Industry News


Sep 4, 2014

Meet Minneapolis Makes New Appointments and Promotions

- by Andrew Rathkopf

Karen Mahoney


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

House of Representatives Votes to Extend Travel Promotion Act

- by Andrew Rathkopf

u.s. capitol buildingOn 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

Houston CVB Merges with Organization That Runs Convention Center

- by Bill Chapin

George R. Brown Convention Center, Houston

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.

May 16, 2014

Kansas City CVA Welcomes Industry Vet Ronnie Burt

- by Bill Chapin

Ronnie Burt, Kansas City CVA PresidentThe 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.


Dec 26, 2013

Traverse City CVB is now “Traverse City Tourism”

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 First CVB Outside United States to Meet ASTM Sustainability Standards

- by Bill Chapin

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.

Jul 26, 2013

San Diego Tourism Authority Lays Off 40 Percent of its Staff

- by Bill Chapin

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.

Jun 3, 2013

San Diego Tourism Authority Stays in Business

- by Bill Chapin

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.

May 31, 2013

San Diego Tourism Authority to Suspend Operations

- by Bill Chapin

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.

UPDATE: An agreement has allowed the CVB to stay in business.

Apr 2, 2013

Compromise Reached in Dispute Over San Diego Marketing Funds

- by Bill Chapin

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.

Mar 22, 2013

Judge’s Decision May Force San Diego Tourism Authority to Shut Down

- by Bill Chapin

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.

Mar 18, 2013

Visit Denver Becomes First CVB to Achieve Certification for Sustainability Practices

- by Bill Chapin

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.

Jan 4, 2013

San Diego CVB Adopts New Name

- by Bill Chapin

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, 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.

Dec 13, 2012

Visit Orlando Updates Meetings Website

- by Bill Chapin

Visit Orlando has updated its online resource for meeting planners. The overhaul of 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.

Oct 31, 2012

New Nashville CVB Website Features Online Radio Station

- by Bill Chapin

The Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau launched a redesigned website,, offering features to help visitors discover the city’s music, neighborhoods and diversity. Among the offerings is an online radio station that plays a selection of music representing the city’s local artists and the genres in which they work. Other features include a dynamic design that adjusts based on the whether the user is viewing the site from a desktop computer, tablet or smartphone; a stronger focus on neighborhoods and things to do; and a virtual bulletin board with updates, feeds from social networks and information targeted to specific types of markets, including meetings business. The CVB also is working on a section with information, images and video for meeting planners, which will be added within the next few months.

Aug 22, 2012

Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association Adopts New Name

- by Bill Chapin

Add another convert to the list of CVBs that have changed their names to Visit (your city’s name here). The Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association is now doing business as Visit Indy. The name change, as well as a refocused brand strategy that includes a new positioning statement and marketing materials, is the result of almost a year’s worth of research. The organization sought input from focus groups of leisure travelers from other Midwest cities, meeting professionals and local residents about how to better market Indianapolis as a tourism and meetings destination. One thing almost everyone could agree on: They like the city’s shortened nickname. The organization’s board is expected to formally adopt the Visit Indy name at its September board meeting.

Jun 8, 2012

Industry to Celebrate Life of Visit Orlando CEO Gary Sain

- by Bill Chapin

The U.S. Travel Association is planning a tribute to former Visit Orlando CEO and President Gary Sain, who died in May. The event is 6 p.m. June 26 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC. Tickets begin at $250, with proceeds benefitting a scholarship fund set up in Sain’s honor at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. In addition to U.S. Travel and Visit Orlando, most of the major industry associations—including the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, American Society of Association Executives, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International, Professional Convention Management Association, Destination Marketing Association International, Destination DC, Meeting Professionals International and Plastic Industry Trade Association—are pitching in as members of the events’ steering committee.

May 7, 2012

Visit Orlando CEO Gary Sain Dies

- by Bill Chapin

Visit Orlando CEO and President Gary Sain unexpectedly died on Friday night at age 61. Sain collapsed shortly after giving the opening remarks at a fundraising event he was chairing for the Boys & Girls of Club of Central Florida at the Orlando World Center Marriott. The exact cause of death has not been determined.

Sain joined Visit Orlando in 2007 after working for decades in Orlando’s hospitality industry, overseeing an effort to reorganize and rename the destination-marketing agency. Orlando leaders including Mayor Buddy Dyer said Sain deserved credit for helping Orlando reach the point that it could claim to be the most-visited city in the United States. The greater Orlando area attracted a record-breaking 51.5 million visitors in 2010, escalating an ongoing rivalry with New York City over which destination sees more annual tourists. The agency said it will begin a national search for a new leader after Sain’s funeral. Chief Operating Officer Larry Henrichs will oversee operations in the interim.

Apr 23, 2012

Group Launches First Campaign Marketing U.S. to Visitors

- by Bill Chapin

The United States now has its own theme song—more or less—composed by Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash. The song, “Land of Dreams,” is part of the first-ever comprehensive marketing campaign to promote the U.S. as a travel destination. Brand USA, a public-private partnership between the U.S. government and travel industry that Congress authorized in 2010, launched the campaign this week at the U.S. Travel Association’s annual International Pow Wow trade show in Los Angeles. Its marketing strategy will include TV, digital, print and billboard advertisements, beginning with a $12.3 million budget directed at the United Kingdom, Japan and Canada. Video-based ads feature Cash, the daughter of country legend Johnny Cash, singing her song under the Brooklyn Bridge. The song also is available as a free download.

Apr 9, 2012

Washington Tourism Group Proposes Self-Imposed Tax

- by Bill Chapin

Without a public tourism office, an alliance representing the travel industry in Washington state is stepping up to take on the business of promoting the destination to visitors. Last year Washington became the only state to close its tourism office, eliminating all $1.8 million in funding as part of wide-ranging budget cuts. The Washington Tourism Alliance, a private effort representing 425 members, was formed in response. It is now proposing what is essentially a self-imposed tax on the industry, asking the state to collect money from hotels, restaurants, rental-car agencies, retailers and attractions for a fund that the alliance would administer. The alliance intends to work with travel-industry groups to create a plan that would generate between $7.5 million and $15 million annually and present it to the legislature by next year.