After 23 years in the travel and hospitality industries, Fred Dixon recently assumed the role of president and CEO of NYC & Company, where he had been serving as executive vice president of market development. He talked to Convene about selling a destination that already has “virtually 100-percent brand awareness.”
Maintaining and continuing to diversify New York City’s market mix is really important to us, and group [business] plays a vital role. Also, taking advantage of all this new hotel inventory that we have to promote the city in really interesting ways. One of the big trends in travel these days — and it applies to groups as well, particularly when you’re looking at incentive — is this notion of experiential travel. Forty percent of our hotel inventory over the last few years has opened outside of the traditional core in Manhattan. A lot of new hotel development in pockets in Brooklyn and in Queens. We’re beginning to see hotel development really take root in the Bronx, and Staten Island has had a good base of hotels, but that’s growing as well.
That really allows us to begin to present the city in new and different ways, which is really exciting. New destinations within the destination, if you will. For us, it’s really very much about telling that story going forward, and working more closely with the hotel community and with the meeting-planning world to discover those options and move them forward.
A destination like New York City has virtually 100-percent brand awareness, no matter where you go. You ask anyone in the world what New York City is or what it means, and they’ll likely have an answer for you. There’s a good chance that it’s going to be on their bucket list to visit in their lifetime. If they’re a meeting planner, they oftentimes look at New York as a destination they’d like to be in.
At the same time, that sword cuts both ways. New York evokes a lot of emotion and images. In the past, some of those images weren’t necessarily positive. Much of the world sees New York City through film and television, as well as popular culture. We’ve been very fortunate to be on the positive receiving end of that movement in the last few years. A lot of the media coverage of New York, certainly the films and television that’s done here or is about here, has been very positive.
“Sex and the City” really began to show the more glamorous side of New York. It mirrored a time when the city was growing in exciting ways. The neighborhoods were emerging. The creativity has been at an all-time high in New York. It’s remained at the epicenter of arts, fashion, culture, and music. Those things are tremendous advantages, but they can also sometimes be hurdles in that the city can appear at times to be overwhelming.
We really operate at the intersection of all of that excitement, energy, and manageability. We’re making sure that people realize that you can come to New York, you can have an affordable meeting here or an affordable holiday here, and that you can tackle this big metropolis and have a wonderful experience. That’s always an interesting intersection, and that’s where we find ourselves operating most — seizing on that brand awareness to inspire travel and get people to move New York up their bucket lists, whether they’re meeting planners, heads of associations that are looking to come to New York, or an individual traveler who wants to experience it himself.