Economic Development, Real Estate, and Travel & Tourism

Kent County hotels book record year

January 30, 2017
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Small tells county commissioners they're going to like the numbers
Experience Grand Rapids is Kent County's destination marketing organization that attracts visitors by “getting the word out about things to do in Grand Rapids.” Photo by Johnny Quirin

The numbers are in for 2016, and Kent County hotels are celebrating record revenues.

Experience Grand Rapids, or EXGR, said this morning revenue increased by 8.7 percent from 2015 to 2016, which the organization said exceeded the growth for both Michigan and the U.S., where hotel room revenue gains were 4.8 percent and 6.8 percent.

This is the seventh consecutive year Kent County hotel revenue has grown over the prior year.

Doug Small, president and CEO of EXGR, said hotel room revenue is a “key metric” for measuring tourism activity, because it is affected by “leisure tourism, strong convention attendance, the area’s growing business economy and the increasing number of sports-related events.”

Small credited several area attractions with the gains Kent County continues to make, including its wealth of music venues, craft breweries and cultural attractions.

The Van Andel Arena’s 30-concert lineup in 2016 was a big draw, as well as the community’s many other smaller music venues.

In 2016, Van Andel Arena had "one of its strongest lineups to date," with Garth Brooks’ record for most tickets sold for a single engagement and Paul McCartney’s record for gross ticket sales for a single event.

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum also re-opened in 2016 with a new interactive exhibit and expansion for education, which has attracted numerous visitors.

The “Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion” exhibit at Grand Rapids Art Museum welcomed more than 23,000 attendees, becoming the sixth most visited exhibit based on average visitors per day.

EXGR said the West Michigan Sports Commission has also been instrumental in increasing travel to the area and will be responsible for much of 2017’s travel.

Among the more than 80 events on the calendar, 2017 will the International Softball Congress Men’s World Tournament and PDGA Masters World Championships in August, both new to Grand Rapids, and the USA Weightlifting American Open Series in September.

"The forecast for 2017 is sunny, because of exciting cultural exhibits coming to Kent County, including a seven-month exhibition of Ai Weiwei at Frederik Meijer Gardens, sporting events like the National Congress of State Games and significant conventions, such as Grand Aerie Fraternal Order of Eagles, Church of the Brethren and National Environmental Health Association,” Small said.

“Combining with our increasing popularity as a cool city due to events such as ArtPrize, GRandJazzFest and LaughFest and culinary, craft beer and outdoor activities.”

Small said during 2017, EXGR plans to increase its marketing efforts around the many outdoor opportunities available in Grand Rapids, which should entice more travelers looking for urban adventures.

He noted activating the Grand River remains vital to future hotel room revenue and should be a priority. Small is hopeful kayaks will be passing through the city within the next five years.

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