DCVB celebrates 25th anniversary

Apr. 23, 2014 @ 06:35 PM

Ensuring pilots announced that passengers had arrived at the Raleigh-Durham airport instead of just Raleigh was an effort by the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau to put Durham on the map and brand the city.

Under the leadership of the organization’s first full-time executive, Reyn Bowman, DCVB launched in 1989 to help market the city and draw in visitors.
“The whole idea of marketing and community and branding it and understanding its traits was so new so we really had to start from scratch,” Bowman said Wednesday, speaking in a video presented at a celebration of the bureau’s 25th anniversary.
Held at the Durham Convention Center, the celebration was held as part of DCVB’s Annual Tribute Luncheon.
The staff also noted the city’s designation last year as the Tastiest Town in the South by Southern Living magazine and other accolades.
They also gave statistics. Shelly Green, the bureau’s president and CEO, said the organization helped bring 124 million visitors who spent $12.9 billion in the community since 1990, which is the year the organization started tracking the numbers.
“That doesn’t count people who come to work here or are coming to school,” Green said. “That’s just the visitors.”
The effort to start the bureau in Durham began after a state lawmaker pioneered the hotel tax as a means to fund marketing in the Asheville area, Bowman said.
It was in 1986 that state lawmakers gave the OK on the tax here. Following action by the Durham County Board of Commissioners, the county saw its first hotel tax that year.
The tax is 6 cents on every $1 spent on lodging. One cent goes toward debt from the Durham Performing Arts Center, 3 cents is split between the city and county, and 2 cents goes to the bureau, said Sam Poley, director of public relations and communications for DCVB.
Just for the city, the tax raised $1.765 million in fiscal year 2013, said Keith Herrman, the city’s deputy finance director. That was up about 8 percent from the prior year, Herrmann said in an email. It’s been increasing along with improvement in the overall economy, and is expected to grow as more hotels come online.
“(We) found there was a need to try to get more involved in letting people know who Durham was,” Durham Mayor Bill Bell, who was chairman of the commissioners at the time of the tax’s start, said in the video.
Also in the video, former Durham Mayor Wib Gulley said there wasn’t a significant amount of pushback, but there were hotel and motel operators concerned that their customers would be paying the tax. But he also said there was assurance the money would go toward helping to drive business from which they would benefit.
Bowman was recruited to the role after starting similar organizations in Anchorage, Alaska, and in Spokane, Wash., he said.
In Durham, he said, the job involved reconnecting the city to the story of the Research Triangle Park as well as to its past, including its tobacco heritage
And he said it also involved trying to get the city out from under “Raleigh’s shadow.”
“The airport’s not in Raleigh … it’s human nature to truncate things,” he said.