VisitPITTSBURGH Annual Report 2020

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Annual REPORT 2020


TABLE OF CONTENTS Chairman of the Board Letter | 4 President & CEO Letter | 5 PGH Commitment | 6 SportsPITTSBURGH | 8 MeetPITTSBURGH | 10 Leisure Tourism | 12 Finance & Operations | 20 Human Resources | 24 2020 Board of Directors | 26 Staff | 27


VisitPITTSBURGH is the official tourism development organization for Allegheny County, dedicated to expanding the tourism economy across the region.


Annual REPORT 2020



As I write this letter, optimism about a rebound for our travel and tourism industry continues to grow as more people are vaccinated, hotels and local businesses are reopening, there is significant pent-up demand for travel and hospitality workers are being called back to work.

While we are enthusiastic about moving forward, we need this annual report to look back at 2020. Our thoughts remain with the millions of people who lost loved ones to COVID-19, suffered financial hardships and were temporarily or permanently furloughed, including our own VisitPITTSBURGH staff, several with many years of service and dedication to our organization. Throughout these trying times, there was one constant and that was the resiliency of our remaining VisitPITTSBURGH team who have worked long hours, assumed additional responsibilities and prepared for our industry’s rebound. While most sports and business events cancelled for the end of 2020 and early 2021, our SportsPITTSBURGH and MeetPITTSBURGH teams continued to find ways to regularly engage meeting and event planners who still had events on the books or who were deciding between cancelling or postponing. Our staff understands that relationship building and keeping their contacts informed is especially critical during a crisis. Health and safety, of course, are at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts and dictate many decisions these days. Knowing that, our VisitPITTSBURGH team created the Pittsburgh Global Health (PGH) & Safety Commitment to show our clients, partners and Pittsburgh’s residents that their wellbeing will remain our top priority. Industry research indicated that leisure travel would be the first to recover. Our Leisure Tourism vertical embraced the opportunity to lead recovery. While many Destination Marketing Organizations chose to indefinitely postpone marketing efforts, our Marketing team opted to market through the pandemic to ensure that Pittsburgh remained top of mind for future travelers, allowing us to direct business to our hotels, restaurants and attractions. The Research team provided invaluable information to our stakeholders, especially our hoteliers, and research


data provided a guiding light to the build out of our marketing campaigns. And, our Partnership Development team worked hard to Timothy Q. Hudak, Esq. overcome the daunting challenges that were encountered due to those partners whose advertising budgets were wiped out or, unfortunately, those partners who went out of business. Our Finance & Operations and Human Resources teams provided outstanding results in these trying times, maneuvering through a period with no hotel tax revenues and seeking out different funding sources while also providing the greatest of sensitivity and compassion throughout the transitioning out of 29 of our colleagues and friends. Also, thank you to our elected officials who supported and guided us with securing both CARES and PPP funding, as well as for their continued confidence in our mission. On behalf of our board of directors, thank you to Jerad Bachar, our proven and respected leadership team and, most importantly, our staff who held us together and pushed us forward.


Annual REPORT 2020


Pittsburgh entered 2020 on an incredibly strong note. Travel and tourism grew to a $6.57 billion industry within Allegheny County in 2019, with nearly 44,000 residents making a living in tourism. Nearly 33.9 million visited the region, and the state and local tax revenue generated equaled $413 million. Total visitor spend grew by 3.0%, while employment grew by 1.7%. The COVID-19 global pandemic halted this growth right in tracks. By Jan. 4, 2021, VisitPITTSBURGH alone experienced the cancellation or postponement of 383 business and sports events, representing approximately $216.77 of direct visitor spend in the local market. This economic loss was greatly compounded by the vast number of smaller meetings, various competitive sports events, leisure festivals and numerous cultural performances which also were cancelled or postponed, as well as by the loss of spectators in Pittsburgh’s professional sports stadiums. Occupancy in Allegheny County in 2020 was down about half compared to 2019, averaging 34% for the full year. On average, there were 2.4 million less rooms occupied, equating to a loss of roughly $350 million. And, as we know, Downtown was the hardest hit of any submarket, with occupancy averaging about one-third of 2019 levels. Hotels were forced to temporarily close their doors – a difficult, but wise move for many. All of these losses resulted in industry employment taking a direct hit. By the end of 2020, about 34.1 percent of the Pittsburgh metro area leisure and hospitality jobs were eliminated. Unfortunately, VisitPITTSBURGH also had to say goodbye to 29 outstanding employees. We remain grateful for their contributions and dedication to Pittsburgh. We know many within and outside our industry continue to suffer because of this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. Our thoughts remain with those who became sick or lost their lives to COVID-19. When you hit the lowest of the lows, there’s no place to go but up. For VisitPITTSBURGH, the initial steps to our Road to Recovery began early in the pandemic. Our business and sports verticals remained in constant contact with their clients, working to reschedule meetings and events and pushing business to future years. And,

our leisure tourism vertical not only provided invaluable research and data, as well as resources on relief packages, Jerad Bachar to our stakeholders and partners, but the staff also aggressively promoted our city to keep it top of mind throughout the pandemic. Most importantly, our three verticals worked together to develop the Pittsburgh Global Health (PGH) & Safety Commitment, highlighting the wide range of health and safety commitments put forward by the Pittsburgh hospitality and tourism communities. I would like to thank the local health officials, key stakeholders and partners who contributed to the development of the PGH Commitment. To our business partners – we know the varied challenges you faced throughout 2020 were daunting and devastating. Please know that VisitPITTSBURGH continues to be amazed by your resiliency, flexibility and commitment to exceptional hospitality. Looking ahead, recovery will take time. According to research conducted by Tourism Economics, Allegheny County’s tourism industry is estimated to have lost $3.6 billion in visitor spending and 24,540 jobs in 2020. A great deal of recovery is anticipated to happen late in 2021 and into 2022. By the end of 2021, occupancy in Allegheny County is expected to be 70 percent of 2019 levels, and by the end of 2022, occupancy is anticipated to reach 86 percent of 2019 levels. VisitPITTSBURGH is fully committed to building back our communities. And, we will return to that peak. One step at a time.


Annual REPORT 2020


Pittsburgh Global Health (PGH) & Safety Commitment VisitPITTSBURGH recognized immediately that recovery for the local tourism and hospitality communities centered on increased messaging focused on health and safety protocols. Industry research consistently indicated that travelers were most concerned about their health and wellbeing. With that in mind, VisitPITTSBURGH launched the Pittsburgh Global Health (PGH) & Safety Commitment in early October. Through partnership with local health officials, key stakeholders and partners, the PGH Commitment was built to highlight the wide range of health and safety commitments put forward by the Pittsburgh hospitality and tourism communities, demonstrating that the health and wellbeing of residents and visitors will always be Pittsburgh’s top priority. The PGH Commitment was layered in VisitPITTSBURGH’s recovery efforts throughout the remainder of 2020, including marketing campaigns that targeted MeetPITTSBURGH and SportsPITTSBURGH’s clients, as well as leisure visitors. And, PGH Commitment messaging will continue to be incorporated throughout 2021 and beyond.

PGH Commitment Initiatives • Reached out to stakeholders and business partners through the PGH Commitment Committee for collection of implemented health and safety protocols and guidance on the development of a safe event guide. • Installed PGH Commitment signage prior to the 2020 holiday season. • Signage was placed in county hotels, the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and Pittsburgh International Airport. • Began work on the PGH Commitment Safe Event Guide to assist event organizers in planning their Pittsburgh events safely. • Fostered partnership and collaboration throughout the local travel and hospitality communities, allowing Pittsburgh to show a united front. • Provided a platform for business partners to showcase their health and safety protocols on • Distributed a PGH Commitment social media toolkit to business partners, allowing them to share their support of the program.


Annual REPORT 2020


Many in the travel industry have pondered a more permanent tie to public health — they may be on to something, as nearly three-quarters of American travelers agree they will be more safety-conscious while traveling going forward. (Destination Analysts, 2021 Weekly American Traveler Sentiment Study)


Annual REPORT 2020


SportsPITTSBURGH The SportsPITTSBURGH staff adjusted from hosting annual events to remodeling and rescheduling them throughout the first two quarters of 2020. These six months were dedicated to mitigating the short-term effects of gathering restrictions on sports events. Local event hosts, medical providers and venues came together to provide access to new resources and enhanced event plans for those wanting to host a sports event in the region. During this time, countless hours were spent in conversations with the Pennsylvania and Allegheny Health Departments, competition venues and event owners to adapt event plans to meet the local, state and CDC requirements for “safe events.” The bright spot was SportsPITTSBURGH’s clients’ dedication to Pittsburgh. Out of 20 events affected, all wanted to reschedule for later dates in 2020, even if it meant reducing their footprint and number of attendees. Ultimately, all events were forced to cancel or pivot to future years. The SportsPITTSBURGH staff also focused on hosting new events in 2021 and beyond. Specifically, the staff coordinated with the Pittsburgh Local Organizing


Committee (PGH LOC) to submit comprehensive bid proposals for NCAA Championships through 2026. The group was rewarded with 11 events, including the firstever NCAA Division II Men’s and Women’s Basketball Festival in 2026. The staff also hosted staff and board members of the National Senior Games Association in October for an extensive site visit of potential event venues for the 2023 National Senior Games. The event brings an estimated 30,000 athletes and guests to compete in 20+ sports over two weeks in July. Additionally, a preliminary informational packet was submitted to USA Rugby to include Pittsburgh and Heinz Field as a site for the Men’s Rugby World Cup in 2027 and/or 2031 – should there be a North American bid proposal. Finally, the PGH LOC was notified that the 2021 EsportsTravel Summit will be hosted at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in December 2021. The bid was presented to include key figures in Pittsburgh esports - Point Park University, Pittsburgh Knights, Pittsburgh Penguins and AbleGamers, as well as the Offices of the County Executive and Mayor.

Annual REPORT 2020


Notable Achievements in 2020 • Attended Compete Sports Awards and Sin City Classic to develop content and contacts for an upcoming LGBTQIA+ multisport festival. • Attended virtual versions of the SportsETA Women’s Summit, SportsETA Sports Biz Exchange, TEAMS Conference and Expo and EsportsTravel Summit. • Hosted 27 events representing 31,800 attendees and 20,780 room nights. • Produced videos targeted to clients answering, “Why Pittsburgh is the Ultimate Sports Destination.”

