Convention Center Adds Eight Events

May 27, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — Convention and Visitors Bureau President Steve Wilson said his sales staff has booked eight new trade shows for DeVos Place so far this year.

The shows will bring 9,400 delegates here in coming years and are worth $2.6 million in direct expenditures.

CVB Vice President of Sales George Helmstead reported that 66 groups have committed to meeting at DeVos Place into 2009 (see chart). He added that another 85 are considering doing the same.

Exhibit space at DeVos Place opens in early December, but the entire complex isn’t scheduled to make its debut until January 2005. Between December and then, two dozen groups will meet there and that number could rise before January 2005 rolls around.

Wilson added that the CVB has hit 40 percent of its sales goal for the year — about a third of the way into the year. The bureau bases its goal on the number of room nights that are booked. About 33,000 room nights have been booked for this year, up 188 percent from last year.

Wilson told members of the Convention and Arena Authority Operations Committee last week that there are 6,000 hotel rooms in Kent County, with 1,100 in Grand Rapids. He said the average group coming here needs between 1,000 to 1,500 rooms.

“Our downtown is very group focused,” said Wilson. “So we’re not fighting the transient business traveler for rooms.”

But finding double that number of rooms for larger conventions can be difficult.

“Right now, 2,500 is about as far as we can go. It’s tough to book 2,500 rooms. To get to 2,500, we’re probably using a dozen hotels,” said Wilson.

Wilson said the bureau would be holding a tour next month for 20 members of the national media and is expecting to get some good press from the event. Twenty-five meeting planners are coming here in August to look at the new building and region. They will spend a Saturday touring the lakeshore.

Helmstead said the CVB has had to turn down one convention, so far. A meeting of rabbit breeders wanted the building in October or November of 2005, but DeVos Place is booked then. They may meet here in 2006. If so, about 22,000 rabbits would be in the building.

“The rabbit business must be good,” said Helmstead. “The average sale price runs between $300 to $400. A prize rabbit sells for $2,300.”           

Arrival  
Year

Number
of Groups

Event
Attendance

Blocked
Rooms

Total Direct
Expenditures
2003

12,500

5,141

$1,443,696

2004

21

40,850

29,277

$8,221,567

2005

21

49,500

31,366

$8,808,200

2006

12

26,700

17,079

$4,796,125

2007

18,600

19,291

$5,417,299

2009

800

1,260

$353,833

Total

66

148,950

103,414

$29,040,719

Source: Convention & Visitors Bureau, May 2003

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