PAUL D. ASTLEFORD President and CEO ✪ Experience Columbus
Always Something New to Discover
What’s new in your destination that meeting planners are most excited about? We’ve recently completed close to $1 billion in destination enhancements, includ- ing hotel and convention-center renovations, a new community park in the city center, and the redevelopment of our riverfront. These enhancements are topped off by the $140-million Hilton Columbus Downtown, which will open in late 2012 with a direct connection to the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
What challenge do you think the meetings industry has successfully overcome in the past year or so? Finding a way to weather the tough economic climate during the past few years has been our industry’s biggest accomplishment. We have continuously proven the value of face-to-face meetings and the desire and necessity of travel. In 2012 we face a similar challenge of navigating the global economic concerns that exist in the marketplace. Learning how to best react to what is happening economi- cally overseas will be vital to the future of the meetings industry in the U.S.
How has your team used social media to work with meeting professionals and promote your destination? What new social- media tools are you looking forward to trying? We have been actively engaged in social media for several years now. What’s exciting is seeing the meetings industry adopt social media more widely during the past year or so. More and more, we are utilizing tools like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to connect with meeting profes- sionals just as we have with leisure visitors for years now. We are also excited to launch a new mobile strategy for 2012.
COLUMBUS RISING: From
hotels and entertain- ment options to flexible meeting space, Columbus has close to $1 billion in new development to experience, said Paul D. Astleford.
What single asset makes you most proud to represent your destination?
It isn’t one single asset, but rather the entire destination appeal. I love seeing the reaction of clients when they come on a site visit and leave saying, “Wow, I had no idea Columbus ….” We hear that a lot, and it never gets old.
CHANGERS 84 pcma convene January 2012
What are meeting professionals asking for now that they weren’t asking for a year or two ago? How are you responding to that need? Economic pressures are forcing more professionals to ask for destination incen- tives. This is also happening because meeting professionals are becoming more cognizant of the influence they possess in emphasizing the value of our industry as an economic development engine. n