Nationwide Convention Business Declining
There is little doubt that once the coming elections are over Kansas City leaders will start pushing for a convention hotel. The mayor has talked about it, and Star editorial writer Yael Abouhalkah champions it. When the GOP decided not to have their 2016 convention in Kansas City, those involved in the bid sought to blame a lack of hotel capacity.
According to CityLab, a think tank attached to The Atlantic Monthly magazine,
Over the last 20 years, convention space in the United States has increased by 50 percent; since 2005, 44 new convention spaces have been planned or constructed in this country alone. That boom hasn’t come cheap. In the last ten years, spending on convention centers has doubled to $2.4 billion annually, much of it from public coffers.
“It’s a very, very, very competitive thing,” says Susan S. Gregg, managing editor of Association Conventions and Facilities magazine, one of a large number of trade publications devoted to the convention industry. “All these cities that are so competitive are constantly having to upgrade and expand and improve.”
So if Kansas City built a convention hotel it would just be the latest comer to an already crowded market. Worse off, the convention industry is shrinking. Again according to CityLab:
But there’s a problem with this building bonanza, and it’s a doozy: There aren’t really enough conventions to go around. The actual number of conventions hosted in the U.S. has fallen over the last decade. Attendance at the 200 largest conventions peaked at about 5 million in the mid-1990s and has fallen steadily since then.
Even Las Vegas, a leader in the industry, has yet to get back to its pre-recession peak. According to CalculatedRiskBlog, Vegas reports that
There were 39,668,221 visitors to Las Vegas in 2013, just below the record 39,727,022 visitors in 2012. The pre-recession high was 39,196,761 in 2007. Convention attendance was at 5,107,416 in 2013, still well below the record of 6,307,961 in 2006.