PCMA Press Conference Covers Changes, Looks Forward

Author: Jasmine Zhu       


Claire Smith, Sherrif Karamat, and Craig Davis discuss PCMA and its impact during a Jan. 7 press conference. (Jacob Slaton)

At Monday’s PCMA press conference, a panel discussed changes in the organization and the road map for the next three years.

The speakers included PCMA President and CEO Sherrif Karamat; Claire Smith, CMP, chair of the PCMA Board of Directors, and Greg O’Dell, incoming chair; David Peckinpaugh, chair of PCMA Foundation, and Carol McGury, chair-elect; and Visit Pittsburgh President and CEO Craig Davis. Robert Wright, managing director at Davies Tanner, served as moderator.

Under Karamat’s leadership, PCMA board members developed a new strategic plan to highlight its products and services. The plan, which was approved at the PCMA board meeting last year, introduced new social impact initiatives, and a more global focus for the organization.

“It really became the foundation for the year,” Smith said of last year’s meeting. “It laid the groundwork to develop a three-year business plan.”

One of the outcomes has been the Ascent CEO Promise, which encourages CEOs to provide training and embrace inclusivity at their organizations. Currently, more than 150 CEOs from organizations around the world have signed the pledge, according to Karamat.

This year, PCMA also signed The Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism — a joint venture between the tourism industry and ECPAT-USA, a leading anti-trafficking policy organization in the United States. ECPAT-USA is a member of ECPAT International, which has the mission of eradicating sexual exploitation of children around the world.

“What signing the code means is PCMA is driving awareness. This states a commitment to a widespread issue,” Peckinpaugh said. “When I first got involved, I thought [trafficking] was a foreign issue. It’s in every neighborhood.”


Also on tap: a new program for PCMA members, in which they will be able to volunteer based on topics that most interest them, on a six-month to one-year basis. Smith described the new program as a “work in progress,” meant to engage more people and make the experience of volunteering more meaningful for them.

PCMA also plans to re-engage former PCMA leaders with a new “Always a Leader” program, aimed toward former PCMA board members. The initiative is intended to keep them “in the tent and part of the conversation,” Smith said.

Global Focus

PCMA is shifting toward becoming a global organization, focusing on audiences in the Americas, APAC, and EMEA regions, O’Dell said. He also said that the strategy for growth in those new regions hasn’t taken the same path as in North America. “We don’t have chapters in either of those markets,” he said, referring to APAC and EMEA. So the strategy has been to host knowledge exchanges instead. “We’re focusing on the right audience,” O’Dell said, “and the right products for those regions.”

Event Impact

As of the end of Monday, Convening Leaders had attracted approximately 3,900 on-site and 1,300 online attendees, according to Wright.

For his part, Davis conveyed the value of hosting Convening Leaders to Pittsburgh. Visit Pittsburgh recognizes the importance of business events, he said, and it’s particularly hard to find a piece of business the size of PCMA’s event at this time of year. He put the economic benefit of hosting Convening Leaders at around $6.1 million.

Beyond the economic significance, Karamat underscored Convening Leaders’ legacy: “When we come together,” he said, “great things happen.”

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