City visitors association hires Conn. company to evaluate it

Enlarged Convention Center hasn't met usage projections

October 10, 2002|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association named a Connecticut-based performance management company yesterday to conduct the association's first-ever evaluation.

One of BACVA's jobs is to attract groups to the Baltimore Convention Center, which has failed to achieve the results promised after a multimillion-dollar expansion.

Performance Management Inc. of Stamford, Conn., was chosen from among 11 bids. BACVA officials declined to reveal the cost of the review but said bids ranged from $40,000 to more than $200,000.

"We want to come away from this process with a clear evaluation of how well the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association is doing its job today," said Clarence Bishop, chairman of BACVA's board of directors. "Secondly, we need ideas that will help us improve our performance in the future. Where do we stand, and where do we need to go to do an even better job?"

Performance Management ranked highest based on five evaluation criteria used by BACVA to score the bids and gave the most personalized response, Bishop said.

BACVA officials have put a Dec. 9 deadline on the project.

"We want to produce good recommendations that are useful for the stakeholders," Wil Brewer, senior partner and chief operating officer of Performance Management, said yesterday. "BACVA is not a new client. We've worked with them before. We know them very well."

Performance Management created BACVA's incentive package for its sales staff, Bishop said.

BACVA officials announced plans for a top-to-bottom review after The Sun reported in June that the $151 expansion of the Convention Center had not lived up to its projections.

Instead of the 50 conventions a year projected by a 1993 feasibility study, the Convention Center has attracted a high of 41 conventions and a low of 26.

Combined attendance at trade shows and conventions - the most critical areas - has never reached the 330,000 projected. Attendance has ranged from a low of 192,625 three fiscal years ago to a peak of 234,394 last year, 1,000 more than the number a decade earlier.

Preliminary work on the review will begin within 10 days, Brewer said. As the work progresses, members of Performance Management's team will come to Baltimore to conduct research and interviews. The company, founded in 1985, has worked in the convention and visitor bureau segment since about 1989, Brewer said.

The work requested by BACVA is "fairly standard," he said. "They are not asking for anything out of the ordinary."

The request for bids called for consultants to:

Evaluate the strategy and performance of the association in marketing the destination.

Review and assess the governance, structure, process and overall operations.

Recommend the best organizational structure.

Report on the association's operations relative to industry standards and the competition.

Evaluate and recommend strategic approaches to meet objectives.

The review and evaluation is to examine tax revenue, economic impact, sales goals and booking guidelines.

The bid materials also contained a copy of a letter from Mayor Martin O'Malley, dated June 19, which specified that the evaluation include an audit of room nights and an analysis of BACVA's contribution to convention bookings since the Convention Center's expansion against projections. The letter also asked for a review of BACVA's marketing spending and an examination of how potential conventions are targeted.

The evaluation will include focus groups, meetings and interviews with representative hoteliers, heads of area attractions, restaurateurs and others, Bishop said.

Performance Management has worked for more than 50 destination marketing and management organizations, primarily convention and visitor bureaus, the American Society of Association Executives and municipal governments.

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