Saturday, June 27, 2009

Memphians Show Why Our Destination Is King

There're many reasons that we respect Cindy and Kevin Brewer. They are the kind of talented people that we need in this city – young, entreprenuerial, positive. In their work and in their civic activities, they are committed to creating a better city that builds on its unique authenticity.

They are spreading the word about Memphis with their professional peers this week, and they are showing them the “real” Memphis. That’s a tour all of us should take to remember why we love this city so much.

Mrs. Brewer is founder and president of Destination King, award-winning event planning and management group and the Mid-South’s only Destination Management Company (DMC). Cindy, along with her husband Kevin, manages a full-time staff of eight and a part-time staff of 35. Destination King plans more than 250 events, both large and small, a year in Memphis and the Mid-South. Destination King has been in business since 2001.

Here’s a guest post by her that reminds us why Memphis is so special:

At Destination King, we make our living by showcasing everything that is wonderful and unique about Memphis, usually through the planning and execution of conventions, corporate events and other meetings. Most of our clients are from outside the Mid-South but also have many here in town. We are often their most direct contact with the dynamic Memphis community, and we work hard to make sure all of our clients and their guests have a wonderful, repeat-worthy experience.

This week, Destination King, The Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau and The Peabody Hotel are hosting the Global Events Partners (GEP) Executive Summit. This meeting is for 250 of the top executive-level corporate meeting planners in the world. Considering that everyone attending this Summit plans meetings and events for a living, this is a tremendous opportunity for Memphis.

The potential estimated ROI to the host city is $2M – per client – within two years of hosting the Summit. We hope that, due to economic conditions around the globe, Memphis will have an even greater appeal to these planners who are looking for “under the radar” locations for their meetings and events. Corporations represented at the Summit this year include Volkswagen, Sealy, Liberty Mutual, Monsanto, MasterCard Worldwide, GMAC, NAPA AutoParts , American Express and more.

Mythic Memphis

After several years of being held at international locations (Paris, The Bahamas, Madrid and Salzburg), the Summit is returning to the States. One planner told me that she couldn’t wait to visit Memphis, a place she’d heard about her entire life. For our part, we’ve planned some exciting events that will showcase the best of Memphis, including a community giveback teambuilding event that involves 11 area nonprofits. We’re excited for the Summit, and we’re hopeful for the ROI for years to come.

But as we put the final touches on the Summit, we are reminded almost daily of the challenges Memphis faces, in part because so any of our friends and neighbors succumb to accentuating the negative and forgetting the positive. As we know well, sometimes it takes outsiders to remind us of all that is upbeat and unique about this city we love.

I wish some of those naysayers heard what Kevin and I did on March 28th at the Corner Bar in The Peabody. We sat at a little table surrounded by fans from Gonzaga, Oklahoma and North Carolina who were in town for the Sweet 16 tournament. We heard one couple talking on their cell phone to their kids back in Seattle and telling them how impressed they were with the National Civil Rights Museum. A family of six from Oklahoma had been to Graceland and were still amazed that Elvis won more Grammys for Gospel than any other genre. And then we heard a few men grumbling that they needed to take a break that evening from their revelry on Beale Street.

The Economic Importance Of Pride

It was one of those many moments where I am proud to be a Memphian and consider myself very fortunate to help sell our city on a daily basis.

But there are days that I feel somewhat alone in that thought. I often find that the people who are the most negative about Memphis are Memphians. We recently played host to a statewide association meeting that rotates every year to a different city in Tennessee. Destination King had planned a wonderful event at Handy Park for the attendees. Being a weeknight, we had exclusive use of the park, had lined up stellar entertainment, great food and secured Beale Street VIP cards for all. Three weeks before the event, one of the association’s Memphis-based board members called the meeting planner to complain about the venue. Her exact words to me were “he says it’s very dangerous and that we might get shot.” His words were louder than ours, and the event was ultimately moved inside a hotel.

That was unfortunate but not everyday. Several years ago, a group was looking at both Memphis and Orlando for its annual meeting. They came to Memphis first. We met them at the airport and gave them the VIP treatment from start to finish. Then they went to Orlando where they had to take a cab to the hotel, as no one thought they were important enough to pick up at the airport personally.

In the cab, they asked the taxi driver what was great about Orlando and that they were thinking of holding a meeting there next July. His response? “Why on earth would anyone want to meet in Orlando in July? It’s so miserable and hot here.” Unfortunately for Orlando, this group’s first impression was their last.

Walking The Walk

Don’t get me wrong: This can certainly happen in Memphis. But thanks to the Leadership Academy, they have plans with the MCVB and the Chamber to work with local cab companies to empower drivers with positive information and dialogue.

We know it to be true but sometimes it bears repeating: We don’t always put into action what’s best.

Memphians can be our own worst enemy in promoting our city. Most of us don’t know or don’t believe all of the positive things it has to offer: unique things like 13 James Beard honored chefs; a Mobil Travel Guide four-star hotel and restaurant; the number one ranked zoo in the country; world class ballet, symphony, opera, art museums and theatre companies; Ben Cauley, an original BarKay who survived Otis Redding’s fatal plane crash, plays guitar at the Corky’s in the Memphis International Airport; and speaking of music, there’s Elvis, Stax, Sun Records and Ardent Studios. Plus, Memphis has the distinction of being mentioned in the lyrics of more songs than any other city in the world…899 songs, in fact, and that just goes to 2008.

This week’s GEP Summit allows us to introduce Memphis to a new audience, and in return, we believe this will bring even more meetings and event business to our city. We know that the city we love continues to grapple with challenges that must be surmounted but we’ll keep preaching the gospel about all of the things we believe make Memphis one of the most unique and remarkable places on the planet.


Anonymous said...

This is a great reminder. Thanks for posting.

Anonymous said...

Destination King does more to benefit Memphis tourism and conventions than the combined efforts of all the other public and private agencies charged with the same tasks. Cindy has raised the bar high and the results show. What an incredible Memphis innovator.

George said...

As you know I am now living in the Virgin Islands. You also know my family and my heart continue to reside in Memphis.

Daily I interact with tourists visiting the VI from all over the world and many ask me where I am from. I respond that I moved here from Memphis. Response I get is invariably one which suggests that they would love to visit Memphis.

They talk of all the things they know and have heard about Memphis.

I miss you guys.

Ryan Watt said...

Cindy and Kevin are awesome! I'm excited to hear what they are doing for the Summit.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. I posted a link to it on my Twitter and Facebook. I am a Memphian that loves this city and I often feel alone as well. I hear so many more complaints than compliments from memphians and especially from those living in surrounding areas. I hope they all read your blog and rethink their negative comments. Thanks for this reminder of why we live in this great city.

Anonymous said...

I'd have enjoyed your article much more if it hadn't begun with a typo. "There ARE many reasons..."

It's no wonder that Tennessee isn't rated more highly in education.

Smart City Consulting said...


We use a journalism style manual for the blog rather than the English book we use for our company reports. In the former, this style is acceptable, but we'll change it just for you.

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