After 14 years as president and CEO of the San Jose Convention and Visitors Bureau, including the last six as chief executive officer at Team San Jose, Daniel Fenton has resigned. The announcement comes a week after the San Jose city council announced that it would solicit requests for proposal for new convention center management.
Since 2004, Fenton has been CEO of Team San Jose, a nonprofit organization that he helped create as a single point of contact for planners booking the city. Governed by representatives from the convention and visitors bureau, convention center, hotel community, organized labor, and arts and cultural leaders, Team San Jose is a model that has had successes and challenges.
“I am proud of the unique meetings-services model we created,” said Fenton in a press release, noting that the approach is being studied by other destinations. “We knew our previous model as a traditional CVB acting separately from the management of the convention center was broken, and we developed a new approach that has 97 percent of meeting planners surveyed saying they’d return to San Jose,” said Fenton. “I believe that after 14 years we have built a great foundation, and it’s time for me to move on to consulting, where I can constantly innovate new projects.”
Fenton will leave his post on January 31, 2011. An acting CEO has not been named, but a team made up of the board of directors and senior management of Team San Jose has been set up to oversee the transition.
Fenton, who plans to launch a consulting business, says his decision to leave is not related to recent actions by the San Jose City Council. On December 7, the city council voted unanimously to develop a request for proposal for the operation of the San Jose McEnery Convention Center and other cultural venues after July 2012. The city council’s decision stems from recent audit reports that cite budget overruns by Team San Jose management and fewer convention bookings compared to other California cities, according to reports. Convention center bookings were down 16 percent for fiscal year 2009-2010 compared to the previous year. With a $120 million expansion project in the works, officials want to make sure the center is operating as efficiently as possible.
In 2009, exhibition organizers expressed concerns over changes at the McEnery Convention Center that sought to clarify jurisdictions and streamline operations by bringing labor in-house under Team San Jose. That policy was struck down after protests from several groups, including the International Association of Exhibitions and Events.
The city council directed the city manager to present the main elements of the RFP in February 2011. “In the preparation of the RFP, staff shall analyze existing and new models for operating the convention and cultural facilities and establish criteria that best demonstrate a process by which to evaluate best practices in the industry, the models, and operational accountability,” the council said in its recommendation. The final RFP should be approved no later than June 2011. The council also asked Team San Jose to develop a spending reduction plan.
Despite Fenton’s departure, officials at Team San Jose said they would submit an RFP. “We welcome the opportunity to compete, as we believe at the end of the day our model will prove to be the best option for San Jose,” said Team San Jose officials in a statement.
Team San Jose officials assure customers that business will proceed as usual during the process. In November, Team San Jose introduced a short-term booking promotion, which gives planners free convention center space if they book a minimum of 150 room nights on peak between now and June 30, 2011.