When Maureen Morgenthien joined the Emerald Coast (Florida) CVB as deputy director of sales and marketing in July 2016, she had her work cut out for her. “I had to Google ‘Emerald Coast’ when I saw the job advertisement because I wasn’t sure where it was,” Morgenthien says candidly—noting that the Emerald Coast is often (incorrectly) thought of as the entire Florida Panhandle. Almost a year into her new role, Morgenthien shares about her plans to develop the Emerald Coast into a top-of-mind meetings destination.
What was your background before joining the Emerald Coast CVB?
I worked for the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism and the Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB. Then I went back to the private sector and worked in marketing and sales.
What led you to the Emerald Coast?
I liked the big picture, which in destination marketing is the entire experience versus heads in beds.
After your initial search of Emerald Coast CVB, what were your concerns about branding?
Our logo clearly states the three cities (Destin, Fort Walton and Okaloosa Island), and the Emerald Coast is what ties them together. But there is still confusion. People think of the Emerald Coast as the entire Panhandle, yet we are Okaloosa County, so the brand gets lost. Every penny we spend promotes the entire Panhandle if you look at it that closely.
How can Emerald Coast establish itself as a meetings destination?
We can be a strong meetings destination with the proper messaging; we’ve got a great product. We’re kind of new to the industry. When I came here, the marketing was all consumer based. We were forgetting important market segments that can diversify our visitation. We’re [at capacity with leisure guests] three months a year in the summertime and whenever kids have a break from school, but the setting and the experience here is year-round. Meetings and conventions can be a significant part of our destination experience.
How are you seeking out new group business?
I’m asking my team to be more proactive in selling. [I want them to be] more involved in the industry by participating in trade shows and meeting functions where there’s an opportunity to network and expand our base in different market segments.
What’s your goal for the Emerald Coast?
I would like to make it a national destination. I want it to be recognizable and known as an established destination as opposed to the regional place it is now. I think we can be so much more. Before I came here, the team spent 20 years cultivating the beach business and, while it is a huge drive market, there’s also a whole nation out there we haven’t touched yet.