum of challenges, from the relentless perception issue to funding to “dodging asteroids.” Over the past year, the hospitality industry as a whole has tackled the misconception of meetings both through their associations and at the local level, driving home the economic and business value of meeting face to face. It’s paying off. While keeping an eye on the possible impression of excess, corporations are finding that they do indeed have to meet—and that their bottom line can suffer if they don’t.
“It doesn’t matter how good technology is, how good the screens are, people aren’t out there on their breaks talking, spending social time together,” says Dan Fenton, CEO of Team San Jose and current chair of DMAI. “People are starting to remember why there is value in bringing corporate teams or association teams together. CFOs and CEOs are looking back and saying it’s important to the company to meet face to face.”
While Las Vegas took a huge hit as the poster-child for being a “frivolous” meeting destination, it’s on the road to recovery. Hotel occupancy thus far this year has jumped from 74.8% in January to 86.2% in May, according to LVCVA figures.
Some nonresort and second-tier destinations have benefited from their more low-key image, among them Denver, and Sacramento and San Mateo, Calif.
Other destinations have dealt with a different image challenge. “The perception has been that San Diego is an expensive market, and there’s not a lot of product available,” says Joe Terzi, president and CEO of the San Diego CVB. “This is not a good perception in a market that nationally has shrunken—there aren’t many markets that are not too competitive right now!” he says.
San Jose is another of these. “San Jose is really trying to be flexible, because we don’t want San Jose to be known exclusively as a corporate destination,” Fenton says. “We know how important it is to have a diversity of types of business on the books, even if they have different types of yields.”
Atlantic City has been dealing with perception, as well, but among his industry partners. As the city becomes less of a gaming destination, Vasser says, hotels and casinos are beginning to recognize that the meetings and convention market is a larger part of the business model. Noncasino and casino properties are getting more involved and making more room blocks available (not just for players), he says, so the CVB can now go after larger, more frequent conventions.
Funding is an ongoing challenge for DMOs, as city, county and state budgets have been slashed and real estate taxes are down. The hotel occupancy tax has been tapped for general services instead of tourism. Bureaus are hearing, “We have to make an across-the-board-cut of 10%,” even though DMOs are not a cost, they’re an economic revenue generator, DMAI’s Gehrisch says.
Boise, Idaho, is caught in the middle of a funding conflict—not just how much funding they’ll receive, but whether or not they’ll get funded at all. The possibility of a part-time bureau is not far-fetched, says Bobbie Patterson, executive director of the CVB. In the meantime, “Our plan is to figure out how to get our job done in the midst of conflict, with reduced financial resources,” she says.
Perhaps the greatest challenge, Gehrisch says, is the unknown, or what a DMAI Future Study called “dodging asteroids.” “Who would have known a volcano would shut down all of Europe, or could predict the Gulf oil spill—the largest environmental disaster in history?” he says. “Some things you can prepare for; some things you have no control over. That’s what keeps our members awake at night.”
Sometimes the asteroids are geopolitical in nature, and also have implications that CVBs have no control over. Take Arizona’s SB 1070 and Phoenix, for example. According to Doug MacKenzie, communications director for the Greater Phoenix CVB, because conventions plan months and years in advance, most of the impact of the current debate on groups meeting won’t reveal itself until late fall and in 2011. But, in May, future business lead-production dropped to 40% below last year’s pace, which was already in a recessionary mode, he says, and the future success of the new convention center is threatened by “the growing, disingenuous calls to boycott Arizona versus calling for a dialogue of national immigration reform.”
Trends come and trends go, but there are certain common waves that roll and crest through the CVB world, from branding and recasting themselves in a new light to developing new funding avenues and maximizing the use of state-of-the-art technology in their marketing.
As Portland, Seattle and L.A. have done in the past, Norfolk, Va., has recently made a switch that keeps their brand fresh—yet recognizable. “Changing our name to VisitNorfolk from Norfolk Convention & Visitors Bureau has been good for business,” says Donna Allen, vice president of sales and marketing for the bureau. The former Southwest Washington Convention and Visitors Bureau also found it necessary to do a major rebranding. In spite of the fact that this region is home to Vancouver, the fourth largest city in the state, it has long suffered from a mistaken identity with Vancouver, B.C.—a huge hurdle to overcome. Last spring, the CVB changed its name to Vancouver USA Regional Tourism Office, and launched its new branding as “Visit Vancouver USA/Discover the Original.”
