Pat Moscaritolo, CEO of the Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau, to Leave after 28 Years—It was Beginning to Look Like a Steady Job: When Patrick Moscaritolo announced recently that he will retire from his post as president and CEO of the Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau on Valentine’s Day next year, completing 28 years to the day on the job, it prompted many of us who’ve observed the Boston brand reach a place of pre-eminence under his tenure: Was there ever anyone else who held the job that represents and sells and markets the brand?
Indeed, among famous Boston brands, Moscaritolo has held his job as president and CEO of the Boston brand longer than Boston’s late Mayor Thomas Menino held his job (1993-2014); longer than the tenures of Boston Celtics NBA Hall of Famers Bill Russell (13 years) and Larry Bird (13 years); longer than the run the legendary Bobby Orr had with the Boston Bruins (10—he also spent two years with another team that will not be named); longer than Tom Brady has been with the NFL’s New England Patriots (17 years); and longer than the World Wide Web has formally existed.
And while Moscaritolo has led his team for a generation, he can’t really be classified as part of an era, or of a specific demographic group. For, a major reason that he has survived—indeed, prospered—as the head of one of the USA’s marquee CVBs, is what he told us near the end of a lengthy interview recently: “About every eight to ten years, Boston re-invents itself.” This means, roughly speaking, that the Boston bureau has experienced nearly three-and-a-half iterations under his leadership.
What follows is INBOUND’s attempt to make coherent the main points that Moscaritolo stressed during our lengthy discussion; through the uploading and review of annual reports, board presentations and numerous e-mail messages that were more briefings than messages; and digressions that ranged from how Richard Branson became a personal friend to jokes about what an economist is, to how he got two baseball legends, Joe Dimaggio and Ted Williams, to autograph the same baseball.
- On Being a Quintessentially Bostonian: Most of the tourism professionals who head up the larger DMOs across the nation are likely professionals who’ve served several destinations. Rare is the bureau CEO who is a true “local.” Moscaritolo is an authentic local.
Born and raised in East Boston, a part of the city that welcomed immigrants from Europe for years, Moscaritolo is from a family with deep roots in the community in which he grew up, including, up the street from the late Tony Conigliaro and his brother Billy—the former was considered a sure bet to set major league home run records until he was hit in the face with a pitch that effectively cut short his career, while Billy went on to win a World Series Championship rings with the Oakland Athletics.
The Moscaritolo family operated a restaurant for some 70 years and a liquor-wine-beer retail store for more than 50 years. Pat earned his way into the prestigious Boston Latin School—founded in 1635, it is older than Harvard— graduating with honors. He then went on to Boston College, where he was a magna cum laude graduate, and then on to the London School of Economics, where he received his Master’s Degree in economics. His professional resume is impressive from the start
He went on to teach for two years at the State University of New York in Albany, then from 1968-1970 and then returned to Boston and worked for Gov. Francis Sargent’s Economic Development Office. He was later part of a consultant team working on economic redevelopment projects. “Probably the simplest way to say it was that I taught political and economic development and political economy at the university level and then went out and did it for six years.” Near the end of the 1970s, Moscaritolo joined the Administration of Gov. Michael Dukakis, and heading up his Federal State Relations Office in Washington, D.C. “The common thread,” he explains, is “economic development teaching, preaching, implementing it at the city level and then at the state level.” So, despite a few short-term tenures elsewhere, he told us, “I’ve been tethered to Boston.”
- It’s always been about economic development: During his time in Washington, D.C., Moscaritolo developed a reputation as an economic data wonk—one who specialized in studying the latest proposal for securing funding for a government grant or project, and translating it into hard numbers. INBOUND’s editor, who first met and crossed paths with Moscaritolo during this period, remembers him as the type of guy who, during day-long meetings where lunch was brought in, took notes on napkins, making funny tables and graphs with arrows going in all sorts of directions—then easily translating them to a roomful of policy wonks.
While still in D.C., he ended up spending time dealing with the U.S. Department of Transportation and the old Civil Aeronautics Board in order to help Logan International Airport get back its London-Boston routes. (This was before there was an Open Skies agreement between the U.S. and the UK; instead, there had been a bilateral treaty which changed that. Boston’s Congressional delegation, which included the then-Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill, worked to reverse the treaty.)
