Dec 22, 2014
Last week, Las Vegas reached a historic milestone, exceeding 40 million annual visitors for the very first time. This is the capstone to ten consecutive months of tourism growth, with many of those months being the best on record, and with two weeks left in the year Las Vegas could very well hit 41 million by 2015. The previous record, set in 2012, was 39,737,000.
“Las Vegas couldn’t have reached this milestone without the continued investments of our resort partners, and the more than 40 million people who came to experience all the destination has to offer,” said Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “Ongoing developments in the destination, including new, renovated and rebranded resort properties, exciting new attractions, world-class entertainment, incredible culinary offerings and more are what keep first-time visitors and loyalists returning to Las Vegas time and time again."
Entertainment is a huge reason attendees love Vegas (check out our story here), but trade show attendees represent about 13 percent of all visitors to the region, or approximately 5.1 million business travelers per year. In fact, in 2014, Las Vegas was named the No. 1 trade show destination for the 20th consecutive year by the Trade Show News Network, with three of the country’s largest convention centers: Las Vegas Convention Center, the Mandalay Bay Convention Center and the Sands EXPO and Convention Center. The city hosted 53 of the nation’s largest 250 trade shows, including International CES, CONEXPO-CON/AGG and IMEX America, and 70 trade shows were held in Vegas for the first time, including the American Library Association’s annual conference and the American Wind Energy Association’s Windpower and Solar Power International.
“"We are always seeking new business," said Chris Meyer, vice president of global business sales for the LVCVA. "Las Vegas has been the No. 1 trade show destination in North America for 19 consecutive years. We offer an array of unique resorts, world-class entertainment, unmatched customer service and the equivalent of 185 football fields of meeting and exhibit space in one convenient destination. The combination provides groups the opportunity to conduct serious business but also balance it with interesting team-building or networking activities."
Trade shows also a major role in the Las Vegas economy, employing approximately 58,000 people and generating $6.8 billion in revenue annually. Tourism in general supports more than 376,000 jobs and generates $45 billion.
Oct 10, 2014
Out RVA letter writing campaign
In honor of National Coming Out Day, celebrated annually on Oct. 11 since 1988, the city of Richmond, Virginia, is officially coming out. Although the onetime Capital of the Confederacy has quietly been a center for all things LGBT for years, Virginia’s capital city decided it was time to confirm its gay-friendly status with a new advertising campaign (see photo).
Even Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has come out in support of LGBT interests, issuing an official proclamation recognizing National Coming Out Day. The Proclamation states: “Virginia is committed to being inclusive, priding itself as diverse, accepting, and supportive of all individuals, families, and communities.” The full contents of the proclamation can be viewed here.
Earlier this week, Virginia ushered in a new era of marriage equality following the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear appeals against lower court rulings that upheld the right of gay men and lesbians to marry.
Give Richmond props for preparing for this historic day: Just last month, Richmond Region Tourism launched a campaign entitled “Out RVA” to show people the city’s strong LGBT community and highlight the area as a travel destination for LGBT travelers. The campaign includes advertising in LGBT publications and coming out letters from Richmond.
“For many LGBT people, coming out letters are the way they communicate their identity to friends and loved ones,” said Katherine O’Donnell, vice president of community relations for Richmond Region Tourism. “We thought coming out letters would be a great way for us, as a destination, to share that Richmond is a welcoming place for LGBT travelers. Learning that Richmond is a LGBT-friendly destination might be a surprise. The letters offer a personal and powerful way for the Richmond area to communicate this.”
The campaign started locally with “Out” stickers that were distributed to local restaurants and businesses. The stickers can be seen on storefronts, cars, food trucks and more. The campaign includes the RichmondisOut.com website.
“The Richmond Region has so much to offer–arts and culture, history, our nationally acclaimed food and craft beer, outdoor recreation and the James River,” said Kevin Clay, Richmond Region LGBT advisory committee member. “We want travelers to know that Richmond is LGBT-friendly.”
