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Response To Philly Chapter's Letter
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A MESSAGE FROM EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR DREW BERRY

Why Cleveland Won the 2025 Bid and Not Philly 

 

Updated Nov. 7 at 11:25 a.m.

 

Here are the facts to clear up inaccurate information contained in the Philadelphia letter. We have a great deal of respect for the Philadelphia chapter. However, taking the emotion out of our decision-making and doing what is in the best interest of NABJ is paramount. That is what this board did. As the President stated, we should not minimize the efforts of the Birmingham, Cleveland, Atlanta and Chicago teams that put together winning proposals.  At the same time, we should be sensitive to those cities that were not successful in the pursuit of an NABJ convention. 

 

Important Summary Facts

 

1.     Philly’s CVB did not bid on conventions for 2024 or 2026. They did not have the space, or the available dates, needed for our convention and communicated as such to us. They passed.

 

2.     The city also pulled out of submitting a bid for 2023. They did not have the needed dates and only had the end of August available. They pulled out knowing the dates did not meet our needs, opting to go with another client that liked the dates for 2023.

 

3.     For 2025, the ONLY year in which Philly was in play because of the above points and based on what the Philly delegation submitted, we would have needed to shift programming, starting the convention on a Tuesday and ending it sometime Saturday.

 

4.     Room rates for the main hotel were first quoted at $249 then $219 and then $209 per night. That’s $30 more per night than Cleveland, the winning bidder. Cleveland is $179 per night.  

 

5.     We always get concessions from all hotels as an incentive to get our business. The concessions are packaged differently and hotels and CVBs place different “values” on those concessions depending on how they want them packaged. As you know, “value” is a common sales term used to communicate that someone is getting a good deal for the money. The claim that $646,000 in “value” incentives was offered by the Philly CVB includes a $439,375 “value” that Philly places on its own meeting space. All convention bidders included needed meeting space in their bids because it is a requirement in our “Request for Proposals” to land our conventions.  For example, Cleveland’s 2025 meeting space value is $569,269. That, coupled with another $499,000 in other incentives, takes Cleveland’s “value” incentives to more than $1,068,000.  (Other incentives include free Wi-Fi, student rates, parking and a myriad of other things.)

 

So, here’s the comparison:

 

- Philly’s value incentives rounded:  $646,000 plus $75,000 cash incentive = $721,000

- Cleveland’s value incentives rounded:  $1,068,000 plus $300,000 cash incentive = $1,368,000

 

Please note that both Philly and Cleveland offered cash incentives. 

(Philly $75,000 and Cleveland $300,000) 

 

Cleveland’s total incentives are almost double that of Philly. In fact, it about $647,000

more than Philadelphia. It is not a good business practice to leave that kind of money

on the table. 

 

(One other note about “value.” If you do the math, Philly claims there is a $40,000 value on providing 80 room nights for a board meeting. If you take the $209 per night, add 20% for taxes, that equals $250.80 per night.  If you multiply $250.80 (room rate) x 80 (room nights) it equals $20,064. The value being claimed ($40,000) is twice the actual value based on the lowest room night offered to NABJ. The only explanation we can see is that they have to be using a higher room rate to compute the value. This is why we are always careful when assessing actual “value.”  As you know, placing value on products is a common sales strategy.

 

6.     Comp rooms and A/V for board meetings at the convention facility prior to the convention are the norm and offered by ALL bidders because it is a requirement.  

 

7.     NABJ talked directly to the A/V provider and verified what we already suspected and experienced.  To duplicate the A/V service that we had at our last convention would be at least a conservative 50% more meaning at least $600,000 for A/V.  Most of that is driven by extraordinary labor costs, rigging screens, monitors and projectors, room resets, etc.  Taking on the additional A/V costs would be an irresponsible and unnecessary expenditure probably necessitating an increase in registration costs for our members.  That is not something the board should do or is willing to do. We are interested in REDUCING COST to membership.  We have heard you loud and clear on this issue.  

 

By the way, Cleveland offered a 40% discount on A/V on top of “complimentary” microphones and podiums in its concessions.  Philly offered complimentary microphones and a 10% discount. The “complimentary microphones” mentioned in the Philly letter is not what brings the cost of A/V significantly down. There are extraordinary labor costs in Philly that every convention planner knows about for services as mentioned above. Even if the cost of microphones was included, we are still looking at a couple of hundred thousand dollars more.  We have experience with labor costs at previous conventions and fully understand the complexities of getting things done. The overall 40% discount offered by Cleveland AND the complimentary microphones significantly trumped the Philly offer. 

 

Philly received high marks for “ease of travel” in the convention bid matrix. It is pretty easy to get to from multiple points across the country. Philly also had good marks in chapter and city engagement. However, the CVBs overall score in the convention bid matrix was not high enough to warrant a convention that was in the best financial interest of our members and organization as a whole.   

 

We also looked at official attendance records dating back 25 years and saw that out of the lowest 10 conventions in terms of attendance, Philly hosted two of them.  In 1995, the attendance was 2,453. In 2011, it was 2,390. Numbers from other sources are unofficial.  

 

In closing, the Philly leadership did a great job of galvanizing everyone to help land the convention. We should find a way to celebrate Philly and other chapters’ efforts and significant contributions to NABJ. Doing it in a way that returns us to financial deficits is not the answer. We look forward to talking to all chapters regarding fiscally responsible, high profile regional and national events important to our members.


 

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