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Local hotel bookings fell in 2010, projected to rise in 2011

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The Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association on Monday reported a 5-percent decline in hotel room nights booked in 2010 compared with 2009.

Still, said ICVA spokesman Chris Gahl, local hospitality officials reached 99 percent of their goal to book 650,000 hotel rooms in 2010.

“Considering the economy and what we’ve seen in some other cities, we’re pretty pleased,” Gahl said.

The 649,686 hotel rooms booked in central Indiana were down from 687,686 in 2009, according to ICVA figures.

“We had an incredible year in 2009, with two sizable conventions booked,” Gahl said. “What we saw in 2010 was a little bit of the downturned economy come into play.”

The number of hotel rooms booked in central Indiana had been on the rise since 2007, when about 500,000 hotel rooms were booked.

“We’ve added staff and we’ve increased marketing, all with the goal of increasing that number,” Gahl said.

With the Indiana Convention Center addition set to open later this month and the 1,005-room JW Marriott hotel set to open on the west side of downtown in February, local hospitality officials expect the number of bookings to escalate in 2011 and again in 2012, when the Super Bowl is hosted at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“Now that the Convention Center expansion project is finished, we can walk them through a finished product, and we’re confident that will translate into new business,” Gahl said. “We’re going to need to book 750,000 to 800,000 room nights annually to meet the demand of the Convention Center expansion. We know we can’t do that overnight. So we’re ramping up.”

The $275 million expansion project will add nearly 350,000 square feet of exhibit space to the Indiana Convention Center, pushing the facility from the 32nd largest U.S. convention center to 16th. With the expansion, the Indiana Convention Center has 749,000 square feet of exhibit space.

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