Monday, August 18, 2008

LOCAL: PCVB Seeks More Health Care Conferences, Sporting Events

(previously published here at

By: Heather J. Chin, The Bulletin

"America's life sciences meetings destination" may become the newest Philadelphia marketing slogan, according to officials from the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau. They unveiled their business strategy on Tuesday, aimed at drawing more visitors with a variety of programming - including more health care conventions.

Forty percent of all meetings held at the Philadelphia Convention Center are devoted to health care and life sciences, while 55 percent are held in Philadelphia-area hotels. PCVB hopes increased marketing and cooperation with economic-development groups to recruit related students and businesses to the region, the city will become a global destination for meetings.

The greater Philadelphia area hosts many health care; pharmaceutical and biomedical research; manufacturing; and marketing facilities, including U.S. branches of international corporations.

"Not only do we have the community to hold those conventions, but also the connections in the life sciences to make these things happen," said Mr. Jack Ferguson, executive director of PCVB. From being within driving distance from 85 percent of "big pharma" in the country and [institutions] of higher education, "we've got the infrastructure to do it and an expanding convention center to host."

Philadelphia is the 12th most-visited U.S. city for international visitors, and tourism rose by 27 percent last year, to around 550,000 visitors, according to U.S. Department of Commerce figures, due in part to the strength of foreign currency against the dollar. This increase was valued at $1.2 billion in economic impact for the region, PCVB President Tom Muldoon told a regional business news publication.

The convention center, at 15 years old, is set to expand from the current 440,000 square feet of exhibit-hall space to 700,000 square feet. Construction could finish in January 2011, at an expected cost of between $700 million and $800 million.

In addition to more life-science conventions, PCVB's business plan for the upcoming fiscal year aims to attract individual and group tourism, multicultural groups and sporting events. The Philadelphia Sports Congress, a division of PCVB, has already hosted the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Table Tennis and Gymnastics, generating over $20 million in economic impact.

The PCVB and the Sports Congress, also continue to build on the Philadelphia 2016 Olympic bid, further branding the city as an international and Olympic sports destination city.

"If our city is to compete in a global marketplace, we need to continue to tell the Philadelphia story to people around the world so they choose to travel to America's birthplace," said Mayor Michael Nutter.

Heather J. Chin can be reached at

©The Evening Bulletin 2008

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