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Philomena Petro, CMP, Reflects on 36 Years at the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau

RFP After nearly four decades selling Philadelphia as a destination for meetings, conventions, and events, Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau Vice President, Convention Services, Philomena Petro, CMP has decided to transition her role and become a consultant for the PHLCVB services team over the next six months.

“This is a bittersweet moment for our organization, as Philomena is a titan in the industry with an incredible amount of experience and historical perspective,” said PHLCVB President and CEO Julie Coker Graham. “She’s been generous enough to impart this wisdom on younger professionals at the PHLCVB, establishing industry-wide best practices and developing key relationships to further our mission.”

The industry leader has built a reputation for herself – and the city – since joining the PHLCVB in 1983. Petro recognized early in her career the value of dedicated convention services roles within destination marketing organizations. She identified this need and helped the PHLCVB reconfigure its operating structure in the 1990s, building up support staff in critical areas. Her stature in the industry is also evidenced by leadership positions she held, including serving as president of the Event Services Professionals Association.

During her time at the PHLCVB, she prioritized relationships and the power of meeting face-to-face. It’s only fitting that we use this space to list her “Top 5” moments (so far) while working at the PHLCVB:

2015 Papal Visit

Philadelphia was on the world’s stage in September 2015 when Pope Francis came to town as part of the World Meeting of Families. Petro knew how important the optics would be and worked long days and nights to ensure the visit was a success. With the whole world watching, Petro knew it was critical for Philadelphia to shine. She played a vital role navigating the cardinals and bishops through the crowds, putting her improvisation skills to the test.

Politicians and Political Conventions

Hospitality is a non-partisan business. Petro proved this to be true by successfully servicing both the Republication National Convention in 2000 and the Democratic National Convention in 2016, which brought 54,000 delegates and media to the City of Philadelphia. Political events are delicate to manage because of their scope – dealing with national security and the Secret Service, managing multiple locations, and the high profile attention they receive from an international press core. But, Petro accepted all of these challenges and also met two U.S. presidents along the way.

Serving as President of ESPA, Advocating for Convention Services

During her time as the president of the Event Service Professionals Association, formerly known as the Association for Convention Operations Management, Petro lobbied hard for the work of her industry peers. She championed the profession of convention services as a vital component for any DMO and pushed industry to evolve by recognizing Convention Services as its own discipline.

Service Manager of the Year Award (PCMA)

In 2006, when Philadelphia hosted PCMA’s ‘Convening Leaders,’ Petro was recognized by her peers with the industry equivalent of an Oscar, and humbly received PCMA’s Service Manager of the Year award. It symbolizes a devotion to customer service, hospitality, and excellence in event management – qualities that Petro has always embodied and instilled in her team.

Community-Focused Events

Petro says that the most rewarding aspect of the business is having been able to experience the real purpose of conventions—bringing together experts in a particular field to develop solutions. Over the years, she’s relished the opportunity to help conventions develop programs that local residents could participate in, and has supported many conventions in developing public programming on topics like cancer research, diabetes prevention and, most recently, a public Brain Health Fair hosted by the American Academy of Neurology.

“My time at the PHLCVB has been filled with countless memories that I’ll cherish forever,” said Petro. “For me, one of the most inspiring parts of my career has been witnessing the success and growth of my PHLCVB colleagues – some who I have worked alongside for more than 30 years.”

The Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) creates positive economic impact across the Philadelphia region, driving job growth, and promoting the health and vibrancy of our hospitality industry by marketing the destination and the Pennsylvania Convention Center, and attracting overnight visitors. Our work engages our local community, as well as culturally and ethnically diverse regional, national and international convention, sporting event and tourism customers.

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