Julie Coker, President and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB), oversees the organization’s efforts to promote and sell Philadelphia as a top destination for meetings, conventions, overseas travelers, and group tour visitors. In an exclusive interview with Voyager’s World, she sheds light on how the venue caters to the Indian MICE travelers.
How do you see Philadelphia emerging as a Meeting Destination for the Indian market?
The numbers speak for themselves – in 2018 more than 30% of Indian visitors to Philadelphia cited business and conventions as their main purpose for traveling to Philadelphia – a relatively high figure compared to other overseas markets. Our city is a value-based alternative that prioritizes group business and gives attendees all the amenities of a big American city, without concern of overpopulation or overpricing. With the backdrop of America’s first World Heritage City, corporate clients can experience global hotel brands, tax-free shopping on shoes and clothes, and award-winning restaurants, all key destination aspects that Indian MICE groups seek.
Being considered the birthplace of the United States and given its historical value, can you recommend some unique meeting venues for groups to about 100 people? (Primarily considering it is for Indians)
Philadelphia offers unexpected and unique venues that reflect the personality of the city – from elegant ballrooms to historic sites, contemporary art galleries, and outdoor spaces. As the birthplace of America, and the country’s first World Heritage City, our historical venues help to set us apart. At both the National Constitution Center and Independence Visitors Center, attendees can immerse themselves among interactive exhibits and enjoy views of Independence Hall. While the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is amid a massive renovation project designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, allows for entertaining in style alongside historical and prestigious collections of art. For more information utilize our searchable venue guide.
What are your inputs on the Indian outbound market and your marketing plans here in India?
With over 57,000 Indians having visited Philadelphia in 2018 – making it Philadelphia’s 4th largest source market for overseas visitation for the 5th consecutive year – India inbound tourism remains a top priority for our destination. Our approach is to educate travel trade on the distinct itineraries Philadelphia can offer as part of their product portfolio. Whether it be a family-friendly trip, fashionistas seeking a tax-free shopping haven, or history buffs seeking the all-American experiences, Philadelphia’s has enough product offerings to develop multiple three-night programs. Additionally, in 2020, we are expanding our B2C approach, speaking directly to consumers via magazines, newspapers, and blogs, as well as executing social campaigns that serve to inspire new and returning travelers to our region.
Philadelphia is also home to several events throughout the year. How much value do events add to Philadelphia being a destination?
Events are a fundamental part of our city’s DNA and are a core focus of our COVID-19 recovery strategy. In looking at the calendar of annual events that take place in the city, PHLCVB plays both a direct and indirect role in the execution and promotion of many of the events that take place in the city of Philadelphia. From the iconic sporting events that our PHL Sports division executes to the city’s annual July 4th Independence Day celebration, which we help to promote to visitors near and far, these events help to showcase the best of what our city has to offer as a leading destination for meetings & events.
How has being part of the USA Discovery Program, helped position Philadelphia in International markets, especially in the APAC region?
The USA Discovery Program is a great tool for our trade partners to learn about the destinations. The Philadelphia badge, which is a part of the program among the East Coast destinations, is regularly updated and serves as a great learning module for the Indian travel trade keen to educate themselves on the city.