Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

August 18, 2014

Chief tourism pitchman Van Parys retires

PHOTO | Pablo Robles Michael Van Parys stares into his future, which will include a lot more relaxation time with friends and family now that he has retired as head of the Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau.
H. Scott Phelps, interim president, Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau (CTCSB)

Michael Van Parys spent three decades developing strong ties to the region's tourism and hospitality industries.

As president of the Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau (CTCSB), Van Parys steered the group through a major reorganization and a more high-profile statewide role. Colleagues say he leaves behind big shoes to fill as heads into retirement. Van Parys spent his last day championing Connecticut's entertainment venues earlier this month.

But his interim replacement is a familiar face: H. Scott Phelps, who left as president of the bureau's predecessor organization — the Greater Hartford Convention & Visitors Bureau (GHCVB) — in 2010.

Phelps, a Civil War buff who has spent the past several years visiting historical sites, says he'll wind down current projects he's been working on at The Harrison Group, a research and consulting firm in Waterbury, as he takes over the reins from Van Parys.

Van Parys joined the GHCVB in 2005 as executive vice president of sales and had been president since 2010. Under his watch, the bureau changed its name, expanded its focus from Greater Hartford to all of Connecticut and grew its membership roster.

The CTCSB, a $1.3 million public-private partnership between the state Department of Economic and Community Development and entertainment venues around Connecticut, was designed to help create a more coordinated approach to economic development in the state.

The organization is funded by member dues and DECD, Van Parys said.

As a pitch man for the state's tourism, sporting and entertainment industries, Van Parys was tasked with bringing meetings, events and other activities to Connecticut venues including the XL Center, Connecticut Convention Center, and Mohegan Sun Casino.

One of Van Parys' biggest tasks since the organization's 2012 transition to a statewide entity was getting Connecticut on the map. The energetic leader said he had no problem selling the state's many attractions, but Connecticut's lack of nationally recognizable landmarks makes it hard to compete with states like California, Florida and New York.

Van Parys said technology and social media have reshaped local tourism since he started more than 30 years ago. “Things definitely move a lot faster these days,” said Van Parys. “Technology has created a whole new set of opportunities for the tourism industry and with it, a greater network of people. There's a lot more business, but there's also more competition.”

Van Parys helped bring the Big East Women's Basketball Tournament and USA Gymnastics Championships to the XL Center. Under his watch, the USA men's soccer team played at Rentschler Field. Earlier this month, the Microscopy Society of America held its annual conference in Hartford, which had a $4.5 million economic impact on the region, according to Phelps, who worked with Van Parys to bring the group to the Capital City.

Conference attendees booked rooms in 14 area hotels and featured more than 120 exhibitors showing high-tech imaging and surface analysis equipment.

Van Parys' legacy will be that of leading CTCSB through a significant transformation and helping entertainment and tourism businesses bolster their numbers. Connecticut hotels booked 231,000 room nights for the 2014 fiscal year ending June 30, up from 188,000 room nights a year earlier.

Meanwhile, conventions, meetings and sporting attractions in Connecticut produced $68 million in total sales with 19,000 event-related jobs and $5 million in tax revenue in fiscal 2014.

Van Parys said he's looking forward to slowing down and enjoying day-to-day life as he heads into retirement. He plans to read more, spend time with family and friends, and travel. He is also optimistic Phelps will do a great job taking over where he left off.

“Scott has a proven track record and he will do a great job,” said Van Parys. “I have a lot of faith in him.”

An issue Phelps' team will continue to tackle is how to generate more activity at venues during off-peak days and times of the year. Strengthening public relationships and corporate partnerships also tops Phelps' to-do list, he said.

“It's always a challenge to add revenue sources to the mix,” said Phelps. “But Connecticut has a lot to offer. You can do just about anything here, and we have access to more than 23 million people with resources and talent.”

Phelps, who has more than three decades of economic development experience in Connecticut, says his new position allows him to blend his prior role at the GHCVB and his consulting chops into one job.

“Michael has done a great job over the last four years and all I want to do is add to what he has already achieved,” said Phelps. 

Sign up for Enews

Related Content


Order a PDF