Welcome to the Tacoma-Pierce County Convention and Visitor Bureau, which has a new name, a new leader and a new approach to marketing the South Sound to tourists, potential visitors and most of all to domestic and overseas organizations looking for a place to hold a convention.

“We defined our primary purpose as a marketing organization,” declares Reinert, who joined the bureau three years ago and served as director of sales until November 1999, when she was named executive director.

Since then, she says, she and her staff have reviewed every department at the bureau, assessing it on the basis of quality of service to its constituencies and on cost-effectiveness. Where shortcomings were found, usually by the people in the department, chances have been made, she says.

The name of the non-profit agency was changed from Visitor and Convention Bureau to Convention and Visitor Bureau to emphasize that its primary function is to sell Tacoma and the rest of Pierce County to groups with memberships numbering in the thousands. The objective is simple—to convince such groups to hold their conventions here.

One of the tools CVB uses to reach that goal is the site visit. In March 1999, for instance, meeting planners from throughout the county who organize military reunions were invited to Tacoma. Area businesses provided goods and services such as hotel rooms, meals and transportation. Reinert reports the cost totalled $50,000.

Thanks to the CVB’s tracking mechanisms, Reinert is able to tell you how many reunions have been scheduled here as a result of the site visit and how much money the gatherings brought into the community. She reports 19 reunions have been booked as a result of the site visit and estimates the bookings have contributed $1,296,000 to the local economy.

In other words, she says, every $1 invested by local merchants in March 1999 will produce $26 in revenue to businesses in the community.

Not just Tacoma businesses, Reinert emphasizes. Those attending military reunions don’t just stay in Tacoma hotels. She has statistics that demonstrate they use rooms in Lakewood, Puyallup, Fife and other cities in the area.

“Those are nicely dispersed dollars,” says Reinert.

While the City of Tacoma and the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber attempt to sell South Sound as the perfect place to build a high-tech business, the CVB lets prospective visitors know about the area’s other charms. In addition to the scenic beauty of Mount Rainier and Puget Sound, local features highlighted in CVB’s promotional materials include:

Shops such as The Old Spaghetti Factory, Harmon Brewing Co. and Restaurant and The Swiss that feature tasty fare and potent potables.

Meeting space at Tacoma Convention Center adjacent to the Sheraton Hotel and Landmark Convention Center.

The Tacoma Dome, where many trade shows are held and which soon will be linked to downtown hotels by light rail.

Museums such as the Washington State History Museum, which, in the words of the CVB promotion, provides an entertaining and interactive introduction to Washington’s storied past.

Point Defiance Park, which is touted as second only to New York’s Central Park in rankings according to size of urban parks in America.

By John Larson, Business Examiner staff