Hidden from small

Julie Coker Graham: In the Spotlight

April 01, 2019

A Monthly Profile of Orchestra Fans and Family

As president and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB), Julie Coker Graham is keenly attuned to what makes a city special.

“It’s really important for people here to know that The Philadelphia Orchestra is an icon in the city, in the country, and around the world. Not every major city is lucky enough to have an institution with such talent. The Orchestra should be celebrated, respected, treasured, and valued, and certainly not taken for granted!”

Coker Graham grew up in Wilmington, DE. “With Philadelphia being so close, we came to the city often for theater, dance, and of course The Philadelphia Orchestra.”

After college at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, Coker Graham used her magna cum laude degree in Hospitality Management to win a coveted spot with the Hyatt organization. In a 21-year career with the famed hotelier, she rose from management trainee to general manager at the Hyatt Regency Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing.

“I was thrilled to be able to come back to Philadelphia. That hotel is a gem, and it gave me a terrific opportunity to be right in the heart of things here.”

She became president and CEO of the PHLCVB in 2015, making her the only African-American woman to lead a major convention and visitors bureau in the top 50 US cities. Highlights of her tenure so far include overseeing the PHLCVB’s role in the 2016 Democratic National Convention and the 2017 NFL Draft. (Those two events alone generated a combined $325 million in economic value for Philadelphia.)

The PHLCVB is proud to be a tour sponsor of The Philadelphia Orchestra, and is supporting the upcoming tour of China in May.

“Our Orchestra is very well respected in many of the international markets where we have targeted sales efforts. We’ve found, when we can bring a piece of Philadelphia to any of these international locations, it really brings the city to life and helps inspire future travel to our destination”

“During the upcoming tour of China, we will be leveraging the Philadelphia Orchestra experience as a tool for selling the destination. After making sales calls during the day, we take some of our top customers to experience the Orchestra in the evening. It’s a great soft sell, a way of making sure Philadelphia is on their radar, and educating people on all the great things the city has to offer. Arts and culture are such a big part of what we sell to global visitors; having an example of the quality of what we have here in Philadelphia is a great way to sell the city. As well respected and beloved as the Orchestra is, and the role it plays in our cultural community, what better way to tell Philadelphia’s story?”

Coker Graham firmly believes that a city is the sum of its parts.

“You can have great sports teams, and fantastic hotels, and walkability, but when you can add on top of that the strong arts and culture community that we have here, that just really makes for a well-rounded destination. You need all of those elements to attract global and domestic visitors. The Orchestra is a big part of what we sell, especially when it comes to attracting overseas visitors. Hospitality and tourism is now recognized as a key driver of economic development, and all cities are competing aggressively to attract visitors. We have to be on top of our game; we need to be top of mind, and having wonderful assets like The Philadelphia Orchestra to round out that visitor experience makes visitors want to come back to our city again and again.”