ICVA hotel-room bookings ahead of schedule

January 19, 2010

The Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association is off to a better-than-expected start in its quest to lure more meetings to the city's expanded convention center, which is slated to open early next year.

Groups that committed in 2009 to hold meetings in Indianapolis in future years booked a total of nearly 688,000 hotel-room nights, a number that exceeded ICVA’s goal by 5 percent.

The hotel-booking statistics are included in a report ICVA Executive Director Don Welsh will present Tuesday afternoon to update the Indianapolis Capital Improvement Board on the ICVA’s performance.

Welsh was unavailable this morning to comment on the report.

The numbers show the ICVA is competitive in attracting conventions amid a difficult economy in which scores of companies and organizations are cutting back on travel expenses. The economic impact of the hotel bookings on the city is estimated at $550 million, the ICVA said. 

Hotel-room nights reserved in 2009 account for bookings made several years in advance, which is common in the convention and hospitality industry.

ICVA, for instance, announced in March 2009 that it landed the American Library Association’s Midwest Meeting, which should attract 11,000 attendees to Indianapolis and bring in $11.6 million in visitor spending. Yet the event doesn’t occur until Jan. 22, 2021.

For events that happen this year, though, room nights and large convention bookings are nearly flat compared to 2009.

Room nights for large gatherings in which downtown hotels are fully occupied total 330,572 in 2010, less than a 1-percent increase from last year. The number of conventions considered “large” dipped to 35 this year from 37 in 2009.

A few of the more significant events occurring in the first six months of the year include the NCAA Men’s Final Four Basketball Championships and the Advanstar Communications Dealer Expo.

The Final Four, which runs April 3-5, is expected to account for 31,440 room nights and $40 million in visitor spending. Next month’s Dealer Expo, meanwhile, should attract 21,235 room nights and $36.2 million in visitor spending, the ICVA said.

The association is getting more aggressive in its attempts to bring more conventions to the city as completion of the Indiana Convention Center expansion draws closer.

The center’s $275 million, 420,000-square-foot expansion is expected to be finished in February 2011. Including Lucas Oil Stadium, the ICVA will have 1.2 million square feet of convention space, 65 percent more than it had in the convention center and RCA Dome. That will make the city the 16th largest in the country in terms of convention space, an improvement from 32nd.  

Assisting ICVA’s marketing efforts is $1.5 million in additional funding it is receiving from the city. The money will help the association hire four additional salespeople and market Indianapolis in more cities.

One of the new hires would be located in Washington, D.C., bringing the sales staff there to four. Walsh said it is important to have a large presence in the nation’s capital, given that 13,000 national associations are headquartered there.

The ICVA also is revamping its Web site and will unveil the new version April 1.

The association is operating on a $13 million budget this year, of which the CIB funds about $9 million. The CIB manages the convention center and the city’s professional sports venues.


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