The strategy Interview

Bill DuronPresident, CEOMetropolitan Toronto Convention and Visitors AssociationBill Duron began his career as a convention sales representative for the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau.He then moved to Toronto as director of convention sales for the Metropolitan Toronto Convention and Visitors Association,...

Bill Duron

President, CEO

Metropolitan Toronto Convention and Visitors Association

Bill Duron began his career as a convention sales representative for the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau.

He then moved to Toronto as director of convention sales for the Metropolitan Toronto Convention and Visitors Association, becoming president of the organization in 1976.

Duron has been the president of the International Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaux, and advised the federal government during free trade negotiations with the u.s.

He has also represented the Tourism Industry Association of Canada on a federal task force to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the Canadian tourism industry. Duron is a board member of tiac and the Metro Toronto Convention Centre Corporation.

Q. How important are special events, whether they be theatre or festivals or historical re-enactments or sports, to the marketing of Toronto as a place for a tourist?

A. [The] special events and attractions that you’re talking about now, they’re exceptionally important to the tourism industry. They are the specific reasons for people to come to a destination. You can’t rent a hotel room without somebody having a specific reason to come.

So, having events such as the Molson Indy, the C[anadian] N[ational] E[xhibition], the tennis, the fireworks, the international choral festival, they are all very, very specific reasons for people to come to Metropolitan Toronto, which fuels the $4-billion tourism industry and keeps about 94,000 people employed.

Q. Let’s take a special event here in the city, the choral festival, for example. Does your office market different events and different angles of different events to different marketplaces? Or do you say, `This is the choral festival, we can sell it in New York, in San Francisco, in London, in Prague, because we know there are fans of choral music living in those cities.’

A. A very good question. What we find is that for more distant markets the events will be publicized in very targetted publications. However, where we apply mass media advertising is within our primary market. Let’s use the example of the international choral festival.

That’s one of the main features in a summer promotion which we call Remarkable Summer Value Plus. Fifty-four hotels have come together offering excellent rates to consumers as well as other incentives and then we have packaged several attractions and events as options for the visitor to purchase.

One of those significant options is the international choral festival. There will be 3.9 million inserts that will be placed in daily newspapers as well as magazines within the u.s. border states. In Ontario, our newspaper advertising is going to be featuring sporting and cultural events.

In addition to that we have a lot of direct marketing vehicles that we send to the travel trade as well as travel writers.

Q. What for you might be a signature event and how would you build around it?

A. In Salzburg, you have the Salzburg Festival, the artistic festival, and in New Orleans you have Mardi Gras. They are signature events. It’s like the event makes what the city is.

It will be somewhat of a challenge to either take an existing event or create an event that will immediately conjure up what Metropolitan Toronto is. The main reason for that is because Toronto is so much. And whether it’s really even the right thing to create or build one event that will conjure up the perception of what Toronto is, I don’t know.

Q. What media work best for tourism generally? Can you say, well, you’ve got to have direct mail. Direct mail works best. Is it imperative that you use tv, for example?

A. Well, we are using tv. We are using newspapers and we’re using magazines. We are using some radio, but [it's] limited.

Q. What are the drawbacks to marketing Toronto? Perhaps the drawbacks to marketing some of the special events.

A. Based on the most recent research that we’ve done, the drawbacks to Metropolitan Toronto from a visitor’s perception are insignificant, quite frankly. The obstacles that had to be overcome in the ’80s centred primarily around high prices.

Since that time, prices for hotel rooms have dropped significantly. Food costs have dropped as well. If there are any areas of pricing where people raise objections it comes from the noticeable areas of gasoline and alcoholic beverages. And that’s caused mainly by taxes.

Q. How important is collaboration among the various strands of the tourism business in Toronto from a marketing standpoint?

A. Collaboration or co-operation among all the industry sectors that serve the out-of-town customer is extremely important from a marketing point of view.

The consumer needs to be communicated to in such a way that they get a total impression of the place that they are going to.

For that reason it’s necessary for all the industry sectors to present themselves in a collaborative, well-organized fashion. And that’s why you have convention and visitor organizations, destination marketing organizations.

Now, as far as the support of the governments, the fact of the matter is, governments are one of the prime beneficiaries of tourism.

In this community last year, total direct tourism expenditures were $4.85 million, while governments earned $1.5 billion [from taxes generated by tourism.]

Q. So frequently you hear that governments don’t help but hinder.

A. In the case of the tourism industry, it is really quite remarkable that the people who work for, say, the [Ontario] Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Recreation are far more commercially oriented than you may find in other government departments.