Bureau is bouncing back

SATURDAY MAILBOX

March 08, 2003

As a former convention bureau president and a consultant for many of America's most successful convention and visitor destinations, I'm writing to express my sincere disappointment in the misleading statements in The Sun's article "Overhauling BACVA may take 3-5 years" (Feb. 27).

To suggest a complete overhaul of the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association and its board is needed is a complete misrepresentation of the bureau's situation today. In the spirit of fairness, and in an effort to provide a factual and credible article, I would have appreciated an opportunity to comment, but I was never contacted.

And to suggest that it will take years to turn BACVA around is blatantly false. As the executive summary of the recent study reports, management issues need to be addressed. But we are already preparing to take major business solicitation steps, as The Sun reported just a few weeks ago ("BACVA's acting CEO gets set to launch big sales blitz," Feb. 15).

The organizational problems the report cited will take months to correct, not years.

BACVA has its challenges, as do all convention and visitors bureaus these days, but the fundamentals for success are here. And while The Sun's article impugns the integrity of our employees with comments from so-called "experts" who suggest BACVAM-Fs staff may be "poisoned," as the reportM-Fs executive summary states, "There are many talented and competent people on the staff." They are very committed to our work M-y the work of this community.

Given the world's current business climate, bureau performance audits have become commonplace. And, in fact, convention bureaus from Los Angeles to Miami are taking a good look at their sales and marketing programs to assess where they are, and where they need to be to be successful. BACVA is no different.

But with a lot of hard work and support from the community, BACVA will turn itself around quickly and again be the leader of our tourism industry.

Marshall Murdaugh

Baltimore

The writer is interim CEO of BACVA.

The Sun's article "Overhauling BACVA may take 3-5 years" quotes national experts who I believe know little about Baltimore and its tourism industry.

But as a proud and active member of BACVA's board of directors, I want to set the record straight.

The new BACVA board appointed in the last two years, along with its new chairman appointed by Mayor Martin O'Malley just one year ago, began asking the questions that led to the audit and to the disclosure that BACVA was significantly under-performing. This board's inquiries ultimately brought this process forward. Following completion of the audit, BACVA has acted to resolve a number of challenges facing the organization.

Progress is happening because of Mr. O'Malley's board, not despite it. Any insinuation that the opposite is true is simply misinformed.

The board stands behind BACVA and its staff, and we remain committed to helping BACVA achieve great success in the years to come in this competitive convention and tourism industry.

The recent review and evaluation of BACVA, and its subsequent executive summary ("BACVA called ineffective in partial report," Feb. 22), provide us with an important management tool and blueprint for the future.

I urge the residents of Baltimore and Maryland to stand behind the people and organizations who work so hard to make this a great city to visit.

Catherine E. Pugh

Baltimore

The writer is a member of the City Council and of BACVA's board of directors.

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