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Time of Changes at Monterey (CA) County Convention and Visitors Bureau:
Steve Wille Named Interim CEO and New Brand Slogan Chosen
 "Alive is the Air"
By Marie Vasari, The Monterey County Herald, Calif.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Jun. 19, 2008 - While the agenda for the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau's annual luncheon was to install a new board of directors, the underlying theme of Wednesday's gathering of hospitality leaders was change.

The event, at the new Intercontinental The Clement Monterey, celebrated the opening of two Cannery Row properties expected to have a positive impact on the region's tourism industry -- the $80 million, 208-room hotel property that opened last month adjacent to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the recent opening of a Cannery Row IMAX.

Those aren't the only changes to the face of the region's hospitality industry.

On Friday, the Casa Munras Hotel in Monterey puts the finishing touches on its own major renovation with the opening of Sano Spa, where customers can indulge in hot stone massages or sugar polishes.

This month marks the end of the first full year of Tourism Improvement District funding, said Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau Chairwoman Lisa Dias.

One of the biggest changes for the organization, which promotes Monterey County as a tourism draw to leisure travelers and the corporate and incentive markets, is in its leadership.

June 9 marked the final day on the job for John McMahon, who served as the nonprofit organization's president and chief executive officer for the past five years. McMahon, who helped oversee the approval of a Tourism Improvement District that more than doubled the Convention and Visitors Bureau's annual budget, was recognized for his years of service during Wednesday's luncheon.

Steve Wille, who joined the organization four months ago as vice president for marketing communications, has been appointed interim CEO.

Wille, a one-time marketing official with the Pebble Beach Co. who led marketing efforts for Intrawest and the Sacramento Kings, said that when he left the region in 2000, he didn't foresee a time when the county's varied municipalities could unite in their tourism efforts, much less come up with a budget that would make them viable competitors in the tourism marketing world.

But he said all those things have become reality, as have a new longterm brand and high-tech marketing platforms to spread that message.

The annual membership luncheon included an overview of the organization's accomplishments over the past year. Among the highlights for fiscal 2007-08:

-- Staffing increases were completed, adding four account executives and a sales coordinator;

-- Pacific Grove became a participating member city;

-- 450 decision-makers from 33 countries attended the international Society of Incentive Travel Executives Conference in Monterey in December;

-- A new brand platform for Monterey County, "Alive is the Air," was unveiled;

-- An interactive Web site, www.montereyinfo.org, was launched;

-- A second Visitors Center was added, this one inside the Monterey Maritime Museum;

-- Membership grew by 142 to a record 823 members;

-- 130,000 copies of Land and Sea were distributed to visitors;

-- The California Visitors Guide expanded its spotlight of Monterey County to four pages;

-- High-visibility media exposure included Gateway TV Australia, The Weather Channel, VH-1, Travel Channel's "Ultimate Golf Getaways," the "Today Show's" "America the Beautiful" series, Monterey Jazz Festival coverage on CNN and a profile on GoGoTV Japan. According to the bureau, its media exposure last year was worth an estimated $11 million.

The county's tourism industry, second only to agriculture in Monterey County in terms of revenue, had an estimated worth of $2 billion last year, according to the Convention and Visitors Bureau, and generated 22,000 jobs.

Marie Vasari can be reached at 646-4478 or mvasari@montereyherald.com.

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To see more of the Monterey County Herald, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.montereyherald.com.

Copyright (c) 2008, The Monterey County Herald, Calif.

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