This past year has been a whirlwind for many of us, from the opening of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in uptown to the National Rifle Association coming back to Charlotte with more than 70,000 in attendance — during the same week of the hall opening, by the way — to of course the Democratic National Convention being announced for September of 2012.
However, for the readers of The Mecklenburg Times and all the residents who we do consider to be visitors, we are not so full of ourselves to realize that residents are interested in the bottom line and how any of this affects them and their livelihood. It’s easy for us who live and breathe conventions and visitors and management of our public venues to understand how the hospitality industry and tourism are good for our children, good for the young adults who now call Charlotte their home instead of perhaps some of those self-labeled “sexier” cities out there, for the senior citizens who retire here and for those of us who have seen Charlotte grow by leaps and bounds over the past 20 years.
First, a bit of background and education for most likely all readers out there: The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority works on a contractual basis with the city of Charlotte, operating several public venues, such as Ovens Auditorium, Bojangles’ Coliseum, the Charlotte Convention Center, the NASCAR Hall of Fame and security and operations for Time Warner Cable Arena. One additional and incredibly important arm of the CRVA is Visit Charlotte, formerly known as the Convention and Visitors Bureau until we all merged and became one under CRVA several years ago.
The 215 full-time employees of CRVA work tirelessly to promote Charlotte as a destination, a place to visit and to meet and to play, to all of those planning a vacation or planning a convention or planning where to take the next world championship of table tennis. We have sales representatives on the ground each day covering geographic territory throughout the United States. We have tourism experts meeting with group tour operators (You know all of those buses you see coming in to town from Everywhere, USA?) around the globe and marketing and communications professionals reaching out to consumer and trade publications everywhere. We have convention services personnel helping conventions think of everything they will need.
Every association out there, every amateur sport, every person interested in seeing something new or visiting their friends or family members make decisions each day as to where that destination will be. Charlotte and CRVA compete daily with large and small cities around the world to bring in these visitors.
When visitors, meeting attendees or fast-pitch teen champions and their families stay at a hotel, eat at a restaurant, rent a taxicab or spend time at a local attraction, they are contributing to our community through a hotel/motel tax and a food tax. These taxes are what keep us going, in addition to revenue generation on our part as well.
No property taxes are used to keep us afloat. However, all that we do increases the volume of opportunities for more than 50,000 hospitality workers in Charlotte and helps businesses large and small succeed every year.
CRVA not only has dedicated staff — many of whom have been here 10, 15, 20 and 25 years — but also a hardworking board of directors that is involved in the operations of our organization.
We have volunteers who come out to help when we have large events, such as the CIAA tournament or NCAA regionals.
So often we only know and believe all that we read or hear in the news. So much, however, is done behind the scenes that it is impossible to enlighten all who live in the Charlotte region.
A few years ago, we undertook a monumental task of coming up with a brand for Charlotte, a promise that we could maintain when someone visited Charlotte. After involving hundreds in several communitywide discussions, the end result was this brand promise: “With its warm, friendly people and inviting Southern hospitality, Charlotte is a clean, beautiful and diverse contemporary city that is a dynamic financial center with an ambitious can-do spirit. With its trees, lakes and green open spaces, the region is steeped in NASCAR heritage and has a commitment to community that embraces the innovative, aspires to the best in all of its endeavors while preserving traditions and not compromising on a superb quality of life.”
Thus, “Charlotte’s got a lot” was born and is our brand in all we do while marketing and selling this region as a destination.
I urge you to visit our website, charlottesgotalot.com, visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame if you haven’t already or any other attraction that makes Charlotte its home. You can be a visitor in your own town.
Molly Hedrick is senior director of communications for the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.