Richmond Region Tourism is one of 24 U.S. destination marketing organizations recommended by the Gay and Lesbian Convention Visitors Bureau.
Oct 3, 2014
Ronnie Burt of Visit KC and Jay Burress of Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau
It’s done all the time between mayors from cities of opposing playoff teams, and this year, the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau (AOCVCB) and Visit KC presidents are getting in on the action.
Jay Burress, president and CEO, of AOCVCB and Ronnie Burt, president and CEO of Visit KC, are coming out in full support of their home-town baseball teams currently participating in the American League Division Series. The bet on the table includes the losing president wearing the opposing team’s jersey and riding his local theme park’s largest roller coaster as many times in a row as home runs hit by the opposing team throughout the series.
Based on opening night results on Thursday at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California, home runs will definitely be a factor in the wager. The Kansas City Royals edged the Los Angeles Angels 3-2. BUT, the Angels got two homers, while the Royals had one.
“We’ve got a lot of home-town pride here in Anaheim and are excited to rally behind our Angels,” Burress said. “I know I’m not going to lose this bet and have no intention of facing my fear of roller coasters. The Angels will be the true winners in this ALDS battle. Plus I’ve never looked good in ‘Royal’ blue.”
Burt has other ideas: “It’s been 29 years since Kansas City last appeared in the playoffs, and the City of Fountains couldn’t be more proud of our boys in blue. I hope Jay has rested and hydrated up, because he has a long day of thrills ahead of himself. Kidding aside, we wish both teams good luck and look forward to an exciting series of great baseball.”
Game Two of the five-game series takes place tonight in Anaheim.
Smart Meetings features selfies of both Burress and Burt in our October CVB special report. To see their pics and many others, click here.
Sep 29, 2014
Milton Segarra, president and CEO of Meet Puerto Rico
Meet Puerto Rico and the Ricky Martin Foundation (RMF) are working together to fight human trafficking, including educating the local tourism industry on this social issue and its potential impact on the destination’s image.
“Human trafficking is a serious issue and so we have established this partnership with the Ricky Martin Foundation, to educate and provide the industry with the necessary knowledge and tools to identify and respond appropriately to possible cases of human trafficking,” said Milton Segarra, president and CEO of Meet Puerto Rico. “We had an excellent response from the industry for this initiative, which not only helped to promote the destination, but also raised a significant amount of money to benefit the Ricky Martin Foundation. The tourism industry has a high sense of social responsibility and this proves it," he concluded.
During a recent event involving 25 Puerto Rico hotels, Meet Puerto Rico raised $46,469.25 to donate to RMF. Dr. Cesar Rey, a board member of RMF, reports that because of the closures of many San Juan nightclubs, prostitution has moved to alternate locations including hotels, creating a system of sophisticated sex tourism.
The hotels that participated in the event included Caribe Hilton, Courtyard by Marriott San Juan Miramar Courtyard by Marriott Isla Verde Beach Resort, Dorado Beach-A Ritz Carlton Reserve, El Conquistador-A Waldorf Astoria Resort, El San Juan Resort & Casino, Embassy Suites San Juan Hotel & Casino, Gran Melia Puerto Rico Golf Resort, Hilton Ponce Golf & Casino Resort, Holiday Inn Express San Juan, Hotel El Convento, Hyatt Place Bayamon, Intercontinental San Juan Resort Spa & Casino, La Concha A Renaissance Resort, Radisson Ambassador Plaza, Rincon Beach Resort, The Ritz Carlton San Juan, San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, Sheraton Old San Juan Hotel & Casino Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino, St. Regis Bahia Beach, Condado Plaza The Hilton, Verdanza Hotel, W Retreat & Spa Vieques and Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa.
RMF is an advocate for children around the globe, focusing on improved education, health and social justice. Their main program, People for Children, condemns child exploitation as a result of trafficking, including child labor, sexual and labor exploitation, prostitution, pornography, drug trafficking and modern slavery.
