PHL Diversity highlights impact of minority spending through conventions
The economic impact of diversity in meetings and conventions in Philadelphia was the topic of the PHL Diversity annual luncheon held Wednesday at the Marriott Downtown.
About 600 people attended the gathering of hospitality professionals dedicated to increasing Philadelphia’s recognition as a multicultural and diverse meetings and convention city.
PHL Diversity, formerly the Philadelphia Multicultural Affairs Congress (MAC), was launched by The Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) in 1987 to include the African-American population in new economic opportunities in tourism and hospitality. Since then the organization has brought over one billion dollars of economic impact to the city.
“Today, Philadelphia’s diverse market segments have expanded beyond,” said Greg DeShields, Executive Director of PHL Diversity, in reference to the growing diversity of Latino and Asian populations, and the work of the organization to focus on women and the LGBT community.
“As society evolves naturally, so must we,” he added.
Among the largest multicultural conventions in previous years were those held by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 2015, with $11 million of economic impact, and the National Society of Hispanic MBAs (NSHMBA), with $6.4 million.
For 2015 and beyond, there are currently over 60 meetings booked, slated to bring more than 105,000 attendees to Philadelphia and generating more than $131 million dollars in economic impact.
Last year the luncheon had a focus on the Latino market. This year, the focus was in the growing Asian market. According to Jack Ferguson, president & CEO of PHLCVB, today China is the number two market for Philadelphia in international visits; India has been the fifth largest market for the last two years, and Japan is back in the top 10. A few years ago none of these countries were in the top 10.
Ferguson also talked about the diversity that the World Meeting of Families and the papal visit brought to Philadelphia, putting the city on the global map, and praised the Pennsylvania Convention Center for their work in hosting the 17,000 registered attendees to the WMF and an additional 3,000 people coming into the center everyday.
“Being in the Pennsylvania Convention Center and watching people from all over the world was spectacular,“ he said.
Ferguson, who has been working for over 30 years in the hospitality industry, will be retiring by the end of the year, and he will be replaced as CEO and president of PHLCVB by the executive vice president Julie Coker Graham, starting in 2016.
To honor Ferguson, DeShields announced that PHL Diversity and the Philadelphia Area Chapter of Meeting Professionals International are creating the PHL Diversity Jack Ferguson PAMPI Scholarship Fund, valued at $15,000, to provide opportunities for minorities to pursue certification as professional meeting planners.
“I am thrilled to to be honored like this and the fact that is going to students who need an opportunity”, Ferguson said.
During the luncheon, PHL Diversity recognized Mayor Michael Nutter, Congressman Bob Brady, and Former Governor Ed Rendell, for their work in bringing the 2016 Democratic National Convention to Philadelphia.
During his acceptance speech, Rendell, talked about Philadelphia as a city that has developed an “incredibly diverse population,” which he sees as an “enormous strength” for the city. He also praised Jim Kenney for helping to attract more immigrants, “and we should be a city that attracts more immigrants,” he added.
The convention is estimated to generate up to 300 million in economic impact for the region, and the Philadelphia 2016 host committee is encouraging diversity business owners to sign up as vendors.
“We are pledged to make sure that this is an incredibly diverse convention, not only with the delegates and with the issues undertaken by the convention but with the business that we do locally,” Rendell said.
Among the other individuals recognized for their impact on Philadelphia’s diverse hospitality and tourism were Stephen Tang, President & CEO of the University City Science Center; and Jay Shah, CEO of Hersha Hospitality Trust.