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Meeting Leaders: Loren Gold

Executive Profile

Name: Loren Gold

Title: Executive Vice President

Organization: Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau

Location: Raleigh, North Carolina

Born: Chicago

Education: Arizona State University, Bachelor of Arts
in organizational communication

Career History: National sales manager for Marriott International; director of national accounts for Wyndham Hotels and Resorts; director of sales, then executive vice president for the Greater Raleigh CVB

Family: Married to wife, Molly, for 26 years. Three children — Sam, 21, Christopher, 19, and Abigail, 13 — and two dogs: Lord Stanley, a Cairn terrier, and Teddy, a lab-husky mix.

Hobbies: Travel that includes sports, great food and places off the beaten path; playing golf; and cooking barbecue

A Customercentric Philosophy

Though he is the executive vice president of the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau, Loren Gold is not above hopping behind the wheel of the CVB’s van and taking visitors for an hourlong “windshield tour” to show his passengers the sites of his adopted city.

“Call me a step-on guide, I guess,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve got it down pretty good.”

Gold’s foray into the meetings and hospitality industry came with an early break right out of college. After growing up mostly in northern Virginia right outside of Washington, D.C., he decided to go west for college. Upon graduating from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in organizational communication, he got “a break right out of the gate.” He and his then-sweetheart-now-wife were looking to move back to the D.C. area, and Marriott Hotels was looking for support sales managers. Gold was accepted into the company’s sales training program.

But his introduction to both the hospitality business and meetings industry came much earlier.

“Actually, a little bit of it was in my roots, in my blood, if you will,” he said.

His mother worked for The Ritz-Carlton in Chicago and The Watergate Hotel in D.C. when he was young, and his father ran a trade association. Growing up, he often went with them to annual conventions and “saw the working parts of the meetings industry,” he said. “I quickly fell into understanding the nonprofit worlds.”

Working as a national sales manager for Marriott Hotels — “one of the best companies in the industry from a training standpoint,” he said — led to his customercentric philosophy that he preaches to this day. CVBs must look at their destination and their actions both from an internal perspective — the hotels, attractions, restaurants and businesses that are their clients — and from an external view, i.e., the meeting planners, attendees and visitors coming to the destination.

After leaving Marriott, Gold ran his own company providing regional DMO services before joining Wyndham Hotels and Resorts in 2002 as the director of national accounts. Then, after 32 years in northern Virginia, Gold left the hotel industry and D.C. behind and moved his wife, two sons and daughter to Raleigh, North Carolina, where he accepted a position as director of sales for the Greater Raleigh CVB.

Now, nearly 12 years later, Gold describes Raleigh as “a big city with a small-town heart,” adding, “Southern hospitality is part of what we do.” But the city and surrounding area are also home to three prestigious universities: North Carolina State University in Raleigh; the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Those schools and the cities they call home form the anchor points of Research Triangle, a region known for its highly educated workforce, research facilities and high-tech companies.

“We are very much driven by passionate minds and creative minds — people who tap into intellectual capital,” Gold said.

The region is teeming with “people who are looking to do the next big thing in their industries,” and that trickles down to the local makers and creative entrepreneurs, including CVB staff, who are always looking for new ideas and new opportunities.

One example of that entrepreneurial spirit and one of the accomplishments of which Gold is most proud is the International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA’s) annual convention, which moved to Raleigh from Nashville, Tennessee, in 2013.

“We pitched them on that entrepreneurial spirit,” Gold said. “We said, ‘Come to Raleigh; let us help you reboot it; let us curate a weekend music festival that will elevate your brand.”

Now, in addition to the IBMA business conference and awards ceremony held at the Raleigh Convention Center, the event includes a weekend bluegrass music festival that drew 100,000 people in its first year. Last year, attendance was 180,000 people, making it the city’s biggest festival. Raleigh will host the event again this year and next and is in negotiations for long-term extensions after that, Gold said.

When he takes visitors on his signature windshield tour, Gold likes to show off Raleigh’s extremes. That could be Big Ed’s City Market, a Raleigh institution that dishes up country cooking at its finest, or one of the six downtown restaurants run by Ashley Christensen, who won the 2014 James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southeast. He also likes to showcase the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, where the Nature Research Center expansion, which opened in 2012, features state-of-the-art technology such as the three-story theater that explores the wonders of Earth or the submersible simulator that takes visitors deep into the Atlantic Ocean.

Meeting Tips from Loren Gold

  • Source your meeting RFPs to an unbiased, local destination expert from your preferred city’s convention and visitors bureau — not just a resource for big citywide meetings but all meetings. Whether it’s 25 people or 2,500, CVBs can offer insight into all your hotel and facility options, including some great independent hotel options sometimes overlooked when focusing just on the top lodging brands.
  • If you choose not to source the lead through the CVB, at least copy the CVB so you can access the latest information on the destination’s unique experiences, receive assistance with local service vendors, employ tools to measure the economic impact of your meeting and utilize strong marketing resources for meeting attendance promotion.
  • Work with a CVB to connect to local knowledge and the intellectual capital community of any destination. It is a great resource for planners to access speakers, sponsors, exhibitors and local-industry-specific content.