|By Jennifer Davies, The San Diego
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Apr. 27, 2006 - San Diego's tourism industry has a new leader.
The San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau yesterday named David Peckinpaugh as its president and CEO to replace Reint Reinders, who has led the organization for 15 years.
Peckinpaugh, who has had a varied career in the hospitality industry, including stints at such local hotels as La Costa Resort, currently serves as chief marketing officer for Conferon, the country's largest meeting planning company.
Peckinpaugh, 48, will start June 5, while Reinders will exit June 30.
Reinders announced last summer that he would leave once his four-year contract ran out.
Praising Peckinpaugh as a leader with strong sales and marketing talents, local tourism executives say he will be able to bring together the disparate factions in San Diego's hospitality industry.
"What he is going to do the very first year is find out where the bureau is going," said Lorin Stewart, director of San Diego's Historic Tours of America, which runs the Old Town Trolley.
"I think he is going to listen a lot -- listen to the board and get to know the leaders of the industry," said Stewart, who headed the search committee for Reinders' replacement.
Peckinpaugh said he would work hard to establish strong working relationships with City Hall and the Convention Center Corp.
"There is an opportunity for improvement and healing and consensus- building," he said.
In fact one of the key goals for the incoming ConVis head, according to the circulated job description, is to "immediately form strong and meaningful relationships with all stakeholder groups" and "rebuild trust, respect, and support with those same stakeholder groups."
Those relationships had been strained in recent years as questions were raised about ConVis' budget as well as Reinders' compensation package and perks.
A city audit in 2004 focused on Reinders' $81,000 annual bonus and a $50,000 interest-free loan, which he paid off, that was negotiated as part of his contract. As the city has faced an increasingly bleak financial picture, ConVis has also seen its budget cut and some of its duties transferred to the Convention Center Corp.
Over the past three years, ConVis's budget has been cut by more than 37 percent, from $13.9 million in fiscal 2003 to $8.8 million in fiscal 2006.
Under the current proposed city budget, ConVis's budget would remain at $8.8 million.
In addition, Reinders came under fire from hotel operators such as Bill Evans of Evans Hotels, who said Reinders wasn't focusing enough on the lodging industry and instead was preoccupied by such issues as the opening of the Midway aircraft carrier.
Evans, whose company operates properties including The Lodge at Torrey Pines, was on the 11-member search committee that selected Peckinpaugh.
Patti Roscoe, chairwoman of PRA Destination Management Co., said Peckinpaugh and Reinders share a flair for marketing and are well-respected by those in the local and national industry.
Peckinpaugh, she said, is well-suited to deal with the current political climate.
"One of the most challenging issues, in my opinion, is not so much the industry, locally and nationally," Roscoe said. "It's the politics and I think David understands that."
Those who know Peckinpaugh describe him as charismatic while also humble and down-to-earth with an easy sense of humor.
Peckinpaugh, who was promoted to chief marketing officer at Conferon in the last couple of months, acknowledged jokingly that the timing of his departure "was a little awkward."
But he said he was gunning for the challenge of running San Diego's Convention & Visitor's Bureau despite the tough fiscal climate.
"San Diego has nothing but a bright future," he said.
Peckinpaugh will get a slightly less lucrative compensation package than Reinders. While Reinders base salary was $225,000 with the chance for a bonus of as much as 40 percent, Peckinpaugh's base salary is $240,000 with a bonus of up to 30 percent if key performance goals are met.
Peckinpaugh will have a car allowance of $850, while Reinders has had a car allowance of $1,000. Also, Peckinpaugh will receive up to $45,000 for his relocation expenses as well as 90 days of temporary housing.
Stewart said the compensation was in line with that of convention and visitor's bureau leaders in cities with lower costs of living, such as St Louis and Chicago, both of which recently hired new bureau heads.
National industry watchers also praised the hiring of Peckinpaugh. Deborah Sexton, president & CEO of The Professional Convention Management Association, a trade group, said Peckinpaugh is well-regarded.
Sexton said Peckinpaugh would bring a unique viewpoint, having worked for Conferon, a meeting planner that has essentially been a client of San Diego and other convention cities, along with his varied background at such hotels as the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and at Hyatt Regency hotels.
"He's thought of as a young, bright, aggressive, talented executive," Sexton said. "This is a very good decision San Diego made."
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