• Worked with the PGH LOC to submit comprehensive bid proposals for NCAA Championship events through 2026, earning 11 preliminary and championship events. • Partnered with local stakeholders to promote esports tourism, the US Open Trophy Tour, venue options throughout the region and multiple event bids for future years. • Submitted the initial region profile to be included in the United States’ bid for the Rugby World Cup in 2027 and/or 2031.

• Partnered with EventConnect to provide tournament and housing solutions for sports event clients.

2020 Top Hosted Sports Events Hosted Sports Events in 2020

Direct Spend

Atlantic Coast Baseball + Softball Pittsburgh Series

$5.82 M

HockeyTime Productions Three Rivers Cup Series

$1.94 M

MyHockey Tournaments Pittsburgh Series

$1.77 M

GK Sports Steel City Freeze

$1.49 M

National High School Dance Festival

$1.15 M

ACC Wrestling Championships



Annual REPORT 2020


MeetPITTSBURGH The devasting impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic touched every facet of the tourism and hospitality industry, but undoubtedly the hardest-hit area was business travel. In fact, according to the U.S. Travel Association, spending on business travel was down 70% in 2020 over 2019. Despite the uncertainty that swirled throughout the industry, the MeetPITTSBURGH staff worked diligently to reschedule 58 business events worth 49,401 contracted hotel room nights, that were impacted by the pandemic. By doing so, the staff strengthened its relationships with event organizers and also provided great value. With reduced staff, MeetPITTSBURGH re-aligned sales territories and focused on working with business event clients to rebook events affected by the health crisis. The staff also aligned its strategy to focus on smaller, more regional meetings, as this sector will be the first to rebound. MeetPITTSBURGH built out its virtual offerings to include virtual site inspections for those planners scouting meeting locations, as well as offered virtual events for event organizers – allowing them to engage with the local hospitality community.


MeetPITTSBURGH remained keenly focused on educating people on important topics related to Pittsburgh’s top market sectors – technology, healthcare, manufacturing and education. The staff continued to work with local thought leaders in these industries, ensuring that it can share marketing and research resources, build support and elevate these sectors to attract future business events. Throughout the second half of 2020, the MeetPITTSBURGH staff also worked hand-in-hand with the Marketing staff to develop the Seven Connections campaign. The initiative specifically targeted event organizers who had either already committed to Pittsburgh or were considering Pittsburgh as a host destination. These organizers were then engaged seven times through touchpoints made by local influencers – thanking the organizer, as well as expressing the impact their event has on the region. The campaign was built to carry over into 2021.

Annual REPORT 2020


Notable Achievements in 2020 • Announced the rebranding/repositioning of VisitPITTSBURGH’s business events division as MeetPITTSBURGH, a division of VisitPITTSBURGH, in January 2020. • The new brand showcased VisitPITTSBURGH’s convention and business event sales effort as a premier entity that delivers an innovative approach to the sales process. It also continued to promote Pittsburgh as the ideal destination to meet and host any business event…for any audience…anytime of the year. • Launched a Strategic Partnership with PCMA, continuing to build on the success of hosting PCMA Convening Leaders in Pittsburgh in 2019. • This Strategic Partnership allowed MeetPITTSBURGH to have enhanced, one-ofa-kind client interaction opportunities, which proved invaluable during COVID-19. • Built out virtual offerings to include virtual site inspections for those planners scouting meeting locations. • Developed and launched the Seven Connections marketing campaign in partnership with the Marketing staff.

• Reinforced the Pittsburgh Global Health (PGH) & Safety Commitment messaging through targeted marketing campaigns, showcasing to meeting planners that the Pittsburgh tourism and hospitality communities are united in providing safe meeting experiences. • In partnership with the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and The Westin Pittsburgh, hosted a Virtual Open House for meeting planners in December 2020, delivering Downtown Pittsburgh to those who could not or chose not to travel during the pandemic. • Launched partnership with Orchid.Events as MeetPITTSBURGH’s official housing partner. Orchid.Events will work with clients to advise on strategies for hotel room block set up and management, as well as the reservation process. • Enhanced digital outreach by adding blog content to the MeetPITTSBURGH page. • Increased digital client communication via marketing eblasts. • Hosted informational webinars for local clients.

2020 Top Hosted Business Events Account


Direct Spend

Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials

2020 PETE&C

$2.05 M

Coalition for Christian Outreach

2020 Annual Jubilee Conference

$1.94 M

National Association for College Admission Counseling

2020 National College Fair

$1.82 M

Philadelphia Church of God

2020 Philadelphia Church of God


National Safety Council

2020 NSC Northeast Safety Conference & Expo


FirstEnergy Corp.

