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VisitPittsburgh Reports Great Year for 2011

VisitPittsburgh Reports Great Year for 2011 at Annual Meeting
New executive leadership, great results reported

PITTSBURGH - At its 2012 Annual Meeting held today at the Senator John Heinz History Center, VisitPittsburgh announced that Joe McGrath, President and CEO of the organization for 22 years, is transitioning to the role of Executive Chairman, a position that will concentrate on state, national and international tourism issues.

Craig Davis, formerly Vice President of Sales and Marketing, has been promoted to President and CEO. Mr. Davis has been with VisitPittsburgh for 11 years, first as Executive Director of Convention Sales and, most recently, as Vice President of Sales and Marketing.

In his new leadership role, Mr. McGrath will serve as a tourism industry advocate as a member of the board of directors for the U.S. Travel Association and as Chairman of the Pennsylvania Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus.

"The political climate around tourism has changed significantly in recent years," said Mr. McGrath. "We're seeing less and less tourism support from the state, while the tourism industry as an economic driver is receiving renewed interest and investment from the federal government." As a tourism industry advocate, Mr. McGrath will help move the tourism industry forward in the United States, Pennsylvania and in the Pittsburgh region, too.

Prior to joining VisitPittsburgh, Mr. Davis was Director of Marketing for the Westin William Penn Hotel, what is now the Omni William Penn. His 25 years of experience in the hospitality industry includes four years with the Toronto Hilton and Toronto Airport Hilton and three years with the Drake Hotel in Chicago. He also served as the Marketing Director at the Vista Hotel, now Westin, in Pittsburgh before being transferred to Chicago.

"I am honored to assume the role of President and CEO, and look forward to the opportunity and challenges ahead. I've learned so much from Joe McGrath over the last decade," said Mr. Davis. "His efforts have helped put Pittsburgh on the world map as one of the most desirable places to live, work and visit. We will continue to tell the story about Pittsburgh's incredible transformation to the world."

In other news, VisitPittsburgh continued fulfilling its mission to bring leisure tourists and conventions to the Pittsburgh region throughout 2011.

VisitPittsburgh announced that it booked 538 meetings and conventions for 2011 and beyond. This compares to 472 meetings and conventions booked in 2010. The team sold 243,678 room nights for future years. 2011 bookings represent an anticipated direct spending totaling $229 million. These bookings account for 202 usage days for the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

Among the major conventions and groups booked by VisitPittsburgh in 2011 are: National Catholic Educational Association - 2014 Convention & Expo (8,725 room nights); and Communications Workers of America - 2013 Annual Convention (6,675 room nights).

The 2011 "Bring It Home" campaign - which encourages local leaders of national organizations to bring meetings to the greater Pittsburgh area - continued to be successful. In 2011, 285 meetings and events were booked for future years. These bookings represent $92 million in direct spending.

Pittsburgh hotels continued to perform at an exceptionally high level. The world's foremost source of hotel performance trends, Smith Travel Research, reports that the overall occupancy rate of 68.2 percent was the highest in Pittsburgh's competitive set and significantly above the national average of 60 percent. In addition, 2011 marked the highest occupancy rate in more than 10 years. These are impressive numbers," said Mr. Davis. "And, we are proud of our strategic approach to marketing and advertising that assisted in these very positive returns."

The entire region benefited from VisitPittsburgh's aggressive public relations efforts. In 2011, VisitPittsburgh hosted 132 travel writers/broadcast media, which resulted in stories being placed in AAA World, Miami Herald, The Washington Times and American Style magazine. In 2011, the organization generated more than 1,000 story placements, resulting in $9 million in advertising equivalency value. 

On the tourism front, VisitPittsburgh continued to market Pittsburgh to Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, through six successful advertising campaigns. The efforts resulted in increased visitation from both of these key markets: as a percentage of total out-of-town visits, Cleveland visitation rose 15 percent and Columbus rose 71 percent.

VisitPittsburgh is dedicated to generating conventions, trade show and leisure travel business for the Pittsburgh region. Our mission remains intact today as the official tourism promotion agency for Allegheny County and as an independent, nonprofit organization serving its business membership.