American Heart Association (AHA) shared big news during the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau’s (PHLCVB) Annual Luncheon at the Pennsylvania Convention Center on Nov. 26.
In a room packed with nearly 1,200 hospitality professionals, AHA Director of Meetings, Office of Science Operations Jason Ware reported that AHA selected Philadelphia as the site of its 2019 annual meeting; the first time the meeting will ever be held in Philadelphia due to recent changes at the Center.
“Our decision to choose Philadelphia has been a long time in the making. The city has always had the important pieces of the puzzle needed to be a world-class convention city, and with the changes at the Convention Center under SMG, our choice was easy,” said Ware. “It was through the tenacity of the PHLCVB team, who over 10 years kept Philadelphia front-of-mind and pulled in key leaders from the Convention Center, the hotel community – even Mayor Michael Nutter – that we will be here in 2019. Great things are happening in Philadelphia and AHA is thrilled to be a part of this momentum.”
The highly coveted convention slated to take place Nov. 16-20, 2019 is expected to fill over 51,000 total hotel room nights and generate more than $67 million in economic impact for the Philadelphia region. AHA is considered to be one of the largest citywide conventions a destination can host.
By the end of 2014, the PHLCVB anticipates a 20 percent increase in new bookings as a result of the changes at the convention center.
“Over the years, our sales team has come up with huge wins for our city, but this highly sought-after piece of business is a win like no other,” said Jack Ferguson, president & CEO, PHLCVB. “The booking of AHA contributes to the more than $350 million in new business we have booked since May when the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority hired SMG to implement new work rule changes with the support of four signatory unions, and should be a clear indicator to other organizations considering Philadelphia that these changes are real.”
Greg Fox and Josh Shapiro, chairman and vice chairman of the Center’s board of directors, said AHA’s decision to select the Pennsylvania Convention Center is a testament to the success of the changes at the Center over the course of the past 12 months.
“In the past year, we have greatly transformed the image of the Philadelphia and Center in the national convention and meeting industry through the hiring of SMG and a new partnership with labor on the show floor,” said Fox.
“Our customers have taken notice of the vastly improved environment at the Center, the improved work rules, and expanded exhibitor rights and these positive changes have spread throughout the industry by word of mouth,” said Shapiro. “AHA’s selection of Philadelphia as the host of its convention is the icing on the cake of six months of increased bookings that benefit the city and the entire hospitality industry.”
The announcement capped off a high-energy event, which has become a staple on calendars of the region’s hospitality industry who’s who. The non-traditional affair, which abandoned its sit-down lunch format in 2011 in favor of a layout more conducive to networking, kicked off with welcoming remarks from Mayor Michael A. Nutter, who saluted the actions of the Convention Center Board.
“Out of all the market segments, meetings and conventions continue to be the number one driver for hotels, which is why this building must remain successful. The changes here at the Center are real and customers, and our competition, know it,” said Mayor Nutter. “Kudos to Chairman Greg Fox, First Vice Chair Josh Shapiro and the entire board and staff of the Center for making tough decisions that are clearly paying off.”
Other speakers during the brief program included Comcast Senior Vice President of Marketing Communications Peter Intermaggio, chair of the PHLCVB’s Strategic Global Marketing Committee, who congratulated the PHLCVB team for their focus on bringing people from around the world to Philadelphia for conventions, sporting events and vacations, which also positively impact’s Comcast’s ability to recruit the best and the brightest talent.
Convention Center Board Chairman Greg Fox and leaders of the four trade unions who signed the Center’s customer satisfaction agreement earlier this year were featured, and Stella Gore, a barista from the Philadelphia Sheraton Downtown, spoke on behalf of the City’s 53,000 hospitality industry workers as to why conventions and tourism matter to Philadelphians from all neighborhoods.
Attendees were also treated to a highlight reel of the PHLCVB’s major accomplishments of the past year, including the launch of the “PHL: Here For The Making” campaign in April, most recently celebrated in a 10-page editorial project by National GeographicTraveler magazine that highlights Philadelphia’s culture of makers and doers and hits newsstands on Dec. 2.
Also touted were the PHLCVB’s efforts in moving Philadelphia to the 13th most visited American city by overseas travelers in 2013, marking a 13 percent increase over the previous year, a direct result of the PHLCVB’s international consumer marketing and public relations campaign.