2020 Contractor Safety Forum



Annual REPORT 2020


LEISURE TOURISM Following the start of the pandemic, the Leisure Tourism vertical was created to include Marketing, Communications, Web Development, Social Media, Research, Partnership Development and Visitor Services. While most of the team within the vertical were now much smaller due to the permanent furloughs, the combined staffs quickly became a proactive, efficient and adaptable team focused on addressing research and communications needs of Allegheny County’s hotels and other stakeholders, continuing to drive partner and hotel revenues and keeping Pittsburgh top of mind with future visitors. With business and sports events cancelled or postponed, the primary focus of VisitPITTSBURGH’s marketing efforts turned to driving leisure tourism from drive markets including: Buffalo, Cleveland, Columbus, Erie, Harrisburg, Morgantown, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Marketing and Social Media The Marketing staff opened 2020 focusing its advertising efforts on continuing the successful Pull Up a Chair. You are Welcomed Here. national brand


awareness campaign. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing VisitPITTSBURGH and other destinations to reevaluate their marketing efforts and decide whether to stop, increase or decrease their efforts. VisitPITTSBURGH, except for a few weeks in May, decided to continue to aggressively market throughout the pandemic through strategic social media and digital marketing efforts. The reasons? First, to keep Pittsburgh top of mind with future visitors. Second, to continue to drive business to attractions, hotels, restaurants, breweries and other businesses that remained opened or opened back up throughout the year. And third, to best position the city to take advantage of the pent-up demand for travel, which will help facilitate a quicker rebound. The staff shifted its focus to creating videos and content pieces fixed on positive messages encompassing health and safety practices and protocols, including the Rediscover Pittsburgh and You Can be the Key campaigns, as well as the organization’s Together as One, Thank You from VisitPITTSBURGH Tourism Partners and When You’re Ready videos.

Annual REPORT 2020


2020 VisitPITTSBURGH Awards Telly Awards Silver Award - Branded Content: Campaign: Not-for-Profit, Pull Up a Chair. You are Welcomed Here. Silver Award - Branded Content: Campaign: Promotional, Pull Up a Chair. You are Welcomed Here. Silver Award - Branded Content: Campaign: Social, Pull Up a Chair. You are Welcomed Here. Silver Award - Promotional Video: Entertainment, Pull Up a Chair. You are Welcomed Here. Silver Award - Social Video: Arts & Entertainment, Pull Up a Chair. You are Welcomed Here. Silver Award - Social Video: Culture & Lifestyle, Pull Up a Chair. You are Welcomed Here. Silver Award - Online Commercials: Campaign – Branding, Pull Up a Chair. You are Welcomed Here. Bronze Award - Branded Content: Campaign: Business-toConsumer, Pull Up a Chair. You are Welcomed Here. Bronze Award - Promotional Video: Branding, Pull Up a Chair. You are Welcomed Here. Bronze Award - Online Commercials: Campaign – Promotional, Pull Up a Chair. You are Welcomed Here. Bronze Award - Branded Content: Travel/Tourism, Pull Up a Chair. You are Welcomed Here. The Press Club of Western Pennsylvania Golden Quill Awards Business/Technology/Consumer Video – Corporate, Marketing and Promotional Communications, Pull Up a Chair. You are Welcomed Here. Digital – Corporate, Marketing and Promotional Communications, Pull Up a Chair. You are Welcomed Here. American Marketing Association Pittsburgh Marketer of the Year Awards B2C Brands and Services Marketing: Pull Up a Chair. You are Welcomed Here. Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Pittsburgh Renaissance Awards PR Team of the Year Digital Renaissance Award: Pull Up a Chair. You are Welcomed Here.

Notable Achievements in 2020 • Supported and reinforced the Pittsburgh Global Health (PGH) & Safety Commitment messaging throughout all marketing campaigns. • Created integrated marketing campaigns that, despite the pandemic, produced an average ROI of 11:1 hotel revenue to dollars spent. • Established a guest blog series in support of the Rediscover Pittsburgh marketing campaign featuring 16 diverse local writers and influencers who encouraged visitation to Pittsburgh. • The content marketing campaign was recognized at the 2021 PRSA Pittsburgh Renaissance Awards. • Built integrated marketing campaigns across Paid, Earned, Owned and Shared Media in addition to supporting the marketing efforts of SportsPITTSBURGH and MeetPITTSBURGH. • Launched Ace, the Pittsburgh Adventure Dog as the No. 1 source on pet-friendly Pittsburgh in response to research and news reports that showed a surge in dog adoptions during the pandemic. • Ace quickly became a local celebrity and earned significant local and regional publicity. • The social media campaign was recognized at the 2021 PRSA Pittsburgh Renaissance Awards. • Raised $17,256 for the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council’s (GPAC) Teaching Artist Initiative through the 90 Painted Chairs Program online “chair-ity” auction. • An offshoot of the Pull Up a Chair. marketing campaign, the program invited local artists to paint parking chairs for the “chair-ity.” • The integrated marketing campaign was recognized at the 2021 PRSA Pittsburgh Renaissance Awards. • Produced new content around Black-owned businesses, craft beer, health and safety and outdoor dining. • Unveiled the newly rebranded See & Do Guide.


