cuts, although a friendly, informal partnership still exists. “We just decided [the alliance] wasn’t worth continuing to market,” said Keith Backsen, Visit Spokane’s vice president and director of sales. “We continue to this day to share information back and forth, and we’ve still offered incentives at times for bookings of more than one of our cities.” The Capital Cities Collection also is on “hiatus”
according to Kristin McGrath, CDME, vice presi- dent of sales and services at the Providence War- wick Convention & Visitors Bureau. And a Visit Baltimore representative said the partnership between Baltimore, Sacramento, and Fort Worth is being rethought. But at least one partnership is still going strong:
the Three-City Alliance. For the past nine years, Vis- itPittsburgh, Travel Portland, and VISIT Milwaukee have found that by combining their marketing and advertising dollars, they can make a stronger and longer-lasting impact with their clients.
SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST Currently, the Three-City Alliance is headed up by Jason Fulvi, VisitPittsburgh’s executive vice president; Michael Smith, Travel Portland’s vice president of convention sales; and Brent Foerster, VISIT Milwaukee’s vice president of sales and marketing. The partnership started nine years ago when Fulvi, Smith, and Jack Moneypenny, who was VISIT Milwaukee’s vice president of sales and services at the time, were having a casual conver- sation at ASAE’s Springtime Expo about pooling their limited funds to throw a larger, better client event during Springtime, and a bigger idea struck them: Why not partner to offer a three-city pack- age deal for their clients? “We were all chasing the same type of business,
but not necessarily for the same year,” Fulvi said. “We said, what if we start talking to customers, and look at ways to incentivize them to book our des- tinations?” Ultimately, the team decided on cash incentives for meetings that book two or three of their destinations. Single-hotel business — not just citywide meetings — also qualifies for incentives. So far, it’s worked. Meetings that have booked all
three cities through the alliance include the Ameri- can Society for Quality’s World Conference on Qual- ity and Improvement, the Mathematical Association of America’s MathFest, The Wildlife Society’s Annual Conference (see sidebar on p. 67), and the American Association of Public Health Dentistry’s National Oral Health Conference, to name a few.
66 PCMA CONVENE FEBRUARY 2013
“There’s no doubt that the partnership has
increased the number of leads that we get,” Foer- ster said. “There’s been at least a couple of book- ings every year because of [the alliance].”
FINDING WHAT WORKS In addition to offering similarly sized conven- tion centers, downtowns, and hotel inventories, Pittsburgh, Portland, and Milwaukee have several other attributes in common. Each city makes sus- tainability a priority — a big selling point for the partnership. Portland has been called the “Green- est City in America” by Popular Science magazine, Pittsburgh has the fourth-largest number of LEED-certified green buildings in the United States, and downtown Milwaukee consistently ranks high on Walk Score’s list of America’s Most Walkable Neighborhoods. Foerster said that the alliance has helped shine
a light on Milwaukee for some meeting planners who may not have previously considered the des- tination. “Portland has always been thought of as an environmentally friendly city, and Milwaukee, traditionally, hasn’t,” Foerster said. “But we have far more environmentally friendly initiatives than people realize.” Recently, the Three-City Alliance paired up with the Convene Green Alliance for an event, and a potential client expressed surprise over Milwaukee’s green efforts, wanting to learn more. “That would have never happened if it weren’t for the alliance,” Foerster said. To make sure all three CVBs know the product
they’re selling, members of their sales and mar- keting teams attend each other’s meeting-planner fam trips. This enables them to experience each destination firsthand — and also affords them the opportunity to meet potential new clients. The alliance also brings senior sales and marketing staff together each November for a brainstorming session that takes place in the cities on a rota- tional basis. Before that meeting takes place, “we will ask
every department what they are working on, so that we can ask our Three-City partners what they’re doing and if there’s something we can part- ner on,” Fulvi said. As a result, the partnership has expanded beyond just the sales departments. “Our marketing folks are starting to get to know their marketing folks, and our housing folks are starting to get to know their housing folks,” Fulvi said, “and we’re slowly starting to move to a more holistic approach from an organizational standpoint.”