Conventions are putting heads in beds in Grand Rapids

July 29, 2014

Conventions are putting heads in beds in Grand Rapids

The convention and tourism climate in Grand Rapids is still on the upswing, with 2014 on target to be the fourth consecutive year of record room revenue, according to Janet Korn, Experience Grand Rapids senior vice president.

She said hotel occupancy is measuring more than 63 percent year-to-date and hotel room rates also are trending upward, leading to record hotel room revenue.

“This number is a true representation of the impact of convention group business, sports tournaments, leisure travel and corporate business travel to Kent County,” Korn said.

Hotel revenue projections for the rest of 2014 are not yet available, but with several conventions still remaining before the end of the year — including the American Quilter’s Society, which last year drew 21,000 visitors — it is likely be a good number.

“We expect that 2014 will be another great year for conventions, with 284 groups hosted, which will generate over $156 million in total business sales for the local economy,” Korn said.

Conventions are particularly important to Grand Rapids and Kent County because of their greater economic impact on the community and their potential for bringing new faces to the city — visitors who may even plan a return trip.

“The value of tourism in Kent County is $1.175 billion in economic impact each year, which has the long-term impact of fueling jobs, supporting dining opportunities and cultural improvements, and improving the quality of life within the community,” Korn said.

Grand Rapids remains a growing contender for attracting large conventions with several helpful assets to woo annual conference organizers.

Korn pointed to safety, walkability and more than 90 downtown dining options, including fabulous farm-to-table restaurants, as some of the key features the city has to offer.

“And recently, Grand Rapids was recognized as a top 10 emerging downtown,” she added, referring to a 2013 listing by Forbes highlighting 15 cities in the United States.

And in case you are wondering, those “best of” lists do help.

“National lists and third-party recognitions are important to supporting our work as a destination marketing organization. The lists induce people to look closer — those who might ignore traditional advertising,” she said.

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