How Seattle Is Getting Its Meetings Mojo Back

By Kelsey Ogletree, May 10, 2016

In the seven years Tom Norwalk has served as president and CEO of Visit Seattle, he’s helped create a funding mechanism that’s doubled the CVB’s budget, allowing him and his team to develop creative new ways to drive sales. By eliminating reliance on dollars from the city, Norwalk says he hopes Visit Seattle will be perceived as a service-oriented resource that will do “whatever it takes” to meet planners’ expectations. He shares seven insights on how the city is ramping up its meetings mojo and speaks candidly about one of its notorious problems.

On winning back lost business:

“Every year, on average, we’ll do about 45 national citywides. We track the turn-away business, and over the last five years, we’ve turned away more than 300 groups—valued at $1.5 billion—primarily because we couldn’t find dates they wanted. We’re building a second convention center [slated for groundbreaking in 2017] in hopes we can salvage the 20 to 30 meetings per year we currently have to turn down. With the beauty of our city, its location and walkability, over 60 percent of our groups are repeat. But new business is really important. We think they’ll come back once we get them.”

On Seattle’s sweet segment:

“Medical meetings and medical technology/scientific is the larger segment we go after. Seattle is becoming a global health and scientific hub. We have the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, which does cutting-edge cancer research, plus the University of Washington medical community that’s second-to-none. We had a large medical group here in April, ARVO [Association for Research in Vision Ophthalmology], that we courted for eight or nine years to convince them to leave Florida. It was a classic example of how long the sales cycle can be.”

(Visited 25 times, 1 visits today)

From learning a new language to getting compensation for lost luggage, here are six free apps you didn’t know you needed.

Presenting our 2018 holiday gift guide for the on-the-go professionals.

Get to know the real Dave Weil at SmithBucklin—we have 25 things about the 25-year industry veteran that we are sure you didn't know... yet.

Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula is cool for groups willing to brave winter’s elements for teambuilding activities.

Many traditions born from startup culture go far beyond mere incentives in order to honor each individual employee’s contribution and dedication to the

Christy Lamagna adds to her impressive resume with Crown Plaza Meetings Mentors program.

Jennifer Collins, president and CEO of JDC Events, discusses the power of events in her book, “Events Spark Change: A Guide to Designing Powerful and

Jenn Heinold, senior vice president of events at Access Intelligence, discusses how she stays ahead of the curve planning events for five different markets.

The Latest