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wmof-logo2mb-300x157Roughly 800,000 people flooded Philadelphia in late September for a visit from Pope Francis and the World Meeting of Families, a global gathering of Catholics.

So… now what?

An event jointly sponsored by Temple University’s School of Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM) and Temple’s Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) considered that very question.

Gathering Philadelphia’s leading minds in tourism, international business, and government at its event, titled, “The World Meeting of Families is Gone: Now What?”, STHM and CIBER aimed to address how Philadelphia could leverage the international exposure and media focus it received from the World Meeting of Families in order to further its status as an elite host for future global events.

“This was our finest hour and it can be again,” said Pat Ciarrocchi, the event’s keynote speaker and a longtime Philadelphia news anchor who covered the World Meeting of Families.

“The World Meeting of Families brought Pope Francis to Philadelphia and, along with him, more than 15,000 reporters representing media outlets from around the world,” said Dr. Elizabeth H. Barber, STHM Associate Dean. “This event generated an unparalleled level of visibility to viewing audiences that wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to what Philadelphia has to offer. In order to best capitalize on the tourism opportunity created by the World Meeting of Families, we as a city will need to maintain the open dialogue we’re initiating today through this event.”

In examining the future of a post-Pope Francis Philadelphia, Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) CEO and President Jack Ferguson nodded to the efforts by Desiree Peterkin Bell, director of communications for the Office of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, the Mayor’s Office, and Visit Philadelphia in building upon the city’s strengths.

Photo of event at Mitten Hall.“We can dissect this forever, but what we will learn is what works,” Ferguson said.

In the days and weeks following the WMOF, Ferguson said he observed how the event boosted the reputation of the city’s businesses, for how well they worked with a large influx of tourist traffic. This positive interaction, Ferguson said, won over consumers.

To do that, Meryl Levitz said she designed a faith-based marketing strategy that invited those looking for love and family with the pope to experience it in Center City, too.

“We watched, we listened, and we helped tell Philadelphia’s story,” said Levitz, CEO and President of Visit Philadelphia of the campaign that featured local catholic organizations, bible studies and family-friendly events.

For Brian Said, executive director of the Tourism Division of PHLCVB, Bell’s efforts to remove the walls between the pope and those wishing to see him resonated with Philadelphia’s foreign visitors. Accessibility to Pope Francis, according to Said, was what put Philadelphia on the map as a global city that is welcoming to all.

“We cannot arm-wrestle New York, and we cannot arm wrestle D.C.,” he said. “We have to work together to show Philadelphia is both safe and fun.”

Zabeth Teelucksingh, executive director for Global Philadelphia, looks forward to that “next great event,” as Ferguson called it. Global Philadelphia works to show foreign travelers the city’s significance as a birthplace of democracy and innovation. Philadelphia has the potential to be the next World Heritage City, which Teelucksingh said is a highly marketable title in countries looking to experience a quintessentially America city. Should Philadelphia become the next World Heritage City, it will enjoy increased property value, stature and economic gains, Teelucksingh said.

All of the event’s panelists agreed that the city’s next steps must be geared toward reminding the world that Philadelphia has successfully managed a world-class event once, and is capable of doing so yet again.

“No one else could have been at the helm of this event,” Bell said. “We’ve done big events and we do big events well. We’re on the map.”

More than three-quarters of black women aged 12 to 74 are considered clinically obese.

Christine WegnerFor Christine Wegner, a Fox School of Business PhD student and a research assistant in the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM), this statistic was a key component in her award-winning research that investigated how social stigmas keep black women from participating in physical activity.

Wegner received the Best Student Abstract Award at the National Recreation and Park Association’s Leisure Research Symposium, held Oct. 14-16 in Charlotte, N.C. The competition selected the best student research in the leisure industry, as it related to current cultures.

Wegner’s work with Black Girls Run! (BGR!), a national organization that uses running to promote physical fitness and health among black women, while combatting stereotypes surrounding the activity, spurred her research. She reacted to how few black women engage in running because of social stigmas surrounding the sport. When coupled with a sedentary childhood, a deficit of black female professional athletes, idealization of a larger body type and issues of hair maintenance, these stigmas have contributed to illness and increased body weight among black women.

To understand this dynamic, Wegner said she reached out to 63,013 black women through BGR! The responses she received helped uncover how the group combats race and gender issues in the running culture. With 70 nationwide chapters, including one in Philadelphia, BGR! teaches black women basic running skills and creates a safe and empowering environment in which they exercise these skills. Working with the organization, Wegner identified confidence, skill, health, time, preference and hair management as six key areas when breaking down the barriers between black women and their athleticism.

“I think that Philadelphia is a good (research) target because of its greater prevalence of obese and sedentary individuals than many other cities like it” Wegner said.

Wegner, whose PhD studies include a concentration in Sport Management, relied upon several skills gleaned from her STHM and Fox School educations to better understand her research results. Wegner hypothesized using information gathered from her courses addressing the nature of organizations to predict that a group promoting a common goal can combat stereotypes held by the majority of its participants. With this in mind, Wegner drew upon her background in leisure activity afforded her through STHM to evaluate how the change in self-identification could result directly from BGR! Participation.

“At STHM, we focus heavily on distinct features and problems within sport and physical activity,” Wegner said. “This focus has allowed me to look at this organization holistically, from both a business perspective that I gained from Fox and from the broader issues in sport gained from the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management.”

Wegner concluded that, as predicted, participating in BGR! changed the mindset surrounding running in the black female culture to increase the number of women who now identify as black, female and runners. Their increased physical activity has helped reduce the risks of Type 2 Diabetes and other obesity-related illnesses among black women, and has provided a sense of empowerment as they accomplish various athletic and health-related goals.

“The most rewarding part was presenting my work with this organization, and finding out that there were some BGR! members in the audience at the conference,” Wegner said. “Seeing how passionate they were about the power of the organization made me feel that my research was worthwhile.”