Show Business Lodging To Rise
GRAND RAPIDS — The Convention and Visitors Bureau has booked 144 tradeshows, meetings and conventions for DeVos Place through 2011, events the bureau estimates will be worth nearly $52 million to the local economy.
Another 59 meetings are on the bureau’s “maybe” list and those events would be worth another $26.8 million to local coffers if each one were closed.
“We’re doing what we’re expected to do,” said Steve Wilson, CVB president.
Thirty-eight groups are scheduled to meet here this year, meetings that will bring more than 70,000 visitors to town who will spend an estimated $13 million in the area. The CVB is trying to add four more groups to this year’s booked list. If successful, the bureau would bring an additional 5,100 delegates to town that would spend $758,000.
Even if those extra four aren’t signed, however, the meetings booked for 2005 are two more than were held in 2004 when 36 groups came to town and left $11.5 million here. Twenty-nine groups are signed and sealed for next year and 26 are certain for 2007.
Wilson told members of the Convention and Arena Authority Operations Committee that the bureau’s goal is to book 70,000 room nights from conventions and tradeshows in five years. He said last year the CVB booked 41,000 room nights with those groups and 112,000 overall, a number that surpassed the bureau’s overall goal by 8 percent. In coming years, Wilson said he hopes to book 120,000 room nights each year.
A recent study on the convention industry done by PricewaterhouseCoopers reported that regional centers like DeVos Place should host 38 events each year and buildings the size of DeVos Place should be able to attract 42 meetings annually. With 38 on the books this year and four that are possible, Wilson said the local industry was on track.
“Our sales and marketing plans are well underway,” he said.
CVB Vice President of Sales George Helmstead said the bureau would soon be opening an office in southeast Michigan as part of an effort to expand sales. The bureau already has an office in Lansing and is represented in the nation’s capital through a partnership its sales representative formed with CVBs in Pasadena, Calif., and Daytona Beach, Fla. The Florida city will come on board in June.
“That will give us two visible cities,” said Helmstead of groups that rotate their sites.
Helmstead said at least 25 meeting planners are coming here this year to look at DeVos Place and West Michigan. A dozen did that last year.
Although the county’s hotel occupancy rate was below 55 percent last year, Wilson said operators were looking forward to more business coming from DeVos Place. He added the occupancy rate stopped declining last year for the first time since 2001, and that last year’s rate matched the 2003 figure.
Wilson said much of the occupancy loss that hotel operators have seen was due to fewer business travelers coming here, as this group once accounted for close to half of the out-of-town reservations. Amway Grand Plaza Hotel President and CAA member Joseph Tomaselli said last year was a transition year as business from business travelers began to bounce back.
“Business travel is back, it’s healthy again. We’ve seen the bottom and we’re seeing an uptick,” said Tomaselli.
Kent County revealed that receipts from the lodging excise tax rose by 2.8 percent to $4.21 million in 2004 from 2003, the first time the county has seen an increase in that revenue in four years.