PHOENIX — Phoenix spent $600 million to triple the size of its convention center, and has added more hotel rooms to the downtown, but a convention expert said the city has yet to see a return on its investment.
Phoenix hosted three fewer conventions last year than it did in 2005. In fact, it hosted about the same number of conventions last year as it did in 1995. University of Texas-San Antonio public policy professor Heywood Sanders said quite a few of the rooms at the downtown Sheraton Hotel built to handle conventioneers have stayed empty.
Phoenix financed the building of that hotel. “The city tried for some years to find a developer who would invest in it, and failed,” Sanders said. “So the city chose to go ahead and finance and build the Phoenix downtown Sheraton itself.”
So far it has not been a success. The Sheraton’s occupancy rate was 52.5 percent in the first three quarters of 2013, which is well below expectations. Downtown hotels had a combined occupancy rate of about 60 percent last year.
Sanders said that competition for convention business is fierce. While Phoenix was tripling the size of its center, Las Vegas and Orlando were doubling theirs. San Antonio and other cities have also financed hotels in the hopes of revitalizing downtowns by drawing more conventions, with little success.
Sanders had advice for Phoenix. “Don’t do exactly what everybody else is doing, and think that somehow you’re going to succeed. Build on your own community’s assets,” he said.
Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau spokesman Doug MacKenzie pointed to the recession as a cause for the low numbers.
“People do remember that there was a recession just a few years ago,” MacKenzie said, “but we are coming out of that. In fact, among the top 25 metro areas, greater Phoenix’s hotel market recorded the seventh-highest increase in occupancy in 2013, and this trend is continuing in 2014.”
MacKenzie also said that occupancy rates of downtown Phoenix hotels have grown for the past three straight years.
- 6 energy saving hacks for your home
- 5 tips for choosing a company to end your timeshare
- Water tips to save money, help save the Earth
- 5 of the most adored gentlemen in professional sports today
- The real danger of sitting at your desk
- Most surprising NBA playoff performances of the last 40 years
- 11 classic baseball movies you must see again
- Finally getting rid of fat: 3 methods that actually work
- 4 reasons cancer survivors should focus on food
- 5 spring cleaning spots everyone forgets
- 5 reasons to look forward to watching the D-backs this season
- Common virus attributed to spike in head and neck cancers
- 5 signs it’s time to end your timeshare ownership
- 3 most overlooked ways to keep your home healthy
- 6 ways the air in your home could be making you sick
- CrossFit dangers: 5 common injuries and how to deal with them
- Today's radiation treatments offer better success, fewer side effects
- Tips to make watching TV on the patio even better
- What really happens when you donate to a community college?
- Sun and skin cancer: Separating fact from fiction
- 5 critical lifestyle changes for a healthy colon
- What you need to know about Alzheimer's disease in Arizona
- Spring clean your windows like a pro with these 8 tips
- 7 films that should have won best-picture Oscars
- New plumbing technology saves money and improves your home
- Survey shows Arizona CFOs optimistic about 2016
- How chronic pain can affect your love life
- 5 potential warning signs about your child's development