Funding, Funding, Funding
According to Gehrisch, increased opportunities for private funding and less dependence on hotel occupancy tax is a trend moving forward over the next few years. Varying in vernacular, this funding is in the form of a Tourism Improvement District or a Tourism Marketing District, an assessment where a group of businesses voluntarily agree to charge their consumers a fee to fund tourism.
There are 43 districts in California alone, he says. Napa Valley’s is the latest, a TID that became effective last month and will increase their budget tenfold, says Clay Gregory, president and CEO of the Napa Valley Destination Council. San Diego is also a beneficiary, with a budget that rose from $12 million to $24 million annually, Terzi says.
San Francisco, too, has reaped the benefits of a TID. “[The TID] has allowed us to increase our budget at a time when many destinations that rely on annual government appropriations find theirs shrinking,” says Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of the San Francisco CVB. “We have added sales staff in Washington, D.C., and Chicago, as well as in our home office. [The bureau] has also been able to increase our marketing activities domestically and in our 13 overseas representative offices. We are able to build a fund to host key industry events that we haven’t been able to do in a very long time. For example, in 2011 we will host International Pow Wow, for the first time in 19 years. We will also be able to embark on upgrades and renovations to the Moscone Center.”
Not surprisingly, technology plays a huge role in the way CVBs are marketing themselves. A common thrust is upgraded and revamped websites, with more meetings- and user-friendly information and navigation. Arlington’s new website, launching this fall, is focused on meeting planners, says Emily Cassell, director of the Arlington CVS in Virginia. It will help them find information more quickly, has more resources, better details the support services they offer, and makes the RFP submission as clear as possible. Also, “There’s a new feature—customized Flash pages for specific meetings, so attendees can see what’s relevant to them in our destination,” she says.
As part of an entirely new branding campaign—from logo to tagline to website and more—San Jose recently introduced a new site that operates in real time, with user-generated content. Keeping things fresh, also, is Albany, Ore.’s redeveloped website, which went live in July and allows the bureau to update it more frequently, and more easily, in-house.
Many bureaus have jumped on the mobile app bandwagon. According to Ken Fischang, president and CEO of the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau, they were the first to have a mobile iPhone app, “iVisitSonoma County,” and one of the first to have a Droid app. “These have been tremendously popular,” he says. Napa’s “VisitNapaValley” mobile app is currently in beta, but moving forward.
But nowhere is the use of new marketing tools stronger than the social media arena. Some DMOs have been aggressive in their use of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, tallying friends and fans in the thousands, with full-time staff devoted to the effort. The media’s efficacy is hard to ignore, and even smaller bureaus who were just dipping their toes into the waters are now knee- or neck-deep in the swim.
“Social media has been a huge boost for us,” L.A.’s Krouse says. “Social media is driving things, and its growth is off the charts” (nearly 142,000 fans on Facebook alone). “Sacramento leverages social media, as well, which requires a different tone than the organization’s blog,” says Steve Hammond, the bureau’s president and CEO. “We try and stay within the content marketing strategy to remain focused on the customer. With Facebook, it allows us the chance to remain engaged on a more personal level.” The bureau also uses Twitter to send a “virtual shout out” to meetings and conventions taking place in the city to show their appreciation to the group for meeting in Sacramento, he says.
THE GRASS IS GREENER
Whether it’s because of the economy or additional competition in the marketplace with new hotels or convention centers, the rivalry for meeting groups is keen. “Because of necessity, we’ve cast a wider net and will continue to do that,” says San Francisco’s D’Alessandro, echoing the sentiments of many of his bureau colleagues.
That net extends both geographically and by industry segment. “We are expanding out of our Michigan borders to attract new meetings and leisure business,” says Jack Schripsema, vice president of sales and marketing for the Traverse City CVB in Michigan. The growing recognition of Traverse City as a top 10 “foodie town” has increased interest in his destination, he says, and its reputation as a family-friendly and safe environment has also allowed the bureau to target family-oriented meetings.
