Wish You Were Here
Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: January/February 2013
CVB Heads Annual Report
By: Gloria M. Herbert
The elections are behind us, and we didn’t go over the fiscal cliff, so travel/meetings/hospitality honchos can now focus on keeping our industry on the path to pre-recession levels of success and prosperity, hopefully sooner than later. As we do each year, we put several questions to some of the top CVB heads in the industry in an effort to share their knowledge with those seeking solutions to the daunting challenges faced by many destination reps and planners. Below are the three questions, followed by their answers in their own words.
  1. Brand USA is a public/private partnership signed into law by President Barack Obama as part of the Travel Promotion Act of 2010. With a $200 million annual budget, Brand USA is the nation’s first global marketing effort to promote the United States as a premier travel destination. How, if at all, has the Brand USA program impacted your efforts to promote your destination to international travelers?
  2. In addition to any involvement you have in the Brand USA program, what are some of the steps you have taken independently to attract more international travelers to your destination?
  3. What makes your destination especially attractive and cost effective for international travelers during these economically challenging times?

JAMES H. SMITHER, PRESIDENT & CEO, GREATER BIRMINGHAM CVB
The number of international visitors continues to grow each year in the Birmingham area. The Brand USA program and Travel Promotion Act likely had impact on those increasing numbers.  With the increase in international visitors to the Southern states in particular, we continue to work closely with the Alabama Tourism Department in promoting our region. The department takes an active lead in promoting travel to the state at international marketplaces throughout the year. In addition, we work through Alabama’s travel representative in the UK market, where visitor numbers are also increasing. Through close association with groups such as Travel South, we also increase our reach in Europe and other markets. Since the opening of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in 1992, visitors from Japan and Germany have more frequently added Birmingham to their travel itineraries.

Birmingham has long been one of the most affordable cities in the South. With reasonable hotel rates, a range of dining choices and many free or low-cost attractions, Birmingham’s reputation for quality vacations without the high expense has become more widely known. The city scores off the charts with visitors most notably in the realm of fine dining at moderate prices. Retail and outlet shopping around the area draws international visitors with sales and bargains. And entertainment, such as golf along the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, always surprises with high quality at low cost.



NICKI E. GROSSMAN, PRESIDENT & CEO OF THE GREATER FORT LAUDERDALE CVB
By combining efforts and participating in the Brand USA program, Greater Fort Lauderdale is able to have a larger voice and a greater presence to compete in the global marketplace.  Greater Fort Lauderdale’s tourism sales department attends international trade shows including World Travel Market in London, ITB in Berlin, POW WOW, La Cumbre, ANATO, and ABAV, to name a few, as well as sales missions and media missions around the globe. In addition, the GFLCVB actively works with VISIT FLORIDA to attend state sponsored events, and has a presence in key markets with sales offices representing the destination in the UK, Germany, Colombia, Argentina, Scandinavia and soon Brazil.

Greater Fort Lauderdale offers a great value to international travelers including top shopping at Sawgrass Mills, the largest designer outlet mall in the country, value-added programs and deals, especially during the summer and fall months when family travel is at its peak.



WILLIAM D. TALBERT, III, CDMA, PRESIDENT & CEO, GREATER MIAMI CVB
Travel & Tourism is Greater Miami’s #1 industry and the top generator of jobs for our community. More than 97% of all visitors to Greater Miami and the Beaches arrive by air, and more than 48% of overnight visitors to Greater Miami and the Beaches are international, the highest percentage of any destination in the U.S. The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB) was an early investor in the highly anticipated 2011 launch of Brand USA, a public private partnership with the mission of promoting increased international travel to the United States at no cost to U.S. taxpayers. As the #2 port of entry into the U.S., Greater Miami is well-positioned to benefit from the Brand USA initiative.

Additionally, as a U.S. Travel Association (USTA) Board Member and Chair of the USTA Brazil Committee, I’m actively engaged in efforts to secure Visa Waiver status for countries such as Brazil, Argentina and Chile, while encouraging efforts to reduce Visa wait times. Significant progress was made in Brazil this past year with Visa wait times for a 3-minute interview reduced from a high of more than 100 days to just 2 days. We thank the administration for that.

With Visit Florida’s expanded resources, the GMCVB plans on leveraging fully from additional marketing programs and opportunities to continue to showcase the Miami destination. It’s a top priority for the GMCVB to work with our local, state and national government and industry partners to grow the Travel and Tourism industry for our community. More visitors generate more jobs, which ultimately contributes to the economic wellbeing of our destination.



JACK FERGUSON, PRESIDENT & CEO, PHILADELPHIA CVB
As a Brand USA partner, the Philadelphia region has and will continue to be a part of the USA destination sell throughout the world. The Brand USA program has reinforced our own marketing efforts to promote Philadelphia globally.

The results of the PCVB’s five-year marketing strategy (begun in 2009 when the U.S. saw a decline in overall international visitation) are starting to show, with hotel visitation increasing in international length of stay from our top performing markets. Of our top 10 markets, three now include emerging markets where we have channeled our sales and marketing efforts over the last two to three years: China, Brazil and India. The United Kingdom, Germany and France continue to be our stable markets and now Israel is within the top ten. All four countries’ visitation to Philadelphia is due in large part to consumer marketing and year-round direct flights from Europe, which impact Philadelphia’s top feeder markets and emerging markets.