He then joined The Massachusetts Port Authority, or Massport, as director of Logan International Airport, where he was able to convince different constituencies in Boston of the economic importance of international inbound travel by telling them, “Every time those planes land at Logan, the cash register goes off and the port authority makes lots of money from it.” He was also able to show that the per capita spend of international visitors was higher than domestic travelers.
That message resonated with the Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau when its board of directors went looking in 1990 for someone to succeed its first and only president and CEO—the departing Bob Cumings, who had held the job since 1975.
When board members at the CVB suggested to Moscaritolo that he apply for the job, he eagerly seized the opportunity, for he saw in the move a chance to be the president of a business, albeit in the non-profit sense of the word: “Massport was fabulous. I liked it … but the fact that I could come to the bureau and ‘run my own company’—that’s what it was. It was my desire to run a company that, while not a not for-profit … I could do this, and I saw it as kind of an extension of what I was doing at Logan.”
Because of his success at Logan Airport, making the move to the bureau, he told INBOUND, “was more like a business decision.” To him, “it seemed kind of natural because I had the experience in the aviation world, and in developing the air routes, I think that’s what interested the CVB board in convincing me to apply (for the job) and in selecting me.”
- The rest is history—partially. Here, INBOUND spares you the complete list of accomplishments longer than the Roman Catholic Litany of Saints in which the Boston CVB, under Moscaritolo’s more than two-and-a-half-decades tenure at the top, has led, helped with or promoted. In studying the list, it seems that the two most significant are the expansion of international routes to and from Logan International Airport, now a key reason for the fact that China is now the city’s top overseas source market; and approval and construction of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC). As Moscaritolo puts it, “The BCEC positioned us a top ten city as a convention and meetings destination and changed the image of Boston as a very nice but limited city for conventions and meetings. We went from being viewed as a ‘boutique convention center city’ to being a major player in the convention and tradeshow world.” (Authorized in 1997 and opened in 2004, Trade Showmagazine puts the BCEC in its Top 25 of the largest convention centers in the U.S.)
- Besides economic development, it’s about collaboration. Asked what advice he would give to his successor, Moscaritolo said he would tell that person that it is most important to collaborate and cooperate—within the tourism community and outside of it, and within Boston and outside of it.
One way in which he fosters such collaboration is that he answers his own phone—no third party, no voice prompted message, no recorded menu options. Everyone can (and does) contact him at any time and in any place. This is a daunting challenge at times, as there are more than 60 people on the Boston CVB’s board of directors, and they represent every conceivable sector and sub-sector of the industry—from hotels and restaurants to ground tour operators, the Boston Red Sox, and some of Boston’s universities and industry suppliers.
But it has also enabled Boston’s heterogeneous tourism community to connect those who want to tap into the growing Chinese market through programs that interact with the 21,000 Chinese students who go to school in Boston and elsewhere in the state (“I want every one of them to be a sales person for Boston.”). Moscaritolo’s focus on China, by the way, is another example of how his ability to translate its potential into economic development terms—buttressed by fact-based economic models—is working to re-prioritize overseas marketing emphasis to attract more Chinese visitors who, the spend data tells him, makes it a lucrative market for Boston’s tourism community. As a result, China is now the city’s top overseas market—its number of visitors to Boston has gone from 31,000 in 2007 to 265,000 in 2017, on track to reach Moscaritolo’s goal of 500,000 by 2021.
Similarly, the tourism community realizes that the Boston Red Sox don’t mean just baseball games. The brand and its location also mean special events, tours, tour stops and locations for television and movies that bring visitors.
Collaboration with competitors, too? Of course. Twenty years ago, not long after Mike Gallagher and Mike Morey launched their CityPASS discounted multiple attractions program in San Francisco and Seattle, Moscaritolo got a call from John Marks (from 1987 to 2005, he was president and CEO of the San Francisco CVB—now the San Francisco Travel Association) who told him how great the CityPASS concept was working in San Francisco and Seattle, and how the company would be looking for an East Coast destination in which to launch the product. The result was that Boston was able to get into the program quickly and, along with other early CityPASS destinations, began developing co-op programs that would not have been possible before.
- And most important, it’s about family. For someone who leads the DMO for Boston, Moscaritolo and his wife spend a lot of time in Denver. That’s because they have a son and daughter-in-law and three grandchildren there. Pat and his wife also have a residence in Denver, so they plan on spending even more time in Colorado once Pat exits the CVB. But even if he’s in Denver, he’ll still be tethered to Boston. After all, someone has to be available to explain all those economic models that serve as the basis for so many of the city’s tourism programs.