Annual REPORT 2020



While raising awareness of Pittsburgh is always a top goal, producing campaigns that yield results – whether it is hotel room nights, social media impressions, website visits or ad equivalency – is imperative. Despite the challenges of marketing during a pandemic, campaigns yielded an average ROI of 11:1. To help attribute online bookings to the staff’s marketing efforts, VisitPITTSBURGH uses a research platform called Adara Media Impact that utilizes tracking pixels to follow

2020 Campaign Results: • Hotel Rev (per Expedia) - $1,635,433 • Est. Total Hotel Rev - $9,256,184 • Hotel Rev (per Adara Media Impact) - $1,904,333 • Page Views - 272,622 • Social Engagements – 1,254,784 • Social Video Views – 577,616 • Avg. CTR - .88 • Avg. ROI - 11:1 2020 Social Media Results: • Instagram Followers – 46,736 (37.22% increase over 2019) • Instagram Engagements – 241,254 (49.9% increase over 2019) • Facebook Followers – 55,128 (11.18% increase over 2019) • Facebook Engagements – 858,969 (76.6% increase over 2019) • LinkedIn Followers – 4,440 (45.3% increase over 2019) • LinkedIn Engagements – 14,567 (53% increase over 2019) • Twitter Followers – 53,370 (2.1% increase over 2019) • Twitter Engagements – 49,619 (53.1% decrease over 2019)


• Video Views (paid & unpaid) – 658,052

visitors to thousands of online travel agencies (OTA). This data allows VisitPITTSBURGH to attribute hotel revenue to its marketing campaigns. However, it is important to note a few limiting factors of Adara Media Impact. Adara Media Impact has a coverage of 55% of hotel rooms in Pittsburgh. Additionally, the platform is only able to see online, partner-direct bookings. That means that the trackable hotel revenue data for each campaign is roughly only 33%.

Annual REPORT 2020


Notable Achievements in 2020 • The Rediscover Pittsburgh campaign, which ran from mid-July through December, had 124,000 pageviews. • Of these pageviews, the guest blog series accounted for just over 24,000 pageviews. • The PGH Commitment and Travel Safely pages, first available in May, achieved more than 71,000 pageviews, many of which were a result of the strong push from the marketing campaigns launched in late November and early December. • The continuation of the Pull Up a Chair. You are Welcomed Here. campaign started the year out strong with 78,000 pageviews, with more than 14,000 attributed to the 90 Painted Chairs Program. • Worked on the refresh of, which officially rolled out in Q1 2021. • Engaged with local writers and began collecting the content needed to build out the site’s Diverse Pittsburgh offerings.

Web Traffic Results: Users: 1,128,897

Web Development The year started strong for, as the site built on previous efforts for search engine optimized content and simplified navigation. When considering statistics for the first quarter of 2020, typically one of the weakest quarters, year-over-year sessions had increased 15%. However, as the site typically starts to see increased traffic in mid-March, COVID-19 lockdowns began to take hold and negatively effect traffic. During the early days, traffic would fluctuate between 60-75% decrease over 2019. While overall traffic was down, the traffic pattern remained in sync with previous years representing the natural ebb and flow of seasonal web traffic.

Sessions: 1,368,917 Pageviews: 2,246,033 Time on Site: 1:16

Top Pages Viewed: Homepage Events & Festivals Things to Do Free Things to Do Rediscover Pittsburgh

Top Blogs Viewed: Black-Owned Businesses

2020 v 2019 (%change)

Steelers Nation, Let’s Bring It In

Users: -29.87%

Pittsburgh Holiday Gift Guide

Sessions: -34.93%

Fall Fairs and Festivals

Pittsburgh Craft Brewers

Pageviews: -45.58%


Annual REPORT 2020



Marketing Communications Marketing Communications worked extensively with VisitPITTSBURGH leadership on messaging throughout the year, gathering information, refining talking points and ensuring that the organization was quick to respond to the media. Efforts were made to increase VisitPITTSBURGH’s outreach and build stronger relationships with the board of directors, elected officials, key stakeholders, business partners and clients. Marketing Communications launched a monthly MeetPITTSBURGH eblast as well as assisted with a weekly Partnership Development eblast, which eventually phased down to a once-a-month occurrence. With an increased reliance on Earned Media, the communications staff continued to raise awareness of the Pittsburgh region and drive visitation by engaging with local and regional media through press releases, story pitches and virtual media conferences.

Notable Achievements in 2020 • Played host to seven local, national and international journalists, crafting itineraries in support of their assignments. • Almost all group media press tour efforts were halted in 2020 due to limited budgets and COVID-19 mitigation restrictions. • Ensured that health and safety remained at the forefront of VisitPITTSBURGH’s marketing efforts. • Relayed timely health and safety mitigation updates to both internal and external audiences. • Assisted in the launch of the MeetPITTSBURGH blog series, providing meeting planners an insider’s look at how Pittsburgh fits into their future plans. Due to staffing changes, publicity tracking efforts were halted in 2020. But, by utilizing the Metro Monitor and Burrelles Media Monitoring platforms, estimated results were gleaned for the following marketing campaigns:

90 Painted Chairs Program • 15 media pieces (print, radio, broadcast and web) • 115,021,996 impressions • $176,237 advertising equivalency

Rediscover Pittsburgh • 18 media pieces (print, radio, broadcast and web) • 20,861,969 impressions • $61,555 advertising equivalency