Highly rated for its retail experience, Philadelphia offers tax-free shopping throughout the City. The BYOB (bring your own bottle) dining experience is a Philadelphia treasure, and allows patrons to bring their own bottle of wine, making high dining an economical pleasure.

With more than 3,500 murals, sculptures and mosaics integrated into the City landscape, public art is a way of life in Philadelphia that allows international travelers to enjoy the City at no cost.



DAVID WHITAKER, PRESIDENT & CEO, TOURISM TORONTO
While Brand USA’s focus is appropriately the great destination options available in the 50 States – there is a positive impact anticipated of strengthening the awareness of all of North America to international travelers. This is increasingly important as travelers now have a myriad of choices to travel just about anywhere in the world and the newest and latest exotic or undiscovered destination brings new competition to well-established brands such as the United States or Canada. Specifically here in Toronto – there are already a number of travel operators who package Toronto as a multi-city destination with our great neighbors in New York City and Chicago as an example not to mention our own packaging efforts with Niagara Falls and our Niagara wine region right here on the border with Ontario and the United States.

Speaking of International Travelers – we first start with our friends in the United States who often are looking to organize and host their first International Meeting in Canada – and Toronto is often the logical and practical first choice. What transcends logic and practical is the amazing fact that per our last census, 50% of Toronto’s residents were not born in Canada – an amazing statistic making Toronto one of the most cosmopolitan and diverse cities in North America if not the world. So travelers, meeting organizers, delegates and sponsors can easily tap into an amazing resource of global content, global experiences and global attendees all in the sophistication of one of North America’s largest cities – and better yet, accessible 90 minutes or less by air or car to over 70% of the population centers of the United States. And the word is spreading, that’s why in the last two years Toronto has added the highest percentage of new hotel builds and room inventory in North America bringing on line some of the biggest names on the international stage including a new Thompson Hotel, LeGermain, Ritz Carlton, Trump International and just last month – a newly opened Shangri-La Hotel Toronto and Four Seasons. Great International destinations attract great international hotel brands joining an impressive list of convention and lifestyle hotels we’ve been famous for.

It gives folks the convenience and opportunity of experiencing the world – while experiencing the best of Canadian and Toronto’s famous hospitality.



JAMES B. RICKETTS, PRESIDENT & CEO, VIRGINIA BEACH CVB
With the advent of Brand USA’s new advertising program, the Virginia Beach CVB has embarked on an aggressive international marketing campaign for current markets and emerging markets. First, we are continuing our presence in French-speaking Canada with a contracted office in the market. In addition, we advertise aggressively in the Canadian market for year-round business.

In Europe we just signed an agreement for a European director who will be responsible for sales in Belgium, France and Germany, thus solidifying our position in these mature markets. Third, we are making inroads into the Brazil and China markets through relationships with the U. S. Travel Association and their China tourism outreach strategy, and the Capitol Region USA, a regional international marketing consortium comprised of the states of Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. We have participated in sales missions to both countries and will do so again in 2013.  We also are working with Brand USA by participating in their cooperative marketing programs to leverage our marketing dollars against the Brand USA opportunities.

Virginia Beach is attractive to the second and third time international traveler to the east coast because those travelers are looking for the “authentic” America. They have seen the big cities and now desire to drill deeply into the real America. Virginia Beach is working with international tour operators, tour wholesalers and travel agents to provide attractive rates for their tour packages, which are predominately “Fly-Drive” independent travel offerings as opposed to group travel experiences. Even the upper scale Chinese travelers are now seeking more independent experiences rather than group travel. Even though Virginia Beach is Virginia’s most populous city, we offer small town rates and a wide variety of experiences desired by the repeat international traveler.




ELLIOTT FERGUSON, PRESIDENT & CEO, DESTINATION DC
Destination DC has used Brand USA’s dollar for dollar matching program in conjunction with promotions in France and Australia. In addition, we partnered with Brand USA on tour operator promotions for Italy and Ireland, which featured small in-kind sponsorships. Currently, we are working with them on our 2013 programs to include support for our familiarization tours for tour operators and travel agents and international sales missions.

Along with Maryland, Virginia and Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) Destination DC is an equal funding partner for Capital Region USA (CRUSA), an organization that promotes the capital region internationally through representation in top visitor markets including the UK, France, Germany, Brazil and China. Destination DC also works with MWAA to explore visitor opportunities in emerging markets where airlines are creating or increasing direct air service into Dulles International Airport. Our sales team is also working to attract international conventions and meetings to the nation’s capital. We’ve teamed with the City of Brussels, the European capital city, to showcase the benefits of meeting in a capital city with the number of associations and members living locally who can help support international meetings in the District.

There is no better deal than free, and Washington, DC offers a variety of free experiences that no other destination can match. Highlights include many of DC’s greatest attractions, including 15 Smithsonian Institution museums and the National Zoo, among many other options. During the time of year that many international visitors tend to travel, during our summer and winter seasons, it is often the best time of year to find deals at Washington, DC area hotels. More information about hotel deals and free experiences can be found at Washington.org.
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