February 3, 2023

Post-PCMA, GCCC Plans to Land More World-Class Events

At the Greater Columbus Convention Center (GCCC), Regional General Manager John Page started 2023 with a major sales presentation — for nearly 3,300 prospects. That’s a fair way to describe the annual convention for PCMA, the Professional Convention Managers Association, held in Columbus Jan. 8-11.

Convention destinations get a double bang from hosting an event like PCMA, where the attendees themselves can choose locations for their own meetings. “While you’re hosting the event, you’re also selling for the future,” Page said. Without hosting the event, “It would take nearly a lifetime to have one-on-one meetings with all those folks.”

And what the “sales presentation” lacked in intimacy, it more than made up for in impact.

From the time conventiongoers were greeted at the airport — with a band, locally produced foods and the opportunity to check in for the event — the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority (FCCFA), Experience Columbus, local officials, and others made sure guests felt welcomed and well cared for.

Nationwide Boulevard was temporarily dubbed “PCMA Way”; “Welcome to Columbus” signs around the Convention Center and nearby neighborhoods featured PCMA branding; and the Short North lighted arches and the lighting on the Goodale Street garage were programmed to display PCMA colors of blue and black.

Page believes such lavish hospitality is Columbus’ not-so-secret weapon as a second-tier destination, just below the New Yorks and Las Vegases of the world. While a meeting of PCMA’s size might be just one of several happening in a given week in those cities, in Columbus, it is treated as the big deal it is.

GCCC and Experience Columbus teams planned for PCMA for seven years, and the result was worth it: The event generated an estimated $5.6 million in visitor spending, and officials expect to realize $250 million in area economic growth over the next 10 years, thanks to seeds planted over those four days in January.

Before the event even began, on Jan. 7, PCMA President and Chief Executive Officer Sherrif Karamat helped FCCFA officials, joined by city and county leaders, celebrate the recently opened 402 tower of the Hilton Columbus Downtown hotel with an exclusive reception in Stories on High, the hotel’s 28th-floor lounge with floor-to-ceiling windows and a stunning, 270-degree view of the city.

The hotel, managed by Hilton and owned by the FCCFA, was a key component to the community’s success in attracting PCMA, Page said. “We’re arm in arm with the hotel. It’s another sales wing in our collaborative efforts; its success is our success and vice versa.”

All FCCFA properties had starring roles in the event. Along with exhibits and sessions, the GCCC hosted “The 411 on Columbus” — an opening-night celebration featuring Columbus attractions through all four seasons. The Short North’s HighBall Halloween fashion show, Jeni’s Ice Cream and Festival Latino were among those featured.

On closing night, multiplatinum recording artist, EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony) recipient and Ohio native John Legend, performed exclusively for PCMA attendees at Nationwide Arena, also an FCCFA-owned property.

“Nationwide Arena was thrilled to close out PCMA with an unforgettable night. We loved the opportunity to showcase the arena with a rockin’ performance from Ohio’s own John Legend,” shared Dave Redelberger of Nationwide Arena communications.

PCMA was the second home-run event for Columbus in recent years. In 2019, the city hosted the American Society of Association Executives, with 5,000-plus heads of associations, most of which host their own annual conventions. If that group is known as the “Super Bowl” of conventions for the host city, Page said, PCMA is equally impactful at a minimum as the NFL Conference Championships.

Now, as the global convention industry continues to pick up post-pandemic steam, Page expects to build on the PCMA success. “We’re going for a national trajectory,” he said. “Not just against our peer cities, but we’re punching above our weight class. We’re not going to win every fight, but we will win one more every once in a while; we’re going to shock you into knowing our name and that Columbus is here to stay.”



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