Ace, the Pittsburgh Adventure Dog • 17 media pieces (print, radio, broadcast and web) • 21,082,377 impressions • $61,155 advertising equivalency


Annual REPORT 2020


Research For the Research staff, 2020 can best be described as a year of constant change and many unknowns. Leisure, meeting, convention and sport travelers’ behaviors, attitudes and preferences changed at breakneck speed in 2020. During this time, the staff’s primary focus was to anticipate changes in the travel industry the best it could, estimate weekly losses in visitor volume and spend locally, monitor changes in travelers’ attitudes and preferences and forecast when the local travel industry will likely recover. As 2020 progressed, the Research staff enhanced its weekly key performance indicators to provide a more holistic view of how the local travel industry was impacted by the pandemic while also giving a glimpse as to what the road to recovery may look like. To achieve this, the staff deepened its resources to include additional syndicated and primary sources. Despite reporting on numbers that often trended downward, the data, analysis and insight provided by the Research staff was invaluable to stakeholders, especially hoteliers, who were looking for information to share with their ownership and brands. The Research staff also provided weekly and monthly updates both internally and externally to share pertinent information which supported and helped inform recovery efforts.

Notable Achievements in 2020 • Forecasted the degree to which visitor volumes in different categories, such as leisure travelers, meeting and sports event attendees, would be impacted as a result of the pandemic. • Developed a methodology for estimating visitor volume and spend using daily STR data. • Added context to the weekly hotel occupancy rates by overlaying Pittsburgh International Airport TSA throughput data to understand the dynamics of airport passengers and hotel occupancy rates. • Tracked key performance indicators (room nights, attendance, EICs, number of citywide events, etc.) weekly for meetings and sport events which were cancelled or postponed due to the pandemic. • Engaged Tourism Economics to conduct a forecast to determine what the outlook and pace of recovery in the local tourism industry may look like. • Tracked Americans’ sentiment toward travel on a weekly basis. • Conducted a readiness to return to sports travel study with sport attendees. • Redefined STR submarkets to better align with VisitPITTSBURGH’s mission.


Annual REPORT 2020



Partnership Development 2020 was a brutal year for many of VisitPITTSBURGH’s partners, especially those who were forced to close temporarily or permanently; several hotels remained closed entering 2021. These closures dealt a blow to VisitPITTSBURGH’s partnership and advertising revenues, as many partners’ marketing budgets were severely cut. However, the Partnership Development staff worked with partners on solutions so that they could afford some advertising. The staff also utilized its network and relationships to provide support to VisitPITTSBURGH partners, including: • Presented information on COVID-19 relief packages and programs available to local businesses. • Engaged with experts in the hospitality and tourism fields, as well as local and state officials. • Hosted webinars regarding the current state, future outlook and recovery timeline for the industry. • Partnered with local organizations, such as the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Greater Pittsburgh Hotel Association and the Pittsburgh Technical College, to spread the word on programs to help drive local business. • Supported food donations and food drives for hospitality workers. • Joined students with the local tourism community.

Diverse Tourism Initiative. These efforts began through partnership with several local organizations, including Neighborhood Allies, the HomewoodBrushton Business Association and The Homewood Experience. Then, together with their collaboration, VisitPITTSBURGH designed a comprehensive marketing plan that included print and web presence, videos and blogs to help amplify The Homewood Experience’s messaging. Throughout the year, the Partnership Development staff continuously evaluated partner benefits and provided a wide range of new engagement opportunities for VisitPITTSBURGH partners, including: • Participation in new welcome videos. • A ‘thank you’ video to Pittsburgh’s front-line workers. • Instagram takeovers that reach nearly 50,000 Pittsburgh fans. • A reinvented publication called See & Do Guide. • A top-to-bottom innovative redesign of VisitPITTSBURGH’s Official Visitors Guide. These offerings were developed with the mission of providing VisitPITTSBURGH’s partners new ways of engaging more efficiently with visitors and potential travelers.

The Partnership Development staff also worked to further engage communities that may realize increased economic benefits from VisitPITTSBURGH’s

Notable Achievements in 2020 • Hosted a series of webinars and virtual Town Halls for VisitPITTSBURGH business partners on various topics, including: COVID-19 federal, state and local guidelines; relief programs; tourism outlook; and industry recovery. • Provided consistent partner support and updates through a regular eblast meant to keep partners informed of VisitPITTSBURGH’s efforts, along with updates on relevant industry topics.


• Expanded engagement with diverse communities and organizations to increase visitation and tourism through VisitPITTSBURGH’s Diverse Tourism Initiative. • Partnered with local organizations to combine efforts in driving the economic impact of tourism to VisitPITTSBURGH partners. • Increased advertising engagement opportunities for partners to better reach their target markets. • Represented VisitPITTSBURGH on virtual panels discussing the role of DMOs during COVID-19.

