Economic Development, Marketing, PR & Advertising, and Travel & Tourism

Kent County books record year for tourism

January 25, 2016
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Amway Lobby
The Amway Grand Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids opened in 1971. Courtesy Experience Grand Rapids

For the sixth consecutive year, Kent County hotel room revenue grew and set a new record for the area.

Experience Grand Rapids, or EXGR, released its 2015 numbers this morning, and the news for the area’s tourism industry is great.

EXGR leads the marketing of Grand Rapids and Kent County.

Hotel room revenue in 2015 outpaced 2014 by 13.4 percent, according to EXGR.

Doug Small, president and CEO of EXGR, said hotel room revenue is a key metric for measuring tourism activity.

In addition to the positive room revenues, Kent County hotels reached their highest year-end occupancy rate ever, 67.5 percent, which is above the national average of 65.6 percent.

Occupancy also grew by 4 percent, while the nation’s occupancy rate grew by 1.7 percent.

The area's hotel room revenue growth is driven by leisure tourism, strong convention attendance and the area’s growing business economy, according to EXGR.

"Grand Rapids continues to gain momentum and rise as a top tourism destination,” Small said.

The organization said in addition to the efforts of its convention sales team, EXGR experienced digital success and introduced new promotions last year.

In 2015, EXGR unveiled a new website that promotes topic-related content and is optimized for mobile, the Beer City Brewsader program and the Grand Rapids Food Trail.

"The new website has helped enhance our mobile website user experience, and we have welcomed 791 Brewsaders since the launch of the Beer City Passport in mid October 2015,” said Janet Korn, SVP, EXGR. “With new promotions and digital updates, we can better market our destination to potential visitors.”

Korn added that investment in the “Pure Michigan” campaign is also a factor, promoting the city to “new audiences."

Due to the growing interest in Grand Rapids by travelers, EXGR recently expanded its sales team. The organization added a specialty markets sales manager who will manage group tourism and travel, weddings, reunions and niche markets, such as LGBT and craft beer groups.

Small said Grand Rapids’ momentum is making a positive impact on the city’s ability to attract new conventions and meetings.

He named the booming craft beer and culinary scenes, distinct cultural attractions, such as Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, and events, such as ArtPrize, increased amateur sports events and the opening of the Art Van Sports Complex as popular draws.

Numbers coming from industry partners are also encouraging, according to Small.

Meijer Gardens experienced record attendance, with more than 775,000 guests in 2015, and Gerald R. Ford International Airport welcomed an all-time passenger record, surpassing the previous record in 2014 by more than 215,000 passengers.

Grand Rapids also started off 2016 on The New York Times’ “52 Places to Go” ranking.

Small said he’s “confident that visitors will continue to have Grand Rapids on their list of places to visit in 2016 and beyond.”

“We are encouraged by the record number of contracted future conventions, meetings and sports tournament rooms contracted in 2015 for future years,” he said.

Looking ahead, Small said that 2016 room inventory growth will support Grand Rapids’ growing leisure, sports and convention market. Grand Rapids will add close to 700 hotel rooms to the area.

Small said Grand Rapids will also be implementing new sales strategies by hosting the 24th National Association of Sports Commissions Sports Event Symposium, National Tour Association board, National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners board and Heartland Showcase in 2016.

“These are all groups that influence meeting planners’ and tour operators’ destination decisions,” Small said.

He said hosting these organizations means Grand Rapids has the opportunity to promote the destination directly to decision makers.

“It’s exciting to see the city expand, and we look forward to welcoming more people to experience Grand Rapids,” Small said.

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