Sep 26, 2014
A rendering of Visit KC's new offices. Courtesy Visit KC
Earlier this week, the former Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association rebranded itself as Visit KC, and said it will move its offices downtown adjacent to the Hilton President hotel.
The snappy new name and new neighborhood are part of a multi-year strategy to move the organization to more of a public-facing entity.
The Kansas City Star notes that more than 50 city convention and visitors associations "have adopted simpler names that are thought to be easier to say and understand, including Visit Orlando, Visit Denver and Visit Seattle."
Visit KC promotes and supports the local convention and tourism industry, which generates $4.6 billion annually in economic impact. More than 22 million people visit Kansas City each year; the Visit KC team helped execute more than 200 conventions in last year alone.
Its new offices will be in the Kansas City Power & Light District in early 2015.
"Visit KC’s new home in the Power & Light District will be an open, inviting space in the heart of the city’s convention district,” said Ronnie Burt, Visit KC President & CEO, in a press release. “With this new location, we have an exciting opportunity to elevate Visit KC’s presence in the community and increase interactions with visitors, stakeholders, clients and partners.”
Slated to open in early 2015, the lobby of Visit KC’s new offices will include a full-service visitor information center. Visit KC currently has a staff of 40.
Sep 22, 2014
Detroit Riverfront by Ian Freimuth, courtesy of flickr.com
Today, Travel Weekly announced that the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau (DMCVB) was the winner of the 2014 Gold Magellan Award for its “Comeback City” advertising campaign. The lauded campaign utilized multiple mediums, including print, video and face-to-face events such as trade shows, and was responsible for nearly doubling bookings for meetings and increasing hotel room occupancies by 47 percent from 2013 during its 10 month run.
"We are honored to have received the gold Magellan Award for our advertising campaign," said Larry Alexander, DMCVB president and CEO. "We take great pride in our comeback city story as it grew organically from what others were saying about our city."
The DMCVB took the award for the United States/Canada - Overall Destinations – City, category. prnewswire.com
Sep 4, 2014
Sales Business Development Manager Karen Mahoney
Meet Minneapolis Convention and Visitors Association has appointed Karen Mahoney as the new destination sales business development manager. She brings 25 years of travel and hospitality industry experience and a strong sales background to the role, having previously served as group sales representative for the Mall of America. Before that, she worked as meetings, events and conference manager for Cygnus Business Media.
In other moves announced by Meet Minneapolis, Stephanie Grimaldi has been promoted to manager of East Coast national accounts and will oversee all teams responsible for those accounts. She joined Meet Minneapolis in 1998 and has 25 years of industry experience.
Nathan Hermiston has been appointed director of destination sales, responsible for all non-East Coast accounts. He joined Meet Minneapolis in 2010 as a national account executive and has been instrumental in many sales successes, including the Meeting Professional International World Education Congress Aug. 2-5.
Jul 23, 2014
On Tuesday, the House voted to pass the Travel Promotion, Enhancement and Modernization Act of 2014. The bill is an extension of an act originally passed in 2009 that funds the public-private company responsible for Brand USA, which is essentially a convention and visitors bureau for the entire United States. The vote passed 347 to 57, with 28 abstentions. All negative votes were cast by Republicans.
Funding for Brand USA comes from contributions from the travel industry, plus up to $100 million in matching federal funds. A recent study by the Congressional Budget Office estimated that by continuing Brand USA’s funding, the increase in international tourism and foreign visitor spending could reduce the national deficit by more than $231 million over the next 10 years.
The Senate still needs to pass its version of the bill, which cleared the Senate Commerce Committee today.
The Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and U.S. Travel Association have both urged their members to contact their elected representatives and state their support for the act. Brand USA plays a "crucial role in keeping hotel rooms full, supporting jobs in the hospitality industry and solidifying the country’s reputation as a must-visit destination for international leisure travelers and conference attendees," PCMA President and CEO Deborah Sexton wrote in an email on Monday. "No matter what role you serve in the meetings industry, H.R. 4450 is on your side."
