Cahal Mowery, Director of Convention Sales with Visit Denver, is blending his leadership skills and experience, coupled with his passion for meetings and events, to help the industry and Denver tourism recover. His tips and insight help us navigate through the present, as the nation begins to reopen and in-person events reemerge.
1. How did you get into the meetings and events industry and what brought you to Denver?
Truthfully, I began working in a restaurant as a bus boy and dishwasher in my small hometown in New Hampshire at age 15 and simply fell in love with hospitality. When I started looking at colleges, I strictly looked for degree programs in hospitality and that landed me at the University of Houston. While attending the University of Houston studying Hotel & Restaurant Management, I interned at Visit San Antonio for a summer and then at Visit Houston during my senior year. Upon graduation, Visit Houston hired me full-time at an entry-level sales position! After a few years after leaving the DMO space to gain some first-hand hotel experience (at JW Marriott Houston Downtown), I was looking to for a potential return to a CVB. At the same time, Visit Denver was looking for a Director of Convention Sales and I began working with the recruiting firm and was ultimately selected for the role! I moved to Denver a little over 3 years ago and could not be happier!
2. 2020 was certainly a challenge for our industry; what are some ways you stayed connected with people during the pandemic?
2020 was indeed certainly challenging! While digital platforms cannot fully replace face-to-face interaction, I maintain a strict “video on” habit to maintain some level of connection with others. Specific to my team, we have standing meetings every week to ensure we maintain one-on-one interaction that would have previously occurred organically in the physical office. Beyond that, I maintained regular golf outings with some industry colleagues on weekends (of which Steve Kinsley often attends and always beats me!) as well as a small group of industry friends that loosely convene every month either digitally or weather permitting, outdoors. I found these latter two outlets to be an excellent way to not only stay connected, but also to share the professional challenges we were all facing, and quite simply, to share some great laughs with one another which is very important!
3. What programs is Visit Denver implementing/supporting to help promote the health and safety of attendees during events and meetings?
Visit Denver was instrumental in the roll-out of Denver’s 5 Star Certification Program; upon inspection that facilities implemented safety measures beyond what was already required by public health orders, they were able to operate with less restrictive guidelines allowing hotels in particular to welcome larger groups and build consumer confidence. Visit Denver serves as a consultant for our clients and during this time we’ve worked really hard to promote the increased health and safety standards that our members have in place and how that has resulted in relatively low positivity rates as a destination. We are quick to promote programs to attendees such as GBAC, which is a certification many of our hotels have, as well as the Colorado Convention Center has, in addition to the ASM Venue Shield. Visit Denver also created a clean and safe resource guide on our website that provides this type of (up to date) information for our clients.
4. What are some methods you are implementing to boost confidence for groups to come to visit Denver as Colorado begins to reopen? Or are you providing additional services?
While we are anxious at Visit Denver to start welcoming back large-scale events, we recognize that it’s not only important but a responsibility of ours to lead with the safety precautions that have been implemented by our many partners, from hotels, to the Denver International Airport, and the Colorado Convention Center. The methods we are implementing as a destination remain very fluid based upon the guidance of health professionals at any given time, but as an example, our citywide that met in May of this year took our guidance in capping attendance to maintain a certain level of physical distancing at the Colorado Convention Center, required negative test results prior to arrival, implemented daily health screening and temperature checks prior to entering the meeting facility, and wore masks throughout the event. As for additional services, the State of Colorado is in the process of finalizing a Meeting & Incentive Program of $10M that qualifying groups can apply for to help them offset their costs – our hope is that if finalized, this will help jumpstart the meetings industry in Denver even faster! I’ll also add that Denver is an outdoor city and that is more important than ever. We know the risk of contracting COVID is minimal outdoors and Denver has more outdoor dining than ever and is an outdoor city at its heart, which we feel gives groups peace of mind right now.
5. What are you looking forward to most in the upcoming months here in Denver?
I have a lot to look forward to this summer – I think we all do! Most immediately, I’m looking forward to seeing badged convention attendees walking our streets and seeing the smile on their face after reconnecting with a colleague they haven’t seen in over a year, as well as being able to witness hotels welcome staff back, allowing those individuals to once again do what they love while simultaneously earning a living. Our first post-pandemic citywide of 20,000 attendees arrived May 6th and this is certainly a turning point for us in Denver! From there we will host the Major League Baseball All-Star Game on July 13th and our convention calendar remains fairly strong from that point forward. Personally, I’m hopeful for the return of Jazz in the Park, which is a jazz concert open to the public at City Park just a few blocks from my home, and watching people dance again while holding our daughter that is scheduled to arrive in June!
6. What are three pieces of advice you would give a meeting planner to help them make the most of working with a CVB?
I would encourage planners to start working with the respective CVB of the destination(s) they are considering from their initial point of interest! By doing so, they can best guide you towards viable venue options and help you avoid date conflicts such as citywide conventions, sporting events, and festivals, simultaneously setting the event up for success and saving you time. Furthermore, a CVBs “currency” is often hotel room nights and by being involved in the booking process, They can further justify the resources they are providing the event with than if a planner approaches the CVB after the event is already contracted.
Beyond that, I would also encourage planners to lean on CVBs on ways to curate a local flavor into their event, whether that’s simply incorporating a local food product, securing a speaker that’s from the area, or utilizing an offsite venue that embodies that destination – attendees want to feel that local inspiration, regardless of where they are!
Lastly, I welcome planners to provide CVBs with feedback on how the event went, on how attendees felt about their experience, what can be improved within the destination, why another destination was selected instead, or how our services can be improved as organization. The more feedback we receive of that nature, the better we can become and help you and others in the future!
Welcome to Denver, The Mile High City, where urban adventure, 300 days of sunshine, a walkable downtown, chef-driven dining and diverse neighborhoods combine for the world's best meeting destination. A vibrant outdoor city at the base of the Rocky Mountains, Denver's stunning architecture and unparalleled views help produce truly epic events. Denver offers more than 11,000 hotel rooms in the downtown core and nearly 50,000 metro wide, with all brands and price points represented. Plus, Denver is growing! The Colorado Convention Center will soon undergo an extensive expansion that will include flexible meeting space and state-of-the art technological improvements.