Visit Pittsburgh continues to draw groups to town

| Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

If the region experiences a shortage of welcome mats next year, you can thank Visit Pittsburgh.

Jason Fulvi, executive vice president of Visit Pittsburgh, the official tourism promotion agency for Allegheny County, expects 2015 will be one of the region's best years for welcoming meetings and conventions.

“Our sales team is 131 percent ahead of the booking pace for 2013. We've booked nearly 58,000 room nights more than we have averaged in the last five years,” Fulvi said Aug. 19 at the agency's fall forecast luncheon at the Doubletree Hotel, Downtown.

Groups visiting the Pittsburgh region during the busy May to August convention season will include:

• The Society for Science and the Public that will consume nearly 13,000 room nights in May as high-school students who are winners of regional science fairs convene for a science super bowl

• The Barbershop Harmony Society that will occupy 15,000 room nights over four days in June

• The Fraternal Order of Police that will take up 19,000 room nights in August when it returns to the city where it began to celebrate its 100-year anniversary

“It's shaping up to be our best year on record in my 24 years,” says Craig Davis, the president and CEO of Visit Pittsburgh. “It's been one of those years that the more you put into it, the more demand seemed to rise.”

Davis also is looking forward to hosting a small convention with a potential for big future impact.

Connect Marketplace, which brings together 500 to 800 meeting planners who are instrumental in decisions about where their organizations meet, will gather here in mid-August for its own meeting.

Davis believes some of the increased interest in bringing group meetings and conventions to Pittsburgh has been the recent flood of glowing media reports on the city: Movoto, a popular real-estate website recently ranked Pittsburgh No. 1 on its list of the most exciting places in Pennsylvania. In July, a style article in Esquire magazine used the adjectives hipper, organic and authentic to describe Pittsburgh's Downtown area.

Visit Pittsburgh has been capitalizing on those and similar testimonials in print, Web, mobile and television ads and a digital billboard in Times Square.

“The buzz about the city definitely counts. People want to book in a place that will generate attention,” Davis says.

But, he adds, being within a two-hour flight or six-hour drive of half the country's population and having a customer-friendly, ecologically green convention space with no pillars in its exhibit space also are pluses.

Convention visitors also like that the region is affordable and the Downtown area is compact: “Once you are here there's a lot to do within a walk,” Davis says.

Alice T. Carter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808, or via Twitter @ATCarter_Trib.

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