Annual REPORT 2020


By the Numbers % of Original Income Goals

% of Revised Income Goals

Total Dues: $405,505

59% of original goal of $688,000

78% of revised goal of $520,000

Print Advertising: $322,520

72% of original goal of $444,500

95% of revised goal of $340,880

Web Advertising: $140,410

57% of original goal of $245,000

74% of revised goal of $190,000

Co-Op Income: $39,450

38% of original goal of $104,000

Goal was not revised

Sponsorship: $825

1.4% of original goal of $55,800

15.5% of revised goal of $5,300

58% of original goal of $1,564,600

78% of revised goal of $1,160,180

Total Income: $908,710


Annual REPORT 2020


FINANCE & OPERATIONS The Finance and Operations staff provides a strong foundation for VisitPITTSBURGH, supporting the MeetPITTSBURGH, SportsPITTSBURGH and Leisure Tourism verticals and ensuring they have the necessary tools to represent Allegheny County. Furthermore, the staff extends support to the board of directors in their management and oversight of the organization. In many areas, the staff’s achievements mirror those in prior years, and, in spite of additional challenges, 2020 was no exception. Once again, the Finance and Operations staff delivered timely financial reporting and a clean audit that included additional governmental auditing procedures due to the receipt of federal funding through the CARES Act. The staff’s ability to manage spending and revenues carefully allowed VisitPITTSBURGH to report a lower than anticipated year-end loss in a year that saw a


significant decline in operating revenue. Much of this success was due to the efforts of all staff who spent wisely and smartly. The cash reserve accounts finished the year in a much stronger position than anticipated, allowing the organization to better plan for additional challenges in 2021 and 2022. Change and innovation played an even larger role than normal during 2020. Numerous operational improvements were made while also balancing VisitPITTSBURGH’s varied financial needs. Those improvements included: changing the accounting system and the payroll processing software; issuing call for staff to work-from-home in compliance with the commonwealth’s COVID-19 mitigation orders; shifting most physical offices at VisitPITTSBURGH’s headquarter location; closing VisitPITTSBURGH’s primary retail store at Fifth Avenue Place; and redesigning the back-of-house workflow to accommodate a substantial reduction in staffing.

Annual REPORT 2020


Notable Achievements in 2020 • Upgraded the accounting system to the cloudbased NetSuite product. • Converted payroll processing to Paychex Flex platform and provided support and training to all staff. • Re-engineered mailroom, IT services and administrative tasks due to staff reductions. • Rewrote the 2020 budget to address substantial loss of funding and developed financing plans to sustain operations. • Worked with Allegheny County to obtain CARES Act funding of $1.25 million to support marketing operations during the pandemic. • Consolidated inventory due to the closing of the WELCOME PITTSBURGH Information Center and Gift Shop at Fifth Avenue Place. • Facilitated a smooth transition to work-from-home for all staff and ensured that each individual had the equipment and knowledge necessary to work remotely. • Upgraded network communications tools by increasing internet connection speeds and installing upgraded VPN products. • Provided Adobe Acrobat DC to all staff in order to increase remote productivity and document management. • Reduced operating expenses through renegotiating operating leases on office copy equipment and managed IT services. • Collaborated with MeetPITTSBURGH, SportsPITTSBURGH and Leisure Tourism verticals to ensure credits for unused airline and travel purchases were properly managed. • Reorganized the office space to better accommodate staff and ensure social distancing. • Set up improved processes for managing the Pittsburgh International Airport program income and spending.






Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau, Inc. dba VisitPITTSBURGH Consolidated Financial Highlights Year Ended Dec. 31

Sources of Funding Membership Investment

2020 405,505


Allegheny County Hotel Room Tax Revenue



Restricted Grants and Revenue













Interest Income



Net Realized Gain on Investments







Advertising and Sponsorships Contributions in-Kind Participation Fees Merchandising Income Convention Services

Other Revenue Total Support and Revenue Expenses Convention Sales





Sports Initiatives



Convention Services



Visitor Services











Membership Development/Services






Special Opportunity





Leisure Marketing

Total Expenses



Annual REPORT 2020


Sources of Funding 2020

Sources of Funding 2020 Net Realized Gain on Investments 13%

Convention Services 0%

Participation Fees 5%

Interest Income 2% Merchandising Income 0%

Contributions in Kind 0%

Other Revenue 0%

Advertising and Sponsorships 10%

Membership Investment 8%

Restricted Grants and Revenue 24%

Uses of Funds 2020 Uses of Funds 2020

Use of Funds 2020 Membership Development/Services Membership Development/Services 6% 6%

Website Website 6% 6%

Allegheny County Hotel Room Tax Revenue 38% Management/Operating 8% Management/Operating 8% Special Opportunity 7% Special Opportunity 7%

Communications Communications 4% 4%

Convention Sales Convention 26% Sales 26%

Leisure Marketing Leisure18% Marketing 18%

Visitor Services Visitor9% Services 9% Convention Services Convention 8% Services 8%

