Speakers at the Southern Lodging Summit outlined key ingredients required for a convention center hotel to experience prosperity from the outset.
MEMPHIS, Tennessee—Convention center hotels need plenty of support to be successful, including the right funding mechanism, a captive base of business and sound operating fundamentals. But they also need the support of surrounding hotels and the overall community to ensure prosperity, according to speakers at the recent Southern Lodging Summit.
The basic formula for a successful convention center hotels includes the obvious—knowing the market and what type of business it can drive, said speakers on the “Convention center hotel impact on the market—does it lift all boats or drain the swamp?” session.
“It’s a lot of hotel rooms on any given night that you’re booking, so understanding how you fill that and looking in advance as to how much time it takes to fill that is very important,” said Chad Crandell, managing director and CEO for Boston-based CHMWarnick, which asset manages 14 convention center headquarters hotels (14,500 rooms and 1.1 million square feet of meeting space)—nine of which are publicly financed and five of which are privately owned.
Butch Spyridon, president of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation, said Nashville boosters started selling the convention space and hotel rooms before the Music City Center and Omni Nashville Hotel were even approved. The complex in the city’s downtown opened in May 2013.
“It was a bit of a task—I don’t recommend that,” Spyridon said of the early drive. “We had some success, and we committed to put a million rooms on the books before it opened. … That solidified the project, and that really stopped the talk of ‘Nashville’s really not a destination’ and ‘conventions are dying’—all the things critics would like to say, we put that to rest.
“We engaged the business community at large,” he added. “We took it out of the hands of the hospitality industry and we looked to (service it through the convention authority). We said, ‘we need to make this an economic engine for the entire community,’ and so the newspaper and AT&T and the university, healthcare, banks—they carried the argument for us.”