Anaheim, CA—After 20 years as president of the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau, Charles Ahlers today announced he will retire at the end of this year. His retirement will come on the heels of the expected opening of the Anaheim Convention Center’s 100,000-square-foot outdoor plaza expansion and a new transportation hub adjacent to the center.
Ahlers also was at the helm in Anaheim during the last expansion of the Anaheim Convention Center that made the center the largest in Southern California. It now ranks No. 13 among mega convention centers in the U.S. with 842,000 square feet of prime exhibit space, according to Trade Show Executive’s Directory of the World’s Top Convention Centers.
Anaheim’s largest annual conventions are The NAMM Show, produced by the National Association of Music Merchants, which ranked No. 27 on the most recent Trade Show Executive Gold 100 Show directory, and Natural Products Expo West/Supply Expo, produced by New Hope Natural Media, which ranked No. 47 among the Gold 100 Shows. Together, these two shows accounted for more than 150,000 show attendees in the First Quarter of 2012.
When asked about his biggest accomplishment, Ahlers told Trade Show Executive that one major one was achieving funding for the CVB through tourism improvement district taxes approved by the cities of Anaheim and Garden Grove. “Our budget went from about $9 million to about $12 million as a result,” he said.
Ahlers joined the Anaheim Bureau during its early years in the 1970s, spending seven years as convention sales manager. He then was convention director for the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau and director of sales for the Phoenix & Valley of the Sun Convention & Visitors Bureau and executive director of the Portland Oregon Visitors Association from 1987-1992.
During his tenure in Anaheim, he also served a one-year term as chairman of the board for the International Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus in 2000-2001 (now the Destination Marketing Association International). He also was a trustee on the board of the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) Education Foundation between 2003-2006.
He also was a board member for PCMA, the International Association of Exhibition Management and the Foundation Board of the American Society of Association Executives.
“I’ve been here 20 years and I think it’s just time to step back and give someone else a chance,” Ahlers said.
Reach Charles Ahlers at (714) 765-8840 or firstname.lastname@example.org