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Help bring tourists, meetings to our area

In my first year as president and CEO of VisitRochester, I’ve come to realize that many people may not know exactly what VisitRochester is or does. While we are the tourism promotion agency for Monroe County, what does that mean?
VisitRochester is a sales and marketing organization. Our job is to market our community and the region as a destination for meetings and conventions and for leisure travel. Our efforts are to continually grow and maximize visitor spending as a leading contributor to our economy. The latest numbers for 2012 (produced by Tourism Economics for the state Division of Economic Development) indicate visitors had an economic impact of nearly $1 billion in Monroe County and more than $2.8 billion in the Finger Lakes region.
First and foremost, our job is, in industry jargon, to "get heads in beds." There are more than 7,000 hotel, motel or B&B rooms in Monroe County, and it’s our job to help fill those rooms with meeting and convention attendees and leisure travelers. Here’s how we do it:
The VisitRochester convention sales division makes contact with organizations and individuals throughout the United States who can choose Monroe County as a site for meetings and conventions. Our team develops programs that project a positive image of the area and works to familiarize meeting planners with Greater Rochester’s features and benefits that support a site choice for conventions, meetings, trade shows and events.
Sales programs include personal sales, trade show exhibitions, direct marketing, familiarization tours, sales missions and collaborative promotions with Greater Rochester’s hospitality industry. The department routinely evaluates Greater Rochester’s resources versus competitive destinations and uses the information to strengthen the local product and enhance bid proposals for group business.
An integral component of successful convention marketing is the endorsement of local and regional residents who are members of or affiliated with targeted organizations. The sales and marketing process depends on local individuals in a way that cultivates their support of a bid for Monroe County to be a meeting site for a specific organization.
That’s where you come in. Now more than ever, meeting planners look for the "local connection" to a city bidding on business. That means VisitRochester needs your connections with business or other groups that could hold board meetings or regional, state or national meetings in Rochester.
Our new initiative called the Rochester Ambassadors program enables you to do just that. VisitRochester created the program to invite civic and business leaders, college faculty, medical and research personnel-really, anyone with the ability to influence the decisions of meeting planners-to be an ambassador. We’re not asking for much of your time, just enough to help invite your organization or group to meet in Rochester.
We are grateful to the many local ambassadors who have already worked with VisitRochester to bring their groups to the area. For example, Eastman School of Music faculty members were instrumental in bringing the International Society of Bassists to Rochester this year. And the facilities management teams from the University of Rochester and SUNY College at Geneseo worked closely with our sales team to bring in the Eastern region of APPA (formerly the Association of Physical Plant Administrators), a group that assists facilities officers and physical plant administrators at colleges, universities and other educational institutions. I can cite countless more examples in any number of fields.
Each delegate attending a meeting or convention in Rochester will spend approximately $700 here. Besides hotels and meals, they spend money on entertainment, transportation and attractions. Visitors’ economic impact includes $69.5 million in local and $52.7 million in state taxes.
In attracting leisure travelers, VisitRochester most often partners with its member organizations as well as surrounding tourism promotion agencies. These cooperative efforts give the entire region the ability to extend resources. For example, VisitRochester and 24 partners (hotels, attractions and tourism promotion agencies) have just launched "A Welcome Surprise," a print and radio campaign targeting our Canadian neighbors. Included in the campaign is a one-hour radio show with various guests talking about what a visitor might see or do in the area. It airs each Sunday on CHML in Hamilton, Ontario.
VisitRochester is working hard to promote our area, and we want your help. Take another look around and become part of our ambassador team.
Don Jeffries is president and CEO of VisitRochester.

10/11/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.




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