When Jason Fulvi started studying hotel, restaurant, and institutional management at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, he figured that the best place to get a real sense of what his career could look like wasn’t in the classroom. “I thought, ‘If I’m going to do this, I should jump right in,’” Fulvi told Convene.
That first dive led to the only opportunity available in his college town — a dishwasher at the Holiday Inn. “I can’t tell you how excited I was to move my way up to busboy,” Fulvi joked. “It’s pretty hot back there.”
Fulvi spent the next three decades gaining an appreciation for every corner of the hospitality industry. His well-rounded resume includes 16 years in various positions in the hotel industry and 17 years at VisitPITTSBURGH, where he most recently served as the organization’s executive vice president. “I got my hands dirty coming up through the ranks,” Fulvi said. “I learned [to have] a lot of respect for the hard work of the individuals who make everything happen. I learned a lot of valuable lessons about what it takes to execute every piece of business.”
He also learned humility. “It made me a humble leader,” he said. “I apply that experience to everything I do.”
What he does now is lead Visit KC. In September, Fulvi was named the bureau’s president and CEO. It’s an exciting new chapter for Fulvi, and it comes at an equally exciting time in Kansas City’s history. The city’s downtown is seeing a nearly $9-billion investment come to life — including progress on extending a new streetcar service, major additions in the city’s popular Power & Light District, and a new 800-room Loews convention center hotel that will open next year. The city is also several years away from what Fulvi called “a game-changer” — the new 39-gate, single-terminal Kansas City International Airport set to open in 2023.
“It’s another piece of the puzzle,” Fulvi said. “The community very thoughtfully and progressively put together the plans for something that will transform the destination and its position in the convention industry.”
The city has been in the limelight lately. On the leisure side, Kansas City was named one of National Geographic’s “Best Trips for 2019,” and hosted in March more than 60 collegiate basketball games. On the events side, Kansas City will welcome more than 17,000 attendees for the Destination Imagination Global Finals, a competition that includes students from more than 15 countries, May 22–25. It’s an important piece of business for Visit KC — the largest booking in terms of room nights since 2008. It also marks the first time the event has been hosted in its 20-year history in a metropolitan area instead of on a college campus.
Looking further out, the National Society of Black Engineers has booked its conference in Kansas City in 2023, and Fulvi is working with the city’s sports commission to make Kansas City one of the sites for the World Cup in 2026.
Fulvi is grateful to have arrived in Kansas City at such an opportune time. “Timing is everything for me,” he said. “I’m coming in, and I have the opportunity to showcase all the development that was done on the hardworking backs of the people before me. I get to walk in and tell everyone about it.”
However, he recognizes that telling everyone — and getting them to see it for themselves — is no easy task. “We have to get more people through the gate — from both a leisure and a convention standpoint,” he said. “We don’t have an asset problem. What we have to tackle is a perception problem to get people here to kick the tires, take a look, and see what they’ve been missing. We now have better assets than we have ever had. It’s a destination that’s going to surprise a lot of people.
“In five to eight years,” he added, “I hope you’re calling me to say, ‘I understand you’re building more projects.’ If we’re having that conversation, then I did my job.”
David McMillin is a Convene associate editor.