Convention Chief Says Atlanta’s Tourism is Booming

William Pate, president of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB

William Pate, president of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau

ATLANTA, GA. –Atlanta’s tourism business is robust and getting stronger, Atlanta’s convention chief said in a Jan. 27 speech Tuesday to the Georgia Association of Business Brokers, the state’s largest professional organization dedicated to buying and selling businesses and franchises.

William Pate, president of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB), is in charge of maintaining tourism as one of the Atlanta’s top economic drivers, an industry that attracted more than 45 million visitors to metro Atlanta in 2013, generating more than $13 billion in visitor spending and sustaining more than 230,000 jobs.

Atlanta now outranks Las Vegas as a convention destination, Pate said, and is the fourth largest convention destination in the USA, with the nation’s seventh largest hotel portfolio with 94,000 rooms. Eighty percent of the U.S. population is within a two hour flight of Atlanta, home to the world’s busiest airport.

Pate said business brokers should understand that all this tourism has a huge economic impact on the city, bringing many people to town who help local businesses grow.

“More people in city means more people to serve, more people to flip businesses,” Pate told GABB members and guests. “That should spell good business for everybody.”

The city isn’t just conventions, either. Local restaurants feature two James Beard winners and 45 semifinalists; 15,000 arts and cultural institutions are in the metro area; and $2.5 billion in new development will open in the next five years.

Pate predicts a surge in hotel construction because Atlanta’s hotel occupancy in 2014 finished above 70 percent for the first time in Atlanta’s history, a key number for hotel investment. Among the top 25 destinations in the U.S., the city leads the nation in hotel occupancy growth.

Atlanta’s momentum includes more than $1.5 billion in new development that opened in 2014, including the Beltline, Atlanta Streetcar, College Football Hall of Fame, Center for Civil and Human Rights; and the airport’s international terminal. On the horizon is a new Atlanta stadium for the Falcons; SunTrust Park-aka the new Braves stadium; and a brace of new hotels.

By 2020, 55 million visitors will come to the city, which will experience $2.5 billion in development over the next five years, Pate predicted. The city is planning to bid for the 2018 College Football Championship, the 2019 Super Bowl and the 2020 NCAA Final Four.

Responding to questions, Pate said he thought Georgia State would acquire the Turner Field property and convert it into a football field, building a baseball field on the old footprint where Hank Aaron hit his historic homerun. One of the biggest challenges to the city’s growth is that many think there’s nothing to do downtown, where visitors are too frequently accosted by panhandlers.

“We need to fill in the city,” Pate said. “People like to walk around.”

Atlanta police have stepped up their downtown presence to suppress aggressive panhandling, which “now is the exception, not the rule.” If someone has an issue, “call the police, and they are downtown immediately.”

GABB has posted audio of Pate’s speech and his PowerPoint presentation.

Prior to joining ACVB, Pate served as president of Career Sports & Entertainment, a national sports marketing and representation firm. He is the former chief marketing officer of BellSouth, where he spearheaded national and international development and marketing of the BellSouth brand. Pate also held positions at MCI, supervising domestic and international advertising and public relations, and at Knapp Inc. He produced advertising and marketing programs at the Southeast Dairy Association.

He began his career in non-profit, working in public relations positions with Goodwill Industries and the American Red Cross. Pate has received many awards and honors from both Advertising Age and the American Marketing Association. He was named 2010 corporate marketer of the year by the Atlanta Chapter of the American Marketing Association and was named one of the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 100 Most Influential Atlantans in 2009 and 2010. Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International recognized Pate as one of the 2011 Top 25 Most Extraordinary Minds in Sales & Marketing.

Pate is a past chairman of the board of the Atlanta Sports Council, the Chick-fil-A Bowl and ACVB. He serves on the board of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, College Football Hall of Fame, Commerce Club, Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Chick-fil-A Bowl, as well as on the Board of Councilors of the Carter Presidential Center and the Industry Advisory Board for Georgia State University’s Cecil B. Day School of Hospitality Administration. Most recently, he was named to the Woodruff Art Center’s Board of Trustees.

GABB members represent owners of Georgia businesses and help them estimate the value of their businesses, create marketing plans and strategies for the sale of their businesses, and identify and qualify potential business buyers while keeping the sale confidential from employees and customers. Many of today’s business buyers are individuals who have decided not to re-enter corporate America, but are ready to control their own destiny by purchasing and operating a Georgia business.

The GABB’s monthly meeting at 10:30 a.m. at the South Terraces Conference Center is preceded at 9:45 a.m. by a free light breakfast and networking session.  The South Terraces Conference Center is at 115 Perimeter Center Place, Atlanta. For more information about the GABB, contact GABB President Greg DeFoor at 678-644-5983 or gdefoor@defoorservices.com.