You’ve Got to be Kidding (the convention/events center won’t die)

In today’s Albuquerque Journal business section Dale Lockett of the Convention and Visitors Bureau and Charlie Gray of the Inkeepers Association continue their push for a downtown arena and convention center expansion.

Said Lockett, “The overall lower occupancy numbers also reveal increased competition for convention and meetings business. We’re going to be challenged until the need for an (much larger) event center is realized. “The competition has a better product for convention centers. The impact is more than just dollars and cents, it’s who’s coming in. It’s business people, it’s buyers.”

Charlie Gray, executive director of the Greater Albuquerque Innkeepers Association, said a lack of availability at Downtown hotels hurts Convention Center bookings. He said there are about 400 to 450 rooms available between Downtown hotels on any given night — not enough to house a large convention in one area. If there was more availability Downtown, the ACVB would have the tools to work with.”

Do these guys not read the numbers relating to their own industry? Are they not aware of the 41 percent decline in bookings related to convention center events in 2009 relative to 2008 here in Albuquerque? This is hardly an argument for pouring additional taxpayer money into a bigger convention center and additional hotel space associated with the convention center.

Take Atlanta for starters, that city’s Georgia World Congress Center recently reported a $1.3 million loss. Then there is Las Vegas, another big convention town, where many of the big casinos are reporting revenue losses of 30 percent over last year.

All across America the convention industry has been in a sustained decline for the better part of a decade. Check out this study from the Brookings Institute (by no means a right-wing think tank). If some entrepreneur felt that the trend was going to change suddenly and wanted to invest their own money in such a venture in downtown Albuquerque, I’d be all for it. Surely, however, the dying convention industry is not worthy of a bailout courtesy of Albuquerque taxpayers!

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