An increased emphasis on the leisure market is a no-brainer, given the relative health of this segment in comparison with business travel over the past two years. The wedding market is growing, and SMERF groups have gained new appeal, even with their often limited budgets.
Given that two major attractions—the Legoland Discovery Centre and Sea Life aquarium—will open next year in Grapevine, Texas, leisure is the name of their game, says Barry Lewis, director of marketing for the bureau. “Las Vegas and Orlando were strong leisure destinations before they became major meetings destinations,” he says. “That’s the model we’re following.”
Weddings, as we all know, are big business, and they’re filling up the corporate and incentive meetings gap, Sonoma’s Fischang says. The SCTB has built on it, offering a “lucrative, sweet deal”—a cash incentive—for brides to use their services.
According to Director Emily Cassell, the Arlington, Va., bureau has shifted some efforts toward the SMERF, leisure and motorcoach markets, “less due to the economic downturn and more from feedback from our hotels saying we could provide value to them by providing rooms in off-peak.”
One of the biggest changes for L.A. this year is the burgeoning SMERF market, Krouse says. “SMERF is booking. Everyone’s found religion again.” These types of groups will continue to grow, he says, as “in tough times, people come to religion or some other thing that makes them feel better about the life experience they’re going through.”
According to Amy Blaschka, of the Tri-Valley bureau, SMERF business has sustained their destination and will continue to. “This year, a little bigger budget lets us focus more on SMERF,” she says. “We’re on a good footing with wine country weddings, bulking up our SMERF—our bread and butter—and with leisure, too.”
Pasadena, Calif. is “increasing our focus on the religious and sports markets for weekend business, and reaching out to third-party planners and association management companies,” says Michael Ross, chief executive officer of the Pasadena Center Operating Company.
Some destinations are riding the other side of the pendulum, changing tactics due to increased airlift—a surprising note in a time of airline cutbacks. “We’re reaching outside of our traditional Northeast corridor,” says Atlantic City’s Vasser. “We were primarily a drive destination, but now we have new air service, direct nonstop from Boston as well as Atlanta and Detroit. It opens up markets that we haven’t been able to penetrate before.” With the expansion of both Waco, Texas, hospitals, “we’re looking at the medical market as an open door,” says Liz Taylor, director of the CVB.
IF YOU BUILD IT, WILL THEY COME?
Building and expansions are both a trend and a challenge. Securing approval for proposed new or expanded convention centers from city and county governments moves about as fast as ketchup pouring out of a bottle, with a few plunks to move it along, as many CVBs would ruefully attest (ask Ken Mompellier, executive director of the bureau in Las Cruces, N.M., where the “talk” lasted more than 11 years before the shovels hit the ground for a convention center in June 2009).
Regardless of the labyrinth or the obstacles, numerous convention center proposals made their way to fruition, some helped along the way with the more favorable economic climate a couple of years ago. Pasadena recently debuted its $150-million facility, and construction continues on the center in Waco.
A years-long process actually helped the Utah CVB. “Utah County is very conservative, and it bleeds over into everything: the way we do business, the way we look at economic development,” Racker says. In 2004, the county did a research study and discovered a lot of missed opportunities due to the lack of facilities, he says. At the same time, some local businesses were proposing building their own space, so the county put the center on hold. Then, in late 2008 or so, it reconsidered the study, asking whether they’d be horribly overbuilt if it all happened, Racker says. They decided it wouldn’t, and, fortuitously, the other developers’ plans fell through. The county broke ground this past June on a 140,000-square-foot center, and if it’s successful, which Racker anticipates it will be, a phase 2 will double the space.
But, will they come? With the addition of these huge meeting facilities, and their high price tags, comes high expectations. According to Phoenix’s MacKenzie, seven years ago the state of Arizona and the city of Phoenix jointly invested more than $600 million on their new convention center. Then the city came along and invested another $350 million in the 1,000-room Sheraton hotel. “That’s almost a $1-billion promise to the citizens of Phoenix and Arizona,” he says, “and it was combined with the additional $1 billion spent by the private sector to build mega-resorts.”
