DMO Leader on Serving ‘Our Citizens’ Needs’

Steve Moore, retired president and CEO of Visit Phoenix, reflects on his 46-year career and the changes he has seen in the DMO and events industries.

Author: Casey Gale       

Steve Moore

Destination marketing never really was about “heads in beds,” said former president and CEO of Visit Phoenix Steve Moore, but about serving local citizens’ needs.

Steve Moore spent the entirety of his 46-year events industry career at a destination marketing organization. Moore, who retired from the role of president and CEO of Visit Phoenix on March 31, spent 13 years with Visit Houston and 14 years as CEO of Visit San Antonio before joining Visit Phoenix in 2002.

Throughout his career, he’s played a key role opening and expanding convention centers in the destinations he has served, as well as attracting high-profile sporting events.

Moore recently spoke with Convene via email about how he has seen DMOs evolve, his greatest career highlight, and his retirement plans.

What are the biggest changes you have seen in the events industry during your career?

The evolution of the third-party companies who were feared by DMOs in the mid-’80s but are now revered. More importantly is the much-needed growth of diversity in our industry, especially in leadership positions. It’s not there yet and much more commitment is occurring and will need to accelerate, but this era will herald significant and measurable change.

What are the biggest changes you have seen in the role of DMOs during your career?

How DMOs relate and engage communities via myriad platforms as to our value proposition to our destinations. It never really was about “heads in beds” to many of us, it was about bringing much-needed revenues to our destinations to serve our citizens’ needs as well as showcasing our destination to industries sought by civic leaders with a practice of strategic convention bookings. The visitor economy is transient economic productivity or “now money,” with millions more [dollars] on the way with future bookings.

What changes forced by COVID-19 do you think will stick around in the events industry?

Hybrid delivery of meetings [and] education, and the ability for DMOs to recruit game-changing talent without requiring them to relocate.

If you had to pick just one highlight over the course of your career, what would it be?

Playing a key role in the research and debt service due diligence, enabling state legislation, and creating and executing the pro formas for the opening and fill- ing of three large convention centers in three destinations. Also, the same role with a domed stadium in San Antonio.

What is the biggest lesson you learned over the course of your career?

Outworking someone was more prudent than outspending them.

What was the biggest risk that paid off over the course of your career?

Convincing City Council in San Antonio to demolish the treasured but no longer functional Hemisphere Arena to enable a significant and contiguous convention center expansion.

What was the biggest experiment that gave you a valuable insight, whether it worked or failed?

Conventions and tourism was always my day job, but when the Alamodome stadium opened in San Antonio in the 1990s, I was given the P&L sheet and was told that if it lost money it would come out of my CVB budget. I chose to quickly jump into the stadium concert business, exhibiting at NFL owners’ meetings and began producing NFL preseason games and summer training camps for the Oilers and then for the Cowboys. We also booked two men’s and a women’s NCAA Final Fours into it as well as trade shows. This was my introduction into the NFL and NCAA process, and it paid off later in Phoenix with the booking of three Super Bowls, three Final Fours, the 2nd College Football Playoff Champ game, two NBA All-Star games and an MLB All-Star game weekend. One also has to identify and raise significant funds to execute all of the above.

What are your plans next?

I have given too many eulogies in the past two years for industry friends so all I can ever ask for is the good fortune to spend my next chapter solely with my wife, family, and friends.

What are you most looking forward to in retirement?

Discovering the roads that I flew over these past 46 years.

Other Parting Thoughts


Casey Gale is associate editor at Convene.

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