Changes for the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

The new president and CEO of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau plans greater collaboration to promote Houston as a convention and tourist destination. Houston Public Radio's Ed Mayberry talked with Greg Ortale, who returns to Houston after a two-decade absence.

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Greg Ortale served as general manager and executive vice president of the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau from 1979 to 1989, and he most recently was president and CEO of a similar convention bureau in Minneapolis.

"We're gonna be with some of the other organizations, and we're gonna ask Houstonians aned Houston businesses to, you know, to support our efforts from the standpoint of bringing meetings here, bringing people here.ξ The big job that we have is to not develop a product, the big job that we have is to make the world aware of the product."

Ortale says collaboration is essential in presenting a positive image of Houston to the world.

"First of all, it's a matter of getting everybody to sing out of the same songbook, whether it's the Partnership ofCentral Houston or the regional chambers, or whatever.ξ You know, there's not a competition within metropolitan Houston.ξ It really is Houston against the world, in terms of competition, and so if we can all come to agree to that, then I think that we're gonna be successful."

The latest imaging campaign is called "My Houston."

"...which has a number of notable Houstonians, like President Bush and Barbara Bush, George Foreman, Beyonce, you know, Yao Ming, everyone, talking about their Houston, which they call 'My Houston,' and if we can get everyone to kind of rally around that and understand that they need to talk up 'My Houston.'ξ We don't have to apologize for anything or defer to anybody, you know, we can play in anybody's ballpark."

The imaging of Houston, Ortale notes, needs to be international in scope.

"The industries that we're in--medicine and energy and high-tech--and the presence that we have on the Consular Corps, the world is coming to us.ξ You know, before people make a decision to expand or relocate, they often come here both as a visitor and attendee at a convention."

Two upcoming conventions are chances for Houston to put its best foot forward, including one that's a gathering of 2,500 meeting planners.

"And it'll provide us with the opportunity really to turn around people's opinions of Houston.ξ And then later in the year, we have the Society of American Travel Writers.ξ 2008 hopefully will be viewed as a watershed year, going forward and get some of the things that we've been able to accomplish."

Ed Mayberry, Houston Public Radio News.

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