The full Senate could vote on the bill as early as next week. For further information on the Travel Promotion Act’s path through the legislative process, please refer to this helpful video:
Jun 25, 2014
George R. Brown Convention Center, Houston
As of July 1, the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau and the government corporation that runs the George R. Brown Convention Center will be one and the same. A proposed merger of the CVB and Houston First Corp.—which also operates the Hilton Americas–Houston adjacent to the convention center, as well as the Wortham Theater Center, Jesse H. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts and Miller Outdoor Theatre—has been approved by both organization’s boards and the CVB’s executive committee. The CVB’s staff will become employees of the venue operator, with no plans for any layoffs. The CVB will also maintain its own board of directors and executive committee. In addition, CVB President Greg Ortale plans to step down on July 31; CVB board chairwoman Sonia Garza-Monarchi will assume his duties while a search committee looks for a replacement. The merger is intended to ensure that efforts to bring conventions to Houston are represented by a single voice. bizjournals.com
May 16, 2014
The Kansas City Convention and Visitors Association has tapped Ronnie Burt to serve as the organization’s new president and CEO. Burt is currently vice president of sales and services for Destination DC in Washington, D.C. During his 23-year career, he also served in sales positions at the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority in New Jersey and Baltimore Area Convention & Visitors Association. He is active in several professional associations and currently serves on the programming committee for the Professional Convention Management Association’s annual Convening Leaders meeting and Destination Marketing Association International’s sales and marketing committee. In his new position in Kansas City, he will oversee the CVA’s 40-person staff and $10 million budget devoted to attracting visitors to the region. informz.net
Dec 26, 2013
As Traverse City’s tourism economy continues to show strong growth, the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau has changed its name to Traverse City Tourism – a recognition of its ongoing commitment to that industry and its role as a valuable economic, cultural, social and environmental force for the community and its residents.
“We are very pleased with the continued progress our organization is making in building Traverse City’s destination brand awareness,” said Brad Van Dommelen, President and CEO of Traverse City Tourism. “We’ve experienced significant growth in our tourism volume, including from more distant markets, as consumers learn about our destination attributes.”
According to a new study conducted by Anderson Economic Group of East Lansing, tourism generated over 3.3 million visitor trips to Traverse City in 2012, producing nearly $1.2 billion in direct spending and supporting (directly and indirectly) more than 12,000 jobs across the Traverse City area – about 30 percent of all employment in the region. Those figures reflect a growth rate of some 4.5 percent per year in the economic contribution made by Traverse City’s tourism economy since 2006, when a similar study showed a total economic impact of $937 million.
Oct 22, 2013
Tourism Toronto is the first CVB outside the United States to be certified by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) for adhering to high standards for sustainable meetings, trade shows and conferences. The certification means that planners who work with Tourism Toronto to organize a meeting will be able to say the destination-selection process met Level 1 requirements as part of the APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meeting Standards, a set of guidelines developed by ASTM and the Convention Industry Council. The recognition is given to destinations that meet guidelines in such areas as waste management, energy, air quality and water usage. Earlier this year, Visit Denver became the first CVB in the world to meet the APEX/ASTM destination standards, one of nine documents covering various aspects of planning an environmentally sustainable event. seetorontonow.com
Jul 26, 2013
Continuing uncertainty over its funding is once again forcing the San Diego Tourism Authority to issue layoff notices. Unlike the last time the crisis over the city’s tourism-promotion budget reared its head, the CVB is planning to keep its doors open, but with just 60 percent of its regular staff. Starting Tuesday, 31 of the CVB’s 79 employees will not be reporting for work—unless, of course, the city government and hoteliers can manage to overcome their differences with another last-minute agreement to keep funds flowing.
