“New York City is committed to reaching out to you and making you feel welcome when you have your meetings and conventions here,” Dan Doctoroff, New York's deputy mayor for economic development, told our group of pharmaceutical company executives, meeting planners, and journalists attending a history-making breakfast at Gracie Mansion, the official mayoral residence. Why history-making? Because this launched a new partnership between a New York mayor and NYC & Company, the city's convention and visitors' organization. It was the first of five Industry Leadership Summits being co-hosted by the office of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the Convention, Exhibition, Meeting and Event (CEME) Committee formed by NYC & Company (www.nycvisit.com) in response to the city's economic downturn after 9/11. Future summits will target other meeting industry segments. CEME already has nearly 200 members — planners, marketers, and industry suppliers. By hosting its briefing at Gracie, “the mayor is sending a clear message: ‘We want your business,’” said Cristyne Nicholas, president and CEO of NYC & Company. That sentiment was echoed by Jon Tisch, CEO of Loews Hotels and chair-elect of NYC & Company, who remarked, “I feel very fortunate that we have a mayor who deeply understands the meetings industry.”

Big Dreams

“New York has always been about big ideas, big dreams, and the taking of risks. That's exactly what the pharmaceutical industry is about,” said Doctoroff. “Today, 60 percent of the pharmaceutical industry is within 90 miles of New York City. Why? One reason is access to capital. But even more important than financial capital is intellectual capital. New York has the resources the pharmaceutical industry needs, and the city needs the pharmaceutical industry's business.” Doctoroff warmed a few hearts when he added, “New York City, working with New York State, is completely committed to expanding the meeting and convention facilities in New York City. The Javits Convention Center is the 19th-largest facility in the U.S. New York shouldn't be 19th in anything.”

Windows on New York

A bonus for attendees was a cram course in marketing your meeting, presented by New York University professor Lalia Rach (see sidebar, below). After breakfast, we boarded a double-decker bus for a look at what's new and hot in NYC — the Ritz-Carlton on Central Park South (a redo of the former St. Moritz), the W Hotel in the theatre district, the brand-new Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park, at the southern tip of Manhattan.

At Broadway and 47th Street, a four-story restaurant and event venue, Noche, is being developed by the Emil family, which owned Windows on the World, the restaurant that was atop the World Trade Center. We were treated to a description of Noche, opening in June, by its enthusiastic chef, Michael Lomonaco, himself a symbol of the city's resilience. Formerly the chef at Windows, Lomonaco is alive today only because on the morning of September 11, he made a last-minute decision to stop at his optician before work. Our bus then whizzed down the West Side, past numerous attractions and event venues.

Scar on the Soul

Of course, we also saw the scar on the face and the soul of New York City — once the World Trade Center, then The Pile, and now, The Pit. I hadn't seen it yet. It could almost have been just another construction site. Then I realized that I could see the bright red letters identifying Century 21, the clothing discount store. You shouldn't be able to see that store from West Street. There should be buildings in the way. But there aren't.

Horrendous as the scar is, it's only one small part of the city. The rest of New York is alive, thriving, and open for business. So we headed uptown, to another 21, for a closing lunch. There, Greg Gibadlo, vice president, convention development for NYC & Company, noted that CEME is “bigger than most convention bureaus in other cities, and it's a true coalition — there are five or six DMCs in this room today. If you come to New York, you'll work with dedicated, knowledgeable people who'll work pretty damn hard to help you.”

Generational Marketing

“Three dominant generations attend meetings today,” said Lalia Rach, associate dean of the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Travel Administration in the School of Continuing and Professional Studies at New York University. Each must be targeted in a different way, she said, addressing the recent Industry Leadership Summit at Gracie Mansion.

  1. The “silent” generation, ages 57-77. These are the people you can count on to attend your educational sessions, said Rach. “They are a generation of doers, the people who have made this country move forward.” Unfortunately, they are also the ones moving slowly out of the marketplace. “Think about how you can use their experience in designing your programs,” she advises, and you'll keep them coming as long as possible.

  2. Baby boomers, ages 38-56. “They love themselves. The pharmaceutical industry has no better friend than the boomers,” said Rach. To keep them as your friends, be sure that your marketing materials and the lighting, decor, and design of your meeting facilities acknowledge that they are changing without reminding them that they are aging. Give them larger typefaces, brighter lighting, wider seating.

  3. Generation X, ages 24-37. This is “one of the most misunderstood generations,” said Rach. “Boomers said that they were slackers, that they'd never work hard.” Wrong. Gen X-ers and boomers alike want meetings that include leisure activities. They want to bring their families, so “spousal and children's programs must have greater depth, and can't be an afterthought.” Also remember the “price paradox — people want value, a deal,” even when they can afford to pay more.