100 Years of Advancing Destinations

Driving Group Room Nights with Congresses: Q&A with PHLCVB

Author: Joy Lin
Posted: November 12, 2015
Blog Topics Covered:
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Destination branding is not limited to just the leisure traveler. The impression that meeting planners have in their minds about your destination as a place to gather is equally important for DMOs who are tasked with driving group room nights each year.

DMAI sits down with Tim Haggerty, Vice President of Sales at the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB), to discuss how the organization has tapped into key pillars to mobilize local collaborators to not only build its meeting destination brand, but create measurable impact that ties back to their congresses.

1. What was the primary reason PHLCVB began to focus on congresses?

What is important to notes is that the primary goal is to tie the Congresses is to assist the PHLCVB in producing group room nights. They are not feel-good, civic organizations but serve a very well-defined purpose to serve tangible benefits to our members.

2. Who are your primary collaborators? 

PHLCVB primarily represents the hotels and venues. However, we continuously collaborate with a variety of stakeholders like city/state officials, educational institutions, hospitals, corporations, non-profits, media, collegiate and professional sports teams or venues, civic groups, as well as art institutions to fulfill our mission to the hospitality sector.  

3. Are the congresses specific to certain industries? Why and how did you select them?

We have three congresses, which are divisions of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau: PHLDiversity, PHLLife, and PHLSports. Many evolved over time from initiatives that started in the 80s and 90s. Through each congress, we bring in a variety of stakeholders to bring in the right groups and position Philadelphia in a specific niche.

4. Taking PHLDiversity as an example, can you illustrate this particular congress in action?

For PHLDiversity, we have 50 Advisors on our Board, of whom 14 are part of the Executive Committee. We expect our Advisory Board Members to support us with a variety of insider knowledge and expertise.

If we had a large African American Medical Association we would want a local person to be on our Advisory Board.  Through her civic pride she would want her association to hold their meeting in Philadelphia, and through her connections in the local community and her affiliation with the association she would work on our behalf to connect a PHLCVB sales person with the right individuals so we can get in front of them and present Philadelphia as a destination for the annual meeting.

5. Are there any early lessons learned since you started?

As I mentioned before, PHLDiversity started in 1987 as the MultiCultural Affairs Council, but its original purpose was to get make more people aware of the African American offerings that Philadelphia had for its citizens, as well as tourists or meeting attendees.

Over time, however, we have focused more on earning meeting room nights, and less on the civic pride-oriented activities. My advice to other DMOs is to focus your energy and resources towards things that help you achieve your goals, because at the end of the day, that’s what you’re being measured on.

6. Speaking of measurements, what are your measurements for success or what metrics are you comparing against?

We measure room nights that come out of each Congress on an annual basis, with specific room night goals attached to a specific sales person, or team of salespeople, supporting that congress.

Take time to chat with Tim in person at the 2015 Convention Sales Summit in Chicago this December, when he presents on PHLCVB's congresses.