To recap: For most of this year, the CVB has been caught in the center of a dispute between the city’s hotel industry and Mayor Bob Filner (who, incidentally, announced today that he is taking a leave to seek treatment in the face of a widening sexual-harassment scandal). The vast majority of the CVB’s funding comes from a 2 percent surcharge on hotel rooms. The city collects the money, but it is administered by the San Diego Tourism Marketing District (TMD), a private, nonprofit board appointed by the hoteliers. After months of Filner refusing to release money to the TMD, the two sides reached a compromise in April.
Part of that agreement involved pending lawsuits that challenge the legality of the 2 percent room tax, which was approved last year by the hoteliers. The plaintiffs say the tax should have been put to a public vote and the money collected so far should be returned. One of the conditions of the compromise calls for hotel owners to sign waivers and indemnification agreements that would keep the city from being on the hook for millions of dollars in the event that the tax is overturned. So far, however, the TMD has received only 34 out of more than 200 waivers. The city is only releasing as much money as is covered by the signed waivers, about 16 percent of the $28.5 million the tax is expected to take in during the 2013–2014 fiscal year. As a result, the CVB is looking at a budget of less than $5 million compared to $30 million last year.
The TMD is trying to get the remaining two lawsuits dismissed, but one of them does not have a hearing scheduled until October. In the meantime, in addition to the layoffs, the CVB is cutting compensation by 20 percent for CEO Joe Terzi and four other senior employees. The organization will not be able to afford any TV or online advertising. The cuts will not affect long-term bookings for the San Diego Convention Center, which the CVB handles under a separate funding agreement with the city. utsandiego.com
Jun 3, 2013
The San Diego Tourism Authority was able to avoid closing down after a last-minute agreement ended the latest dispute over the city’s marketing funds. Late Friday, Mayor Bob Filner agreed to release about $6 million generated so far this year by a 2 percent tax on hotel rooms, which is the source for most of the CVB’s budget. Filner has been in an ongoing feud with the San Diego Tourism Marketing District (TMD), a board of hoteliers which has authority to distribute the funds. The latest squabble was over funding for an event celebrating Balboa Park’s centennial in 2015. Filner agreed to unfreeze the marketing funds only after the TMD voted to grant about $500,000 to organizers of the celebration, meeting the terms of an earlier agreement. The CVB had said it would be forced to shut down today unless the two sides worked out a compromise. utsandiego.com
May 31, 2013
As of Monday, the eighth largest city in the United States will no longer have a CVB. The San Diego Tourism Authority is closing its doors Monday because it has run out of money, CEO Joe Terzi says. For several months, the organization’s funding has been at the center of a dispute between San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and the city’s hotel industry. In April, the two sides announced they had reached a compromise, but it turns out they may not have worked out 100 percent of the details.
About 80 percent of the CVB’s funding comes from a 2 percent tax on hotel guest rooms that the city collects and is administered by the San Diego Tourism Marketing District (TMD), a nonprofit board appointed by hoteliers. Filner has continued to withhold millions of dollars raised by the tax because he says the TMD is not holding up its end of the deal reached last month. One of the concessions the mayor insisted on during negotiations was that the TMD direct a portion of the money to a centennial celebration of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, due to take place in Balboa Park, but the two sides have continued to squabble over how to prioritize funding and how much money event organizers are due. Filner insists that 5 percent of the $6 million, or $300,000, that the city is prepared to release to the TMD should go directly to the event. The TMD, on the other hand, says that revenue from the hotel fees is not meeting forecasts, so it won’t have enough money to give that amount to the event.
The closure will not affect the tourism authority’s 12 employees who handle sales and marketing efforts for the San Diego Convention Center, which is funded under a different agreement. There is still a chance that the TMD will meet the mayor’s demands at its board meeting today and that the funds will be released in time to keep the CVB open. utsandiego.com
Apr 2, 2013
San Diego leaders reached an agreement last week that will restore funding to the San Diego Tourism Authority, allowing the CVB to avoid a looming shutdown and mass layoffs. San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and the city’s Tourism Marketing District (TMD)—a private, nonprofit board appointed by city hoteliers and responsible for most of the CVB’s funding—had been deadlocked over the $30 million generated annually by a 2 percent tax on hotel guest rooms. After a judge upheld Filner’s ability to withhold the money, a veto-proof majority on the city council approved a new measure intended to force Filner to agree to the original funding deal passed back in November.