In its first year of operation (2009), it exceeded all expectations: “The original pro forma in 2003 called for 185,000 delegates that year,” MacKenzie says, “but we hosted 310,000!” However, the perception of Phoenix as a resort destination, the downturn in the city’s real estate market and, especially, the fallout from the controversial political challenges could have a negative impact on these numbers.
DMOs have learned a lot about their clients over the past two years, from the increasing pressure to produce ROI to doing more with less. “It’s more important than ever that we thoroughly understand their goals and objectives and partner with them to achieve those goals,” Norfolk’s Allen says.
That includes using technology to make their jobs easier. “RFPs are coming electronically, and they are using social networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook,” says Pasadena’s Ross.
Schripsema, from Traverse City, agrees. “They’re using more e-tools to do their research, and using online tools for the RFP process including EmpowerMint.com, Cvent, etc. Lead times are also much shorter than ever before,” he says.
While planners are under increasing pressure to cut costs to the bone, they’ve also been the beneficiary of a buyers market, with lower room rates, more leverage in negotiations—and renegotiations. “They’re also extremely savvy about pricing and are seeking out deals,” Ross says.
The observation is common to all. “Planners are certainly more conscious of how they spend their money, and negotiating harder, which is fine,” Vasser says. “They’re [also] looking for our help in efficiencies, in promoting their event, sponsorships and attendance building. They’re working harder at their own attendance efforts, with the use of database marketing or social media.”
According to Kathleen Ratcliffe, president of the St. Louis CVC, “In this economy, price point has been critical for the last year and a half. But some customers understand that they already have a good price, and rather than trying to get the best bargain they can—which might not be good for their organization—they instead ask for value add.” Some planners know that, when it comes to the execution of their event, a bargain might hurt them. “A lot of customers also understand they are in this business for the long haul, and that they’re better off to ask for value add rather than negotiate down another $25 off,” she says.
Speaking of the long haul—and what a long haul it seems already—a recent planner intention survey conducted by Ypartnership for PCMA and American Express (see our Industry Watch column in the July issue for more details) reported an uptick in the number of planned meetings and expected attendees. Peter Yesawich, chairman and CEO of Ypartnership, said “Corporate meetings were the first to tank, and now they are the first to come back.”
“2011 is much better than the last couple of years, and 2012 looks better yet,” Ratcliffe says.
Sounds like a “U” recovery to us.
Q: What plans or programs do you have in place to prepare for the expected surge in meetings business in 2010 and 2011?
Albany Visitors Association
Our new group tourism director is working on marketing to different meeting planners and tour operators, bringing those groups here. Albany is a small community that’s very affordable, and we have some unique venues. One new thing we’re offering is agri-tourism trails throughout the county—four are coming online this month.
Arlington Convention and Visitors Service
We’ve been focusing on several different areas, particularly in the last 6 to 8 months. We’re launching a new website this fall focused on meeting planners, and better detailing the support services we offer. Another is on-site convention services for major events, including a complimentary value-add for planners where we send staff and a display to a hotel venue for 2 to 3 hours during peak check-in times, with personalized advice for after-hours shopping, dining and entertainment. We’re also in the final stage of designing a mobile visitor center, replacing the regular visitor center, as we don’t have one area where all the hotels are located.
Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority
First and foremost, we’re ramping up stronger relationships with our hotels. This has become a huge opportunity for us, as Atlantic City shifts away from being a gaming-centered destination. The hotels are now more interested in the meetings business and trade shows, and they’re offering better room blocks and better rates. We’re also expanding our green initiatives, as planners are more interested in that today. We have the largest single-roof solar array in the country, and as we’re on an island, we’re looking at installing wind turbines to take advantage of the wind.
President and CEO
Banff Lake Louise Tourism
In this new era, planners are increasingly stretched for time and manpower, while having to show the return on investment well before they sign a contract. As a community, we are working in unison to provide planners a comprehensive picture of the program budget right from the preliminary proposal—from hotel to transportation to off-site venues—showing the savings and benefits they would gain by bringing their next program to Banff Lake Louise. Essentially, we are working to make their job and the decision to come to Banff Lake Louise easier. By providing the hard numbers and educating planners, we are breaking down misconceptions of being a resort destination, proving that we are a cost-effective destination that is convenient to get to and features substantial meeting space that can easily accommodate large groups, whether association, corporate or incentive.
Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau
We know that, as a little-known destination, what we really need to do is bring planners to our community. It’s a great place to have small meetings, and we’ve spent a lot of energy convincing decision-makers who haven’t had us high on their radar screen to come, with FAM trips and site visits. We know they’re our strongest tool. We have a tremendous conversion once we’ve brought people in—as high as 85%. It may be a year or two, or maybe even five, before the visits convert into meetings, but those programs are our highest measurable conversion.
Visit Denver, The Convention and Visitors Bureau
Denver is booming. We have two new hotels under construction, adding nearly 600 rooms within three blocks of the convention center, including a 200-room Four Seasons and 373-room Embassy Suites. We are just starting construction on a rail line link between downtown and Denver International Airport that will open in 2016. Next year, we will open a light rail line to Golden and the west metro area, to add to our network that now serves the Denver Tech Center.
Vice President of Convention & Sports Marketing
Eugene Cascades & Coast
Eugene Cascades & Coast’s vibrant and robust new website provides planners with the instant information they need in a compelling format. We will continue to use technology to reach out to planners via e-newsletters, online RFPs and quick responses. Our convention services manager continues to provide much-needed complimentary assistance to meeting planners.
Director of Marketing
Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau
We have two attractions that are coming in 2011: the Legoland Discovery Centre—which is a hands-on experience, not an amusement park—at Grapevine Mills shopping mall in late spring; and a 45,000-square-foot Sea Life aquarium, also at Grapevine Mills, about 60 days later. For 2011, we’re trying to build our destination as a strong leisure destination, which also helps meetings with spousal programs and those where attendees bring their kids.
Las Cruces Convention and Visitors Bureau
We finally broke ground on our convention center in June 2009, near New Mexico State University, with a completion date in late 2010. It will be 55,000 sq. ft. with just over 30,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Spaceport—the headquarters for Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic—is still being developed right now, and will open up in stages; it launches in 2011 to 2012.
Senior Manager Regional Sales
Extended Destinations, a regional office of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority
visitlaughlin.com; visitmesquite.com; visitprimm.com; visitbouldercity.com
As a marketing plan, last fall we put all the extended [Vegas] destinations under our purview, from every avenue: tour and travel, groups, meetings and incentives. There are a lot of synergies, a lot of commonalities among our destinations—Laughlin, Mesquite, Primm and Boulder City—versus getting lost in Las Vegas. “Southern Nevada Regional Office” is how they answer their phones.
Michael Krouse, CHME, CMP
Senior Vice President Sales and Services
LA Inc., The Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau
We can start out with a few things happening here. There’s Universal Studios’ opening of King Kong, the largest 3-D experience in the world, at the same time as they reopened the New York street lot that burned in a fire—it’s bigger and better than the old one. Some other things hot off the grill: the new W hotel in Hollywood, the new Luxe hotel—which used to be an old Holiday Inn—right next to L.A. Live, and the Madame Tussauds museum. They’ll do events there. There’s kind of a planner’s paradise over at the California Science Center, with the “Ecosystems” and “Mummies of the World” exhibits. It’s very close to the convention center, which fits so well with ASAE coming this month.
President and CEO
Napa Valley Destination Council
Our two biggest focuses this past year have been to develop meaningful marketing programs to entice visitor-serving businesses to become our partners and to get viable long-term funding by means of a Tourism Improvement District. The TID got approval on June 15th and went into effect July 1st, elevating our funding nearly tenfold from our earlier budget. We haven’t been able to do much ramping up prior to this, as we didn’t have the funding. Now every aspect of our marketing efforts will grow. We can attend trade shows, improve our website and work on bringing in meetings that we haven’t been able to do in the past.
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
Changing our name to VisitNorfolk from Norfolk Convention & Visitors Bureau and revamping our website have been good for business. Our site is much more visual, informative and technology-oriented, yet remains very user-friendly. We’ve added more and will continue to expand our meeting and convention section, and have revised the navigational tools throughout the website.
