ICVA expects to fall short of 2011 room-night goal

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The Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association likely will fall far short of its aggressive goal of booking 725,000 hotel room nights this year for future conventions.

New ICVA CEO Leonard Hoops cautioned members of Marion County's Capital Improvement Board on Monday that, through April, the association is pacing at about 75 percent of its target.

“My goal is to get us back to where we were last year,” he said. “So I might as well fire that warning shot right now.”

ICVA sales staff met their goal in 2010 by booking 650,000 room nights for future conventions, but in doing so tapped most of their prospects. As of the end of April, ICVA had booked about 165,000 room nights.

“To get to that 650,000, the team worked very hard to close that out,” Hoops said, “and we started the year with nothing in the tank.”

Hoops, a former executive for the San Francisco Travel Association, was hired in March to replace Don Welsh, who left to become CEO of the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau.

This year's higher hotel room-night sales goal was set during Welsh’s tenure and was approved by ICVA directors, association spokesman Chris Gahl said.

Still, Hoops arrives in Indianapolis at an ideal time for the city, which now boasts a larger convention center and will host the inaugural Big Ten football title game in December, followed by the Super Bowl in February.

The games will draw thousands of visitors to the city who will spend money on hotel rooms and food and drinks, generating more tax revenue for the CIB.

CIB budgeted a modest 3-percent increase this year in hotel and food and beverage taxes, and expects to meet budget despite Hoops’ warning that ICVA will fall short of its room-night goal.

That’s because the room nights booked this year often are for conventions scheduled several years from now, CIB Chief Financial Officer Dan Huge said. In addition, hotel and food and beverage taxes are collected countywide, which could help offset any shortages experienced by downtown convention business, he said.

The Big Ten championship football game undoubtedly will bolster CIB tax revenue, but the increase won’t affect this year’s budget. Though the game is in December, a typical 30-day lag time in collecting the taxes means the amount won’t be recorded until January or February, Huge said.

Through the first four months of the year, CIB collected $29.6 million in revenue, $2.3 million ahead of budget. County admission-tax receipts are nearly $2 million over budget, and professional sports district revenue is up about $1.1 million from last year.

Hotel taxes are under budget this year by $1.2 million but ahead by $1 million compared with the first four months of last year.

Food and beverage taxes through April are below budget by just $119,000 but ahead by $750,000 compared with the same time in 2010.


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