Last year was a time for fresh faces at
convention and visitor bureaus around the country. From Providence,
R.I., to Honolulu, a fleet of new executives has taken over the
helm at local CVBs sometimes following hotly publicized shake-ups,
always amid fervid competition.
The class of 2003 arrives at a difficult period for bureaus.
Although industry forecasts are cautiously optimistic for 2004,
convention business continues to show the lingering effects of 9/11
in the form of skittish air travel and cost-cutting among corporate
and association groups. Add to that a boom in nationwide convention
space, and CVBs find themselves in a pickle of increased supply and
To cope, many have ratcheted up their sales efforts, sometimes
raising ire among local politicians and media who have sparked
allegations of misspending or mismanagement. Indeed, 2003 saw many
CVBs across the country singled out, dressed down and shaken
Enter the new crop of bureau presidents. “We’re passing the
torch to a new generation of CVBs,” says Leslie Doggett, the
recently appointed president and CEO of the Baltimore Area
Convention and Visitors Association. “It’s about consensus
building, policy making, customer service and selling.”
How’s the view from the top of a CVB today? To find out, M&C
conducted a series of interviews, asking the new leaders what it is
like to helm a bureau in a time of promise and peril.
M&C: Given the tremendous competition among
cities to lure conventions, what plans are in the works to make
your city more attractive to planners?
Doggett: It’s always an issue of selling your assets.
Baltimore is a visitor-friendly waterfront destination with easy
accessibility, whether flying or driving. Its location on the East
Coast allows for higher attendance and affordability.
Tennant: People are amazed how easy it is to get around
San Antonio. We have a very authentic destination. Our tourism
industry is based on our strong heritage dating back even before
1718, when the Alamo was established.
Wood: We’re adding 166,000 square feet of exhibit space
to the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center. Downtown, we have a
621-room Marriott scheduled to open in spring 2005.
Jones: The Dallas CVB is in the middle of a rebranding
process to showcase the diversity of the city. We’ve improved the
Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. And you can get on the light rail
downtown, and 10 minutes later you’ll be at the North Park shopping
Whiting: With so many hotel improvements and openings
in the Greater Providence/Warwick area, planners will be
hard-pressed to find a meeting facility or hotel that is not
accommodating. The many options include the new 80-room Hotel
Providence, the newly renovated Westin Providence and Providence
Marriott hotels, and the expanded Crowne Plaza Hotel at the
Monahan: Hawaii is a great place to meet and do
business. We have world-class meeting and convention facilities
statewide, plus the award-winning Hawaii Convention Center in
Waikiki. Waikiki Beach has been invigorated with an impressive
beautification, while resort areas on all islands have undergone
extensive renovations and upgrades.