Black Meetings and Tourism

January / February 2020

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B M & T ••• January/February 2020 ••• 20 J ulie Coker Graham is not just the pres- ident of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, she is also the city's biggest cheerleader. Whether she's talking about the historic con- tributions the city has made, the iconic monu- ments (Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Independence National Historical Park) that have made Philadelphia an integral part of American history or she's chitchatting about local parks where people can chill and relax Coker Graham's com- mitment, passion and affection for the city is palpable and her excitement and enthusiasm are contagious. In her role as president of the CVB, Coker Graham oversees the organization's efforts to promote and sell Philadelphia as a top destina- tion for meetings, conventions, overseas travel- ers and group tour visitors. She oversaw the CVB's role in the 2017 NFL Draft as well as the 2016 Democratic National Convention. "My goal is to have Philadelphia be the top destination," said Coker Graham during a recent interview. "I'm very passionate about our indus- try and about what I do. I love what I do and why I do it." Coker said she has learned that as a leader, she's only as good as the team she works with. "We work hard every day to reach the goals and missions of the CVB," she said. "I'm proud of overseeing our visitation. I'm motivated every day to bring the best to the position. It's what's called servant leadership." While she's a master at pumping up the City of Brotherly Love, getting Coker Graham to talk about herself is easier said than done. Whenever the subject is broached, she somehow brings the focus back to the importance of the city's hospitality and tourism. She'd much rather talk about what she does than who she is. You won't hear her talk about being one of the only African-American women to lead a des- tination marketing organization in a top U.S. market or the fact that she is the first woman to be appointed president and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau. Prior to helming the bureau, she served as the agency's executive vice president and was responsible for selling the expanded Convention Center and Philadelphia hotel package to cus- tomers around the country. Her efforts just may have resulted in what Coker Graham describes as "Philadelphia's impressive share of the African-American meet- ings market." Minority conventions continue to be a staple in Philadelphia. In 2018, the city had 53 diversity-related events (up from 51 in 2017) with 31,000 attendees, which generated for 26,000 room nights, garnered a $22 million economic impact and reaped $2 million in state/local taxes. Coker Graham is proud that PHL Diversity, a business development division of the Philadelphia CVB has a mandate to specifically target the mul- ticultural market. "PHL Diversity is the secret weapon of our destination," she said. "First, it was formed in 1987. Philadelphia had the foresight and vision of importance related to African- J U L I E C O K E R G R A H A M PHILADELPHIA'S BIGGEST CHEERLEADER! FULL OF SISTERLY LOVE BY DARLENE DONLOE

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