Sports Initiatives Sports Initiatives 705,910 705,910 8% 8%


Annual REPORT 2020


HUMAN RESOURCES Human Resources’ strategies are purposefully designed to fully engage and support VisitPITTSBURGH’s employees. The staff’s accomplishments include achieving the organization’s mission, business plan and goals that are directly connected to staff and human resource strategies, which drive organizational value. Human Resources leads and oversees: salary administration; talent acquisition and management; automated applicant tracking; time off and attendance; family friendly workplace flexibility; health and welfare benefits; onboarding; automated open enrollment; virtual internship program; HIPAA compliance; coaching and professional development; wellness programming; conflict resolution; and, compliance with all federal, state and local regulations including the ACA, EEO, FMLA, ADEA, ADA and GINA. The Human Resources staff led VisitPITTSBURGH through a very unique, challenging situation in 2020. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, which caused severe business disruption, the organization had to professionally and respectfully


depart 29 permanently laid-off employees. Through partnership with VisitPITTSBURGH’s corporate attorney, risk mitigation strategies were designed and executed, as well as all confidential release agreements. To assist in this process, the Human Resources staff created departure documents including letters, notifications and a list of Frequently Asked Questions which explained salary, benefits and unemployment. Throughout the departure process, VisitPITTSBURGH managed the risk and complied with all local, state and federal regulations including Title VII, Americans with Disabilities Act, Older Workers Benefit Protection Act, COBRA, Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Equal Pay Act. Departed employees remained covered under VisitPITTSBURGH’s organizational health insurance through Dec. 31, 2020.

Annual REPORT 2020


Notable Achievements in 2020 • Supported the efforts of the VisitPITTSBURGH Board of Directors Executive Committee and Searchwide Global throughout the nationwide search for a new VisitPITTSBURGH President & CEO. • Aggressively marketed the 2020 renewal of VisitPITTSBURGH’s health and welfare benefits, with the assistance of HUB International, VisitPITTSBURGH’s broker, and renewed coverage with Highmark, United Concordia Dental, VSP Vision and CIGNA Life, Accident and Disability. Separate meetings were conducted during open enrollment for current and furloughed staff. • Ensured full compliance with the Affordable Care Act, filing the 2019 tax return with the IRS and distributing required 1095-B and 1095-C forms. • Collected $7,021 through the 2020 United Way Campaign, with 75% staff participation. • Offered virtual and in-person volunteer opportunities aimed at assisting community members in great need during VisitPITTSBURGH’s 20th Annual United Way Week of Caring in October. Staff members collectively volunteered for the virtual Make a Card for a Senior campaign and worked onsite at food banks in Butler and Homewood-Brushton. • Collected $1,167 in January during VisitPITTSBURGH’s 17th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Day Food Drive to support the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. The funds raised exceeded the organization’s goal of $1,000. • Offered culture and communications virtual trainings to all employees. • Managed web-based talent management, applicant tracking, HRIS and time-off platforms. • Ensured compliance with the Affordable Care Act, the IRS and Employer Shared Responsibility provisions of individual and employer mandates and aligned July 1 medical renewal with Year 14 wellness program.


Annual REPORT 2020


EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE Timothy Q. Hudak, Esq. Chairman Eckert Seamans Cherin Mellott, LLC Thomas E. Martini Vice Chairman Westin Convention Center Pittsburgh Michele Meloy Burchfield Treasurer Blume Honey Water Meredith Meyer Grelli Secretary Wigle Whiskey Bryan N. Iams Past Chairman PPG Industries Inc. Janis Burley Wilson August Wilson African American Cultural Center

Stuart G. Hoffman PNC Financial Services Group Terry Kalna Pittsburgh Penguins Chaz Kellem University of Pittsburgh Kevin Kilkeary Prospera Hospitality Robert F. Matzie PA House of Representatives Sylvia McCoy ‘Burgh Bits and Bites Food Tour Troy Schooley P3R EX OFFICIO Tim Muldoon David L. Lawrence Convention Center

Tom Dougherty Allegheny Land Trust


Cassandra Washington Hampton Inn Pittsburgh University Medical Center

The Honorable Rich Fitzgerald Allegheny County Chief Executive

Terry Wirginis Gateway Clipper Fleet

The Honorable William Peduto Mayor of Pittsburgh


Christina A. Cassotis Allegheny County Airport Authority

Gino Caliendo Omni William Penn Samuel DeMarco III Allegheny County Councilman-At-Large Scott Frenz Fenner Dunlop Dana L. Fruzynski, Esq. Harris Grill Dan Griffin Griffin-Spence



Mitch Swain Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council



Jerad Bachar President & CEO


Karen Fisher Chief Financial Officer



LEISURE TOURISM Tom Loftus Chief Marketing Officer Brenda Armstrong Senior Director of Marketing

Mary Grasha Houpt Vice President, Human Resources

Derek Dawson Senior Director, Partnership Development

Diane Cortese Director, Accounting

Barb Hollie Destination and Visitor Services Manager

Michelle Grew Executive Office Manager

Gena Inman Social Media & Marketing Manager

Jason Kolesar Accounting Analyst

Andrea Karkhanis Director, Marketing Research

Tom Yanosick Director, Information Technology

Kylie McCracken Marketing Manager

MEETPITTSBURGH Sara Holzer National Sales Director

Robert Leff Senior National Sales Director - Minnesota Office Kristen Turner Director, Convention Services Jennifer Vacek Director, Convention Sales


Asaka Narumi Director, Web Development Mackenzie Perak Sales & Market Research Coordinator Amber Ross Multimedia Design & Production Manager Colleen Smith Partnership Development Director Shannon Wolfgang Director, Marketing Communications

Jennifer Hawkins Executive Director, SportsPITTSBURGH Brady Inners Sports Event Manager


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