The Knoxville Convention and Visitors Bureau reveals a new logo, a public relations and marketing partnership, and implements a new parking policy. Those changes are efforts for the newly named CVB to re-brand itself as a traditional destination marketing organization.
Two weeks ago the CVB's board of directors voted to officially change the organization's name from the Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corporation to the Knoxville Convention and Visitor's Bureau. That was another step in for the organization to distance itself from the fallout over legal issues with former President Gloria Ray's employment contract and the formulas KTSC used to calculate the economic impact it generates. KTSC's board of directors forced Ray to resign in February; Ray has maintained she did nothing wrong.
Leadership at the CVB told 10News it put the brand change in motion shortly after Ray left her position. It waited to roll out the new look while an external audit was conducted on the organization's finances, the board selected former Vice President Kim Bumpas as its new president, and has made efforts to reduce the board's size.
The CVB continued to focus on its future Tuesday with the launch of a new brand image.
Prime parking, mostly closed to the public for the past decade, in the lot directly next to the CVB's building is open once again. The lot has been re-sealed and re-striped to accommodate 22 parking spots. All of them are free to visitors and the public for two hours at a time. New green and white signs are hung up in the lot that notify drivers of the lot's rules.
The bottom of the signs read "Visit Knoxville," the CVB's new slogan for doing business.
"It symbolizes a fresh start and a different way of looking at things," said Bumpas.
Prior to Tuesday, the lot only had a few visitor spots; it was primarily used for employee parking. Now, CVB employees park in a nearby parking garage.
"We are a visitor's center and we feel very passionately that the entire lot, at least the side that is part of our building, should be open to visitors," said Bumpas.
The CVB is phasing out the old KTSC logo, which the City of Knoxville still uses. Eventually, the "Visit Knoxville" logo will appear on everything from business cards to windows inside the building that currently have the old logo on them. The CVB isn't evolving alone though.
"We have started a partnership with Tombras and they assisted us to develop the 'Visit Knoxville' look," explained Bumpas.
Bumpas and her team have been working with Brooke Duncan, a senior vice president at the Knoxville-based public relations and marketing firm, The Tombras Group, and his team. Tombras has 66 years of tourism marketing experience and shares the CVB's goals.
"We thought the combined effort of their expertise and our expertise would be a perfect match," said Duncan.
It's a perfect match that is not currently costing the CVB a dime. Duncan and Bumpas said that agreement will change when the CVB finds out later this fall if renewed City of Knoxville and Knox County funding are in its future.
Bumpas said the debut of the "Visit Knoxville" brand puts some of her previous words about change in to action.
"We make decisions on how to best move Knoxville forward in tourism, respect the process, but yet not go backwards," said Bumpas.
"It also can be adapted to market specific events such as Boomsday or other conventions," Duncan explained about the new logo.
And, in its first day, the new parking lot process caught on. All drivers who use the lot must go inside the Visitor's Center between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., get a two-hour permit from the information desk, and place that on or inside the vehicle. The lot is open to anyone, with no time limit, between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m.
"We can build from this, but that's the part where the community will be involved," said Bumpas.
It's a push for travelers from near and far to "Visit Knoxville." For the CVB, it is a return to traditional tourism promotion that gives them room to grow, despite its uncertain future. It is only guaranteed city and county funding through October 31, 2012. That is, unless the local governments award the group new contracts through an ongoing RFP process. That closes on August 16, 2012. Bumpas said the CVB will apply for the contracts.
A few other internal changes are on tap for the CVB. Bumpas said staff is re-working the formulas they use to calculate economic impact amounts. When the group was KTSC, the old formulas they used drew criticism from public officials and the community. They determined the amount Ray made in bonuses each year based on groups KTSC brought to Knoxville. A 10News investigation into KTSC's spending initially uncovered those bonuses and how they were calculated. A subsequent, county-mandated, external audit supported that reporting; auditors suggested that group overhaul its booking calculation practices. Bumpas said the large mural of the old KTSC logo that is on the side of the CVB building will remain there for now.
"It still represents something as it relates to Knoxville, Tennessee. It just doesn't represent who we are as "Visit Knoxville," explained Bumpas.
The CVB building was named after Ray in 2010. Bumpas said she is not ready to comment on if the CVB will pursue to have her name removed it.
"Everything will happen in time," she said, "We're being pro-active. I mean, we want what's best for Knoxville."