David Peckinpaugh’s career spans the meetings industry, from hotels to third parties to convention and visitors bureaus, and includes membership and involvement in associations such as the Professional Convention Management Association, American Society of Association Executives, U.S. Travel Association, and Destination Marketing Association International. It’s weighted toward the association market, and less heavy on the incentive side. That’s about to change.
On June 13, Peckinpaugh will join Maritz Travel Co. as its new president and CEO, filling the position left open when Christine Duffy moved on to become CEO of Cruise Lines International Association. “I’m humbled and I’m thrilled,” Peckinpaugh, CMP, says of his appointment. “I’ve known Maritz a long time. It’s a powerful brand and a unique company. This is a great opportunity for me, and a learning opportunity.”
In fact, during his first 90 days on the job, Peckinpaugh says, it’ll be as if he is attending “Maritz U.”
“My focus for the first 90 days is to learn. That’s been a rule of thumb throughout my career,” he says. “The biggest mistake is to come in and make change for change’s sake. This is the one opportunity you have to come in with new and wide-open eyes. You need to keep a list of every idea and brainstorm you have, and then after that 90-day period, go through the list. Two-thirds of the things you can cross off because now you understand them. But what’s left is where the gold is.” That’s how some great innovations can develop—not just from the new guy, but by integrating a new leader’s perspective with the experience of the existing team, he says.
Peckinpaugh sees Maritz as “an incubator of creativity,” crediting Steve Maritz’s “passion” for innovation. “I look forward to engaging with the minds and intellect at the company to continue to attract great talent and grow the company,” he says, which includes being willing to experiment and take risks along the way.
Part of his role will include advocacy for the meetings industry, though he expects to maintain a lower profile than Duffy. The current environment is different, he explains. “Two or three years ago, the situation [i.e., negative public and media perception of meetings amid a crippled economy] demanded someone take a leadership position, and Christine did a phenomenal job. We are not in that era anymore. [Advocacy] will deserve and demand time and attention, but the crisis is over. So while you won’t see me in as visible a role as Christine, we also will not be resting on our laurels. In fact, I’m looking forward to my reengagement with some organizations, in particular U.S. Travel.” Also on the subject of Duffy, Peckinpaugh says he has known her for a long time, has had many conversations with her, and is “honored” to be stepping into the position she held. “She was an iconic leader. I will have a different style, a different approach, but I will be building on what she achieved at the company.”
The “Consistent Roller Coaster”
Meetings had a pretty dramatic ride down to the depths in 2009 and 2010, but Peckinpaugh sees the industry headed for some highs again—with a couple of cautionary notes.
“We are in an exciting period for Maritz and for the industry. I’m bullish,” he says. “We are heading into at least 36 months of stability and growth. But there are risk factors: fuel costs are a big concern, along with politics in the Middle East, and the economies in Western Europe.”
When you get right down to it, though, an industry veteran such as Peckinpaugh sees the ebb and flow as “a pretty consistent roller coaster. We are coming out of one of the most severe downturns in history, but the future holds success and health for our industry.” Originally a midwesterner, Peckinpaugh will be relocating from his current home in San Diego to St. Louis, where Maritz is headquartered. He leaves behind his post as vice president of business development for HelmsBriscoe, where he has spent the past two years building the site-selection company’s relationships with CVBs and its association client base. “It’s the right thing for me and the right thing for my family,” Peckinpaugh says. “Roger [Helms, CEO of HelmsBriscoe] understood and is very supportive. I have a great deal of respect for HelmsBriscoe and its leadership after spending two years with them. The future of HB is very bright as well.”
Prior to HelmsBriscoe, Peckinpaugh served as president and CEO of the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau and the chief marketing officer of Experient Inc. He is a former board member of PCMA and currently a trustee of PCMA’s Education Foundation, and has served inroles for the U.S. Travel Association and DMAI’s Destination & Travel Foundation.