ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - (June 10, 2014) - The Visit Albuquerque (Visit Albuquerque) hosted its Annual Luncheon today, celebrating the past year and looking into the future with the city's largest gathering of tourism industry professionals. The $2 billion a year industry brings more than 6.2 million visitors to Albuquerque annually.

Visit Albuquerque president and CEO Dale Lockett presented a video and speech that highlighted the organization's accomplishments for the past year. Some of the highlights include: 188,000 group room nights booked (surpassing goal by 23 percent), 2,000 stories placed through media relations, $3.1 million impact from the Official Albuquerque Visitors Guide, and the introduction of, a new events calendar and blog geared toward locals. Perhaps the most impressive statistic is the year-over-year increase in occurring convention center business that Visit Albuquerque's sales team is responsible for: $17 million, which equates to 300 percent increase. The combined convention and meeting business generated by the Visit Albuquerque occurring in this fiscal year to date equals $72.5 million dollars spent in our city, up from $36.6 million in the previous year.

More than 300 attendees listened to remarks from Mayor Richard J. Berry, Ken Sanchez, Albuquerque City Council President, and Monique Jacobson, New Mexico Tourism Department Cabinet Secretary. All three noted the importance of tourism to the city's economy, as well as the positive momentum and development currently happening.

Lockett thanked outgoing board chair Regina Chavez for her service, and welcomed incoming board chair Laura Kesselman to her new position. Laura is president at Kesselman-Jones, Inc., and the first meeting planner to serve as board chair for Visit Albuquerque.

"As an entrepreneur and professional in the meetings industry, Laura brings a unique perspective to her new position," said Lockett. "I'm excited to work with her during the upcoming year and look forward to her insight on a multitude of initiatives."

Six new board members were elected by Visit Albuquerque partners to serve three-year terms. The new board members are: Gary Romero, National Hispanic Cultural Center; Charles H. Walter, New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science; Damen Kompanowski, Sheraton Uptown Hotel; Tami Scott, Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott - Airport; David Helgesen, Alliance Audio Visual; and Chad Henderson, Old Town Emporium. View a complete list of board members here.

Visit Albuquerque also recognized three Meeting Heroes, local residents who are members of regional and national organizations and help bring those organizations' meetings to Albuquerque. This year's recipients were:

· LouAnn Burnett, 2017 American Biological Safety Association Annual Meeting
· Dr. Richard S. Lawson, 2014 National Institutes of Health SBIR/STTR Conference
· Wheeler Green, 2014 Knights of Columbus Annual State Convention

Collectively, these Meeting Heroes helped secure more than $760,000 in direct spending for the city.

Lockett noted that it's valuable to look back at the past year to reflect upon accomplishments, and that reflection is key to keep that momentum going into the next fiscal year. More details regarding fiscal years 2014 and 2015 will be available when Visit Albuquerque releases its annual report and marketing plan in August.