Friday, December 19, 2008

Pros marvel at convention center sales competence

Shortly after the end of the Convention Center Marketing Committee meeting while awaiting the start of the monthly full Authority Board meeting, two veteran hotel and commercial real estate executives chatted in the corridor about how impressed they were with the performance of the Convention Center project sales and marketing staff.

When Josh Nowak, Director of Sales & Marketing, announced there had 158 tours of the incomplete facility and outside sales calls and 687 phone solicitation in the month of November, at least the response of one of the pros was skepticism about the quality of the phone solicitations.

But Manager Mark Moosic and Nowak explained that these calls were substantiated by detailed reports with data being entered into the computer systems. Only discussions with qualified individuals made up the 687 phone solicitation figure.

(When interviewed by NewsLanc later, Moosic explained that Interstate Hotels & Resorts believes that "What gets measured, get’s done." He added they hold sales meetings at 8:30 AM and again at 5:00 PM each work days in order to plan ahead and keep spirits high.)

Monica Thomas, Director of Meeting & Convention Sales of the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention & Visitors Bureau, also made an impressive presentation establishing the close working relationship between the two organizations.

Thomas also mentioned a major sales success in attracting a volley ball tournament to Lancaster County that will take place over three days and generate an estimated 1700 room nights.

Moosic indicated that February through April are the critical months for booking trade and consumer shows for fiscal year 2010 which commences in April, 2009. The target for bookings by April, 2009, is $302,950. If that is achieved, he anticipates another $109,000 by end of year for a total of $403,850 of rental revenue for the first year. The figure is based upon an estimate that 75% of total rental sales for the year should be on the books by the opening date.

Convention Center Executive Director Kevin Molloy suggested, from his experience, that sales during the remaining months are likely to be greater than the standard 25%for the first year of a convention center’s operations.

Nowak reported that now that the interior of the convention center is coming together, visitors are impressed with its features and potential.

Moosic stated that 62% of the business written to date had not previously come to the area.

Nowak reported that consumer shows were very interested, but it is a matter of "hurry up and wait." Apparently due to the harsh economic times, "The approval process is more elongated than we have ever experienced before", often requiring approval of executive directors and boards.

An inquiry was made from the audience about a report concerning how many "overflow rooms" were being generated for the year. It was explained that "overflow" meant rooms not staying at the host Marriott hotel. While this is useful in suggesting business that might go to others, a more important figure would be the total number of room nights generated inclusive of the Marriott. At the request of the Committee, Molloy agreed to seek permission from Penn Square Partners to include that information.

The difficulty of understanding the division of commissions for meeting room and food and beverage sales between the Center and due to the need to reference at least two documents was mentioned. While the Convention Center receives 5% commission which increases to 10% at a certain level on sales that take place in the common area between the hotel and the center, the Center receives all of the earnings for concession sales that take place exclusively in the center. Having only had access to the prime lease agreement, this was new information for NewsLanc and good news for the public

The committee meeting was attended by board members Art Morris, board chair, Sharron Nelson, R. B. Campbell and committee chair Kevin Fry.

The monthly meeting of the board followed and dealt with routine matters. Perhaps what was most interesting was how long time opponents of the project complimented the board for its transparency and cooperation and the mutual and sincere exchanges of best wishes for the holiday season. Discord had been replaced by affection!