President & CEO
Park City Chamber of Commerce/Convention & Visitors Bureau
With a continuing growth in meeting space—especially in the luxury category—we will increase our marketing efforts and reach out to new clients who may be unfamiliar with mountain resort destinations. The other priority for this year will be to step up and aggressively work with our local professionals to encourage them to become involved in bringing some of their professional conferences to their home turf.
Chief Executive Officer
Pasadena Center Operating Company
With the $150-million Pasadena Convention Center complete, the Pasadena CVB is pursuing business that was too large for us previously. We are also soliciting more local support to uncover leads and close business by identifying local contacts who serve on the boards of associations and organizations that hold meetings and conventions. We are offering special promotions and have established an incentive fund as a closing tool for groups with strong room-night potential. In addition, special prospecting projects are being conducted to generate leads for new business. Our client services team is contributing by improving the efficiency of the housing process.
Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing
Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau
Our CVB is keeping up national efforts with personal sales calls, using our enhanced website, visitphoenix.com, and social media as well as public relations initiatives. Our message remains that Phoenix is as warm and welcoming as ever to corporate, incentive and larger conventions.
William C. Anderson
Rosemont Convention & Tourism Bureau
Rosemont hasn’t changed anything. We’ve always given the best deal possible. We update our convention center yearly to keep up with what’s new out there—technology is No.1. Our hotels are upgrading. The Hyatt is spending $60 million rejuvenating their property; Crowne Plaza just renovated theirs. The Sofitel just did theirs, and recently reflagged as a Hilton.
President & CEO
Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau
We are starting new and strengthening existing relationships with regional experts in fields and industries in which Sacramento is taking a leadership position. For instance, local investment and research in various fields of alternative energy and “smart” urban planning/development continue to gain international recognition. Along those lines, Sacramento can offer conference organizers the opportunity to pull from this local expertise to design and participate in enriching and cutting-edge educational programming and networking opportunities. California’s policy makers and experts are often leading the nation and world in new ideas and policies. Having any of these experts and heavy hitters in a given field at the front door of an organization’s conference gives those organizers a head start in program development, marketing/promotion and conference implementation.
President & CEO
San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau
We’ve been aggressive over the past couple of years and will continue to operate that way. We’re fortunate that, because of a Tourism Marketing District, our funding increased dramatically. Our budget went from about $12 million to $24 million annually. That’s been instrumental in us getting back into the marketplace. We initiated a Have It All meeting package that dispels the perception that San Diego is an expensive market and there’s not a lot of availability. San Diego is more affordable, and available, than ever. We have a lot of different hotel products—from Five-Star, Five-Diamond hotels to some meetings properties at other price points. Expanding our convention center has been a major objective, and the San Diego Convention Center Corporation is working with the city of San Diego on an expansion.
President and CEO
San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau
There are a lot of great things in the works for San Francisco meetings. We recently launched a new campaign that highlights all of the different special offers that our hotel partners have for meeting professionals, such as credits to the master account, F&B perks and complimentary rooms. In addition, we’re currently in the midst of a $55-plus million renovation of the Moscone Center South and North buildings. We’ll be modernizing everything from airwalls and bathrooms to HVAC and lighting. And we’ve been able to schedule the work so that there’s virtually no impact on any booked meetings in the buildings. For the longer term, we have several exciting Moscone Center expansion scenarios that are being explored. In all of the scenarios, planners can expect more contiguous exhibit space and more meeting space.
Team San Jose
Board Chair, DMAI
The big one is, in July we launched a whole new brand logo, a new tagline—Innovation Starts Here—new messaging around San Jose and a new online experience that we think is very unique. All of that ties into celebrating innovation in San Jose. If you think about what goes on in Silicon Valley and San Jose—that daily, creative things are happening here—it’s embracing who we are. Go to our website, sanjose.org, and you’ll see a different approach as to how we view San Jose, how it’s seen through people’s eyes, not just our eyes. The content is user-based, true live content where you can watch what people are saying about San Jose on Twitter in real time. It’s completely unedited. It’s the real story. It delivers San Jose to you the way people are seeing it, experiencing it themselves. It’s real content and real reviews.
