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Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel

PHILLIP JONES, PRESIDENT & CEO, DALLAS CVB



Lately there has been an increase in the demand for “green” meetings and hotels. The threat of global warming and increased pollution has led planners and visitors to demand that meeting space and hotels adhere to policies that are eco-friendly.

The main focus of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau is to deliver the very best service to those visiting Dallas for business and leisure.  As for the “green” issue, the Dallas Convention Center is applying for LEED certification and is investing nearly $16 million in greening its facilities.  In addition, the bureau makes a point of promoting member hotels who have eco-friendly policies in place.

Dallas is currently experiencing a Renaissance with $12 billion in new development underway in and around Downtown Dallas. Included are new residential, retail and dining opportunities in the Main Street entertainment district near the convention center, with 12 other unique neighborhoods nearby. The brand new $3 billion, 75-acre Victory Park entertainment district offers sporting events and concerts at American Airlines Center, W Dallas-Victory hotel with its ultra-hip ghostbar® overlooking the Dallas skyline from the 33rd floor, numerous restaurants and unique shopping.   In addition, we have the best shopping in the southwest and new dining options from Bice and Nobu to Stephan Pyles, N9NE and Fearing’s.  They are all part of what we like to call the “Dallas difference”.

Affordability continues to be a major asset for Dallas as a meetings destination. In addition, our central location is a plus, with non-stop service to 135 domestic and 38 international destinations from the world’s third-business airport, DFW International Airport, and additional service from Love Field.   Meeting professionals are also pleasantly surprised that Dallas offers a rich and diverse history demonstrated through our performing, visual and cultural arts; our entertainment districts; and our shopping and dining.  Examples are Deep Ellum, where the Dallas jazz scene was born in the 1920s, and the African American Museum in Fair Park, which is one of most unique museums in the Southwest.

RICHARD SCHARF, PRESIDENT & CEO, DENVER METRO CVB



The Internet is changing the way everyone does business in the travel industry.  On the convention and visitors bureau side, we will have to be leaders and experts on how we use this medium in a changing economic environment.  I also think in the near future, you will see CVBs working together for success rather than competing against each other.  We are no longer competing for visitors with the state next door, we are now competing with Italy and China and the entire world.  Travel has truly become a global industry.

I think there is more recognition from cities and government leaders that travel is a vital economic development engine.   Our budget and staff have more than doubled in the past decade, as have the number of visitors to Denver.  Today, Bureaus are assuming far more responsibilities than just booking conventions and meetings.  In Denver, we are involved with all aspects of the city’s leadership team and the entire business community in developing Denver’s brand across all markets.  The tourism industry is seen as a vital part of the city’s economic engine, not as a separate entity.  Bureaus are also assuming far more social responsibility.  We are working with the Mayor’s Commission to End Homelessness, providing scholarships for students entering the industry and involved in issues ranging from green projects to neighborhood development.   Today, we believe that a city’s brand is built from the ground up by the locals so it’s important to educate them as to how great our city is and encourage them to become ambassadors for Denver.

In the last decade, we invested more than $6 billion to improve Denver’s convention package, including building a new airport that is now the fourth busiest in the nation; expanding the Colorado Convention Center to make it the 6th biggest west of the Mississippi; adding more than 3,000 new downtown hotel rooms including a new 1,100-room Hyatt and a new Ritz-Carlton; building three new downtown sports stadiums (for a record eight professional sports teams); launching a cultural renaissance with three new art museums, new art gallery districts and a new opera house; and revitalizing downtown Denver with 12,000 new housing units and new restaurants, shopping and nightlife.  And we’re still going.  We’re currently building the largest light rail network in the nation, adding a new symphony hall and building a new Four Seasons with a W on the way.  In the past, all you needed was a convention center, some hotels and an airport.  Today, the ability to draw attendance is everything; so you need to offer everything.  You still need state-of-the-art facilities and accessibility, but they have to be in an exciting destination that is fun with great restaurants, attractions and pre and post opportunities.

We have branch offices in both Chicago and Washington D.C. and we have a convention sales manager that is dedicated to the African-American meetings market.  We have grown our budget in the past two years, which has allowed us to conduct the largest consumer tourism marketing campaign and the largest convention marketing campaign in Denver’s history.  When you look at what convention and meeting groups need – accessibility and great facilities in an exciting destination that has reasonable cost – Denver does very well.

ARNIE QUIRION, PRESIDENT & CEO, VISIT FAIRFAX



Nowadays, business and leisure travelers alike are looking for a more interactive, educational, fun and entertaining experience, as opposed to the typical “stop and stare” experience.

In order to meet the needs and desires of these travelers, Visit Fairfax has created five themed tours known as “Magical History Tours” that allows visitors and event planners a way to very quickly get to the heart of the Fairfax County/Washington capital region experiences that are most likely to appeal to them. This interactive interface on our website www.fxva.com is extremely easy to use and provides all the details visitors would need, including video of the various attractions, an itinerary with information on all the attractions, as well as directions.  The tour themes include African American Heritage Trail; Best of the Region on One Tank of Gas; From the 18th Century to Outer Space; Only in the Capital Region; and Crossroads of Conflict.

There are so many new and exciting things happening in Fairfax County and we’re really lucky to have world-class attractions like George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, and the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.  You can’t forget our other world class draw – the shopping in the Tysons Corner area.

