There was a time when convention and visitor
bureaus could be counted on to help their cities overcome
the stigma of political scandal or other image-tarnishing events.
While this still holds true for many CVBs, a growing number have
found themselves the subject of lurid headlines, probes and
executive firings in recent years.
"Now is the time to make CVB heads the
most professional leaders they can be,"
says Atlanta's Spurgeon Richardson,
chairman of the International Association of Convention &
For meeting professionals who rely on bureaus for assistance
with site selection, housing and myriad other details, the issue
has become especially thorny, leading to breaches in longstanding
partnerships and leaving some to look elsewhere for help in
planning their events.
As recently as this past November, headlines about a CVB
executive losing his job amid scandal had the ring of familiarity.
In this particular case, the CVB head was Eugene Dilbeck,
then-president of the Denver Metro CVB. The imbroglio: an event at
a strip club attended by bureau personnel. (For details, see
“Behind the Headlines.”)
In 2003 alone, similar scenarios were played out in some major
" In Ohio, Dave Nolan, president and CEO of the Greater
Cleveland Convention & Visitors Bureau, stepped down in October
2003 amid allegations of lavish entertainment expenses and
authorizing a $4,000 weight-loss program for an executive on his
" In Maryland, Baltimore Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
president and CEO Carroll R. Armstrong was ousted last February
following charges of inflated booking and membership numbers.
" In Texas, Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau president
Dave Whitney resigned in January 2003 over alleged lavish spending
on travel and entertainment.
Such stories certainly do not help the public image of CVBs.
Because of their hybrid nature as part government organization and
part private business, and their somewhat ambiguous standing within
their communities, the role of bureaus is confusing to the public
even in the best of times.
The cumulative damage of all the bad news has had an impact on
meetings and conventions business, too. In an exclusive poll of
planners conducted by M&C/NTM Research, two-thirds said they
would avoid working with a bureau if planning a meeting in a
destination where the CVB was involved in an ethical controversy.
In extreme cases, they’ve pulled business from troubled bureaus.
(For full survey details, see The Taint of Scandal.)