President & CEO
San Mateo County/Silicon Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau
It’s all about getting in touch with planners and getting them out to see the area; it sells itself. Key for us is that we personalize everything; there’s no cookie-cutter approach. We learn what the planners’ hot buttons are, what they really want. A lot of destinations have been hurt because their airports have had cutbacks. One selling point for us is having San Francisco International Airport in our area. They’re not cutting back; they’re adding more and more cities, and low-cost airlines in addition to the legacy carriers, so we’re easy for attendees to get to.
President & CEO
Seattle Metronatural, Seattle’s Convention and Visitors Bureau
During the economy’s downturn we have focused on staying in front of our clients. We increased our client events and trade-show participation in key markets and added to our satellite sales team in Chicago to provide extra power in the Midwest. Back at home we took our Tourism Matters advocacy campaign to local CEOs and encouraged them to keep their meeting business at home in the Seattle area. We are also working with our convention center to protect short-term windows of space for groups and organizations as meeting demand rebounds.
Ken Fischang, CHME, CMP
Sonoma County Tourism Bureau
At a time when other destinations may have been downsizing, we have been able to drop administrative costs substantially through the lease negotiations for our new office space. This allowed us to add staff and our sales team to maintain a travel schedule to shows where other destinations have not had a presence. The Sonoma County Airport terminal expansion is 98% complete, which expands the terminal to 5 to 6 times its original size. This is still a small-town, charming airport, and Horizon Air is doing well, but it may allow us to attract another airline.
St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission
There are a number of things going on. We’re preparing to host ASAE in 2011 and MPI in 2012—big daddies, all of them. Our focus is making sure the meetings industry is aware of those two big events coming here, and working with them for some pre-promotions. We’ve spent more than $4 billion in downtown development in the past few years, giving an ever-changing face to St. Louis. Everyone thinks that, with the economy in such terrible shape, cities have stopped doing projects. That’s not the case here. We have a hotel next to the convention center under construction, a shopping center under construction and a sculpture park that opened. If people haven’t been to St. Louis in 3 to 4 years, stepping in today, they would be surprised.
Vice President Sales & Marketing
Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau
The TCCVB is expanding our sales and marketing efforts beyond the Michigan borders to attract more regional and national group business as well as new leisure visitors. The Pure Michigan advertising campaign has helped create more awareness and positive recognition for Michigan and our destination, which makes out-of-state meeting planners more receptive to our destination. Our efforts include partnering with the Hyland Group to represent us in the Midwest, South and Eastern parts of the country. We are also participating in more out-of-state shows and customer events in both the meetings and leisure markets.
President & CEO
Tri-Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau
We’re revising our meeting planning guide, making it available online and as a PDF. We’re attending new trade shows, and doing some things we haven’t done before, like small market meetings and some SMERF; and also out-of-area sales. We did a Tri-Valley Road Show, a small expo that featured our hotel partners and unique meeting venues, taking it on the road to different [regional] venues, which was a fast, timely way to reach planners who couldn’t come to see us. It was successful, and we’re thinking of continuing it.
President & CEO
Utah Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau
We broke ground on June 15 on our new convention center; we had demolished some buildings and preserved some historic buildings on the block. The center will have 140,000 sq. ft. inside, 60,000 to 65,000 sq. ft. of sellable meeting space; 20,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, an 18,000-square-foot ballroom and about 10,000 sq. ft. of additional, divisible breakout rooms. If it’s a success, as we anticipate it will be, there will be a phase two, which will double its size. There’s also groundbreaking on radar out of Provo Airport, which is the secondary airport for the state of Utah, after Salt Lake City. The city of Provo is in contact with 3 to 4 commercial-service airlines. It would be exciting to get regional connections with Frontier out of Denver and Southwest out of Las Vegas. There’s a lot of potential here, with the universities and businesses, and all the dynamics with the high-tech industry in Utah County.
Elizabeth A. Taylor
Waco Convention and Visitors Bureau
We are undergoing a significant renovation and expansion of our convention center—a $17.5-million project being funded by general obligation bonds—which means that our citizens voted to increase their taxes. We are essentially touching every surface in that building. We can go in and do major things, with technology and A/V, the things planners want. We thought that, with an older building, it wouldn’t be easy to do many of the green things we’d like to, but there’s a new attitude, and new opportunities from recycling and reusing materials, that we can look at and apply.