The current timeline calls for construction of the new convention center to start in 2016. Mike Carrier, president of the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau, told the Oklahoma City Council on Tuesday the city faces a challenge in booking bigger conventions because of the lack of exhibit space and large blocks of hotel rooms.
“Our fiscal year 2012 was a good year but also a challenging year,” Carrier said. “While Oklahoma City has pretty well recovered in many ways, at least our tourism industry has, from the recession we suffered a couple years ago, our industry as a whole still has some challenges.”
Carrier said the city exceeded its goal of 324,000 room night sales and instead booked 417,000 room nights. Direct spending, however, totaled $190.6 million, short of the convention bureau's goal of $231.5 million.
Carrier said motor coach bus tours were a success story this year, totaling 823 compared to his bureau's early projection of 550 tours. He attributed much of that success to the “Passages” Bible history exhibit from May through October last year at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.
Carrier said the city is losing larger convention bids due to inadequate meeting space, which he hopes will be addressed with the new convention center. He reminded the city council the city also urgently needs a 600-plus room conference hotel. He noted that of the city's 235 hotels, only six have more than 300 rooms.
“Conferences routinely ask for 500-room blocks,” Carrier said. “We need a 600- to 650-room hotel to accommodate such demand.”
Consultants have previously advised the city that such a hotel will likely require at least a $50 million subsidy.
“There is a lot of interest in the hotel community in what's going on here because of the convention center,” Carrier said. “There are hotel companies staying in touch with us.”