In the end, the two sides compromised, with the TMD agreeing to new rules governing its use of funds and Filner backing off some of his demands. The mayor had been seeking a salary cap that would have limited pay for CVB officials, but he settled for more transparency in reporting salaries. The council will set a hearing to study wages for hotel employees, which Filner had sought to boost. The TMD agreed to put about $6 million toward an upcoming centennial celebration in Balboa Park. Finally, the city’s largest hotels agreed to cover the expense of refunding hotel guests if lawsuits that seek to overturn the room tax are successful. utsandiego.com
Mar 22, 2013
A San Diego judge has sided with Mayor Bob Filner in a dispute over $30 million in tourism marketing funds, throwing the future of the San Diego Tourism Authority into question. The newly elected Democratic mayor has withheld his signature from an agreement the City Council approved in November. The five-year plan gives funds raised by city’s 2 percent hotel room tax to the San Diego Tourism Marketing District (TMD), a private, nonprofit board appointed by city hoteliers. The TMD in turn is responsible for 80 percent of the CVB’s budget. With its funding in question, the CVB has canceled a $5 million advertising campaign and issued layoff notices to 85 employees. That’s almost the entire staff—everyone except for 15 salespeople who book major events at the San Diego Convention Center. Their funding is covered under a separate agreement worked out last year (although Filner also wants to reverse that decision, too).
The Tourism Marketing District filed a lawsuit to force Filner to release the funds, but Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor’s preliminary ruling says the mayor doesn’t have to sign the agreement. The ruling hinged on one tiny word: The council’s resolution authorizes the mayor to enter into “an agreement,” not “the agreement.” Filner doesn’t like the terms of the deal and has offered a counterproposal that calls for salary caps and more protection for hotel workers, which the TMD rejected earlier this week. The City Council plans to pass a new motion on Tuesday, although Filner could veto it. The TMD also may appeal the judge’s ruling, though that process could take months. In the meantime, unless a compromise is worked out, the CVB says it will have to shut down in May. utsandeigo.com
Mar 18, 2013
Visit Denver is the first CVB in the world to be certified as meeting standards for destination selection outlined in the APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meeting Standards. Developed by the Convention Industry Council (CIC) and ASTM International—a standards organization formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials—the APEX standards were released last year as a set of documents designed to promote responsible, environmental and social practices in the meetings industry. The Green Meetings Industry Council is now developing certifications for event suppliers based on the standards, which cover nine sectors in the industry, from accommodations to transportation. Taken together, they are designed to cover the environmental impact related to all aspects of planning an event, including the sustainability practices of organizations that assist in the destination-selection process, such as CVBs. The standard outlines specific, voluntary criteria in such categories as energy, air quality and water. denver.org
Jan 4, 2013
The San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau is the latest CVB to change its name to one that doesn’t include the initials CVB. On Tuesday, the organization officially became the San Diego Tourism Authority. The change will not affect the private, nonprofit corporation’s website, sandiego.org. In addition to marketing the greater San Diego area as a destination for meetings and tourism, the authority also took charge of sales and marketing for the San Diego Convention Center last year. In addition to its headquarters in San Diego, it also has satellite sales offices in the Washington, DC, area and Chicago. sandiego.org
Dec 13, 2012
Visit Orlando has updated its online resource for meeting planners. The overhaul of orlandomeeting.com included changes to the site’s visuals, structure and navigation, intended to make it a more effective, easier-to-use tool for professionals looking to research, book and plan events in the Orlando area. The site includes news on venues and attractions, hotel listings, RFP submission forms and other planning tools. visitorlando.com