By Susan LeDoux
Sometimes leaving Rochester makes you appreciate it more when you return. Tim James, Visit Rochester’s Senior Sales Manager for Religious and National Accounts and Rachel Laber Pulvino, Director of Communications and Public Relations, can attest to that.
Tim James returned to Rochester from Florida. He was an educator in the city when a friend suggested he would be a good salesperson for the then Rochester Convention and Business Bureau to bring more religious business to Rochester. That was 28 years ago.
Rachel Pulvino, also a Rochester native, returned after a few years in New York City.
“I love Rochester. I’ve always been passionate about the community. I like to say I have the best job in the world because I get to promote a place I care so much about and feel, in my own very small way, I’m contributing to our community. It’s a wonderful place to live, work, and visit!”
According to its website, http://www.visitrochester.com/, Visit Rochester is “the official tourism promotional agency for the community. It looks to area businesses as partners in marketing the community for tourism and economic development. Over 400 member organizations currently invest in marketing opportunities with Visit Rochester.”
The Good News interviewed James and Pulvino about Visit Rochester.
Visit Rochester began in 1932 and was called Rochester Convention and Publicity Bureau. After several name changes, it now is simply Visit Rochester. Regardless of changing monikers, its purpose always has been to promote Rochester and Monroe County.
According to Pulvino, “Our mission is to promote, market and sell Rochester as destination for a variety of channels… We are the chief cheerleaders for the community, promoting Rochester outside of the community on a regional, national, and international scale. I think meetings and conventions are pieces people don’t always think of. They’re more familiar with the leisure side of things, but the meeting and convention side is huge.”
Visit Rochester does not limit itself to the city, however. Pulvino explains, “Why we do everything we do is because tourism and hospitality is an economic driver. The tourism and hospitality industry in Monroe County has an economic impact of over one billion dollars. It supports 20,000 jobs. Meetings, conventions, and religious based events all play an important role in that.”
Rochester has much to offer. For example, Visit Rochester works with the Rochester Finger Lakes Film Commissions to attract filmmakers.
“At any given time, there’s usually someone here doing some kind of shoot. We’re very popular with independent filmmakers,” Pulvino said
We asked James about his goal to encourage churches and para-church planners to consider Rochester for events. For example, for years, the annual Women of Faith gathering filled the Blue Cross Arena, which seats 12,500. We continue to host Church of God’s annual Winterfest event easily in our Convention Center.
“In the suburbs, we see a lot of smaller church organizations that might utilize properties in Henrietta or Greece,” James said. For example, Upper New York United Methodists favor Woodcliff on the eastside for their meetings. “It’s business that can spread throughout the community,” he added.
Whether the group is small or large, 10 or 10,000 people, Visit Rochester helps organizations enjoy what Rochester has to offer. James’ many contacts acquired over the years know he is there for them.
When an organization expresses interest in Rochester for its event, James and the team swing into action.
First, he assesses the organization’s requirements, such as its schedule, attendance, number of food functions, etc. Once those details are gathered, Visit Rochester turns to its 400 plus member organizations to connect the organization to the right people to meet its needs.
“We have a template on our system that goes out to the member properties that can accommodate the group.” James said. “The proposals will come back to us and we package them into a presentation form we then send to the organizer of the event we refer to as the ‘meeting planner.’
“The proposal is in electronic form as well as hard copy if the event planner must present it to the church or group leaders. Perhaps they need a combination of hotel and another venue. We package that,” James said.
The site visit comes next. “Depending on the size of the group, we may fly that person in and we do tours. We like it when they stay overnight, so they can experience dinner, and see the community at night.”
Pulvino added, “Groups will have some down time, so we have a team that makes sure they maximize their impact while they’re here. We may have a youth group going to the Strong National Museum of Play, or See Breeze, or to Genesee County Village. We have a full team that works from start to finish, but sometimes it comes down to someone saying, ‘Hey, I regularly attend an event in another part of the Northeast. Let’s bring it to Rochester.’”
Music to James’ and Pulvino’s ears.
Amazingly, Visit Rochester’s assistance is free for the visitors. A portion of the hotel/motel occupancy tax and the dues of its 400 plus members funds Visit Rochester. Having invested in Visit Rochester, the hotel/motel members then work to keep their properties clean, modern, and replete with excellent service.
Pulvino said that, especially for Canadian visitors, Rochester is the perfect middle destination, strategically placed between Syracuse, Buffalo and Niagara Falls.
James added Visit Rochester exceeds what other cities do for visiting organizations. “It makes it easier to sell… I can’t emphasize enough that what we will do for a group is go above and beyond” — even for family reunions. Visit Rochester provides families with restaurant guides, and even an Explore Guide that includes local attractions and activities, all free.
Whether your faith-based event is large or small, Pulvino encourages event planners, “Think about Rochester!” If you would like to recommend Rochester for your next meeting or event, contact Visit Rochester at http://www.visitrochester.com/. It is there to help you.