All of these attractions have done a great job at reinventing themselves to appeal to an audience looking for experiential and interactive experiences.  The expansion at Mount Vernon is a perfect example.  They recently introduced their new education center, the Ford Orientation Center and Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center, which joins the past and the present by using contemporary technology and advanced multi-media technologies to introduce the next generation to the real George Washington with a wide range of theatrical entertainment that is both educational and fun.  Tysons Corner Center, the best shopping on the East Coast outside of NYC, also opened it’s 350,000-sq. ft. expansion featuring a 16-screen AMC megaplex with stadium seating, five restaurants, a 10-unit food court, a two-level Barnes & Noble, and 30 upscale retailers.  The Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center recently welcomed its five millionth guest.  A popular tourist destination, the museum features the Space Shuttle Enterprise as well as the opportunity to experience what it’s like in space via the space and flight simulators as well as the IMAX movie theater.

As part of our “Magical History Tours,” Visit Fairfax created an “African American Heritage Trail,” which allows visitors to explore the history and culture of our area’s African-American forefathers right from their computer at www.fxva.com.  This easy to use online resource helps visitors plan their activities while in town.  They can also watch video of each attraction plus map out driving directions, all on one easy to use website. We’re also putting together a press trip this spring for top members of the African-American press, as well as journalists who have an interest in experiential travel. The trip is designed to showcase Fairfax County during Black History Month so they can experience a behind the scenes look at the historic contributions African-Americans have made to this country.

DAVID DUBOIS, PRESIDENT & CEO, FORT WORTH CVB



Since hotel occupancies and average room rate increases are in a healthy growth mode, I am concerned that our industry may have become too rate aggressive and should continue to make sure that we have a good base of business that we have nurtured in order to be able to absorb a possible economic downturn, which is cyclical and inevitable.

It is our responsibility to generate business demand in all market segments, meetings and tourism, and let the hotels’ revenue manage this demand and maximize their occupancies and revenues. We should never assume that a hotel would accept or decline bidding on potential business because we are charged with presenting business opportunities for their consideration.

Our current inventory of hotels, downtown and in surrounding areas of the city, have spent millions of dollars on upgrading their facilities. Our convention center and arena have been expanded and upgraded and we have added, or will add by the end of 2008, over 1,300 new guest rooms, predominantly downtown, with smaller properties being built in other wonderful neighborhoods in our city. As “The City of Cowboys and Culture,” we are very proud of our western heritage and our world-class cultural offerings.

The Fort Worth CVB has had, and will continue to enjoy, an excellent working relationship with the Fort Worth Black Chamber of Commerce and with Fort Worth citizens that have leadership roles in organizations that have the ability to utilize the wonderful facilities and experiences that our city has to offer.  We will continue to invite the organizations that they participate in to consider Fort Worth for a future meeting, convention, event, reunion, trade show and family vacation.

GREG ORTALE, PRESIDENT & CEO, HOUSTON CVB



Technology and sustainable tourism are certainly the most significant developments.  There’s an emphasis on Web sites and e-marketing. Destinations are responsible for providing more than just general info.  Today’s consumer wants to know more.  What’s the local culture and character? What eco-friendly features does the city offer?  Will international visitors feel welcomed?

This spring a downtown park located in front of the GRB Houston will offer convention-goers WiFi-connection, an amphitheater and beautiful green spaces for special events as well as two signature restaurants, The Grove and The Lake House. In fall 2008 four city blocks in downtown Houston will be transformed into an entertainment hub. Houston Pavilions will provide 700,000 sq. ft. of space.  Tenants include: House of Blues, Lucky Strike, Lawry’s - The Prime Rib, Yao’s Restaurant and Red Cat Jazz Café, among others. In 2009 a new urban shopping district will open on Houston’s Westheimer Ave.  Visitors will find cafes, bistros and boutiques brimming with emerging designers.  West Ave will be a not-to-miss area.

There’s so much growth happening right now, I would suggest asking your CVB contact for the Future of Houston brochure for more information.

The industry cannot go offshore forever.   Houston has always been one of the foremost cities in terms of diversity in the U.S.  We have great cultural history, shopping, dining and nightlife.  World of mouth is the strongest form of communication, so we are letting high-profile Houstonians tell others what is great about the city.  The My Houston campaign showcases the true diversity of our city and gives visitors insight as to why the city is so special. 

STEVE GOODLING, PRESIDENT & CEO, LONG BEACH CVB


A very significant trend in our industry is the number of meeting planners who are now beginning to seek marketing assistance to make their events even more successful. 

We will provide customized direct mail pieces and customized “micro-sites,” a Web site dedicated to a group’s meeting or special event.  We also customize special marketing videos for clients, many with a welcome and introduction from our Mayor.

We will soon have three great new hotels in downtown Long Beach.  On the south side of Queensway Bay, a new Residence Inn is under construction.  On our downtown Promenade, a new upscale property, Hotel Esterel, will soon break ground.  Construction will start soon on a new AVIA boutique hotel at The Pike at Rainbow Harbor, directly across from our convention center.  The Coast Long Beach Hotel will soon go through a $15 million renovation to become the newest Joie de Vivre property.

We maintain our competitive edge by offering an outstanding product and award-winning service. The best reason to hold meetings in Long Beach is the personalized, hands-on service clients and visitors receive from the CVB and the hospitality community. In the past year, the Long Beach CVB has won six major industry awards, the most wins in the 25-year history of the Bureau.


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