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Expert expects mega events to boost meetings industry

When Cristin Barr, CMP, went to college, she was more interested in investor relations than guest relations. “At The University of Texas I studied Investor Relations, which took me to New York City for my first professional job,” said the current president of the Arizona Sunbelt Chapter of Meeting Professionals International (AzMPI).

AzMPI President: Cristin Barr

AzMPI President: Cristin Barr

“For the past 10 years, though, I’ve been traveling the world and enjoying the hospitality industry.” Now director of national accounts at The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain, Barr is working with the No. 1 hotel in Arizona, according to Travel + Leisure.

“I work with meeting planners to secure guest rooms and meeting space at the hotel for programs, including incentive trips, client events, annual meetings and board retreats,” Barr said.
Az Business caught up with Barr to talk about how the next year is shaping up to be a big one for the state’s tourism brand.

WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY?
The sales role in hospitality is a great mix of creative and analytical. On any given day, we have unique challenges that can be best solved with a combination of critical thinking and service-based creativity.

HOW HAS YOUR MEMBERSHIP IN MPI IMPACTED YOU PROFESSIONALLY?
MPI membership and CMP (certified meeting planner) certification give me a sense of personal achievement as well as recognition in the industry. The increased credibility among customers and prospects is invaluable.

WHAT KIND OF ECONOMIC IMPACT DOES THE MEETING AND EVENTS INDUSTRY HAVE ON ARIZONA?
Tourists bring almost $20 billion to Arizona each year, which can be seen in employment and tax base coming from lodging, food service, transport and recreation — just to name a few. But the benefits reach far beyond the hotels and golf courses. The economic impact is evident in important public services as well as in the businesses that open or relocate to our area.

HOW DO MEGA EVENTS LIKE THE 2015 SUPER BOWL IMPACT ARIZONA’S MEETINGS AND EVENTS (M&E) INDUSTRY?
The economic impact of hosting a Super Bowl makes Arizona itself the clear big winner. A mega event places a spotlight much wider than just expenditures during the week of the game. There is no doubt that the M&E industry will benefit from incredible media exposure, generating future event bookings.

WHAT SHOULD ARIZONA’S M&E INDUSTRY DO TO CAPITALIZE ON THE 2015 SUPER BOWL?
We are lucky to have a very strong network of CVBs, offices of tourism and advocates that work year round to attract and assure successful meetings, conventions and events are held in Arizona. The Super Bowl will be a unique and exciting tool for continued messaging that Arizona is a premiere destination.

WHAT CURRENT TRENDS ARE HAVING THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON THE M&E INDUSTRY?
Social media is interesting in that the content is often driven by stakeholders rather than by the planners or the educators. Social media can help attendees engage before and after a meeting and provides opportunity to connect with a very broad audience or a narrow specific slice of the demographic. It’s easy, it’s inexpensive and it will continue to change the face of the industry.

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS AS AZMPI PRESIDENT?
2013-2014 was a hugely successful year for AzMPI in terms of promoting excellence in the meeting industry through education, certification, advocacy and business alliances. For the 2014-2015 year, we will focus on our key metrics with an emphasis on member satisfaction and financial management. We will also organize six monthly educational programs, the holiday party, awards gala, as well as a golf tournament that we do in conjunction with the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI).