For Immediate Release
May 30, 2006
FIRST YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF CONNECTICUT CONVENTION CENTER MARKED BY ECONOMIC GROWTH AND NEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR REGION
Greater Hartford Convention & Visitors Bureau Plans New Initiatives to Continue Momentum
HARTFORD, CONN., May 30, 2006 – One year ago this week, more than 10,000 people walked through the Connecticut Convention Center on Opening Day for a first-hand look at the culmination of years of design and planning.
No one anticipated this premiere more than the Greater Hartford Convention & Visitors Bureau (GHCVB). For the past five years, its sales force has been working with national and state organizations to confirm bookings for mid-sized conventions and conferences for this building and Hartford-area hotels and venues through the year 2011. Many of the confirmed events are conventions and conferences that the city and the region never before could accommodate because of limited space and number of hotel rooms.
“The success of the Connecticut Convention Center and adjoining Hartford Marriott Downtown has enormously stimulated the growth of our region’s meeting and convention industry and raised the profile of the Hartford-area to meeting planners nationwide,” explains H. Scott Phelps, President of the Greater Hartford Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“In its first year alone, the Connecticut Convention Center has hosted 380 events and more than 260,000 people, generating approximately $60 million of economic impact for the region,” says Jeanne O’Grady, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Connecticut Convention Center. “This surpasses original projections of 167 events and 192,000 attendees during the first year.”
In addition, the GHCVB has seen a substantial increase in bookings all throughout the region since the opening of the new building. From June 2005 until May 2006, the sales force booked an increase of 33,471 room nights and 19,392 more attendees as compared to one year earlier. The average convention delegate will spend $278 per day and stay an average of 3.6 days, according to industry estimates.
“Now that the doors are open, meeting planners are coming for site visits of the Convention Center and they like what they see,” says Phelps. “They tell us that the building is spacious and attractive, the location is easily accessible, the day trip choices are plentiful, and the costs are less than the nearest convention cities, Boston and New York. We also get great comments about the Hartford Star Shuttle, a free bus service with stops at the Convention Center and throughout a Downtown loop that is managed by Connecticut Transit. That amenity already has carried more than 60,000 riders since its inception in September 2005.”
“More than 80 future Convention Center events have been booked by the Greater Hartford Convention & Visitors Bureau alone through 2011,” reports Phelps. “These meetings and conventions are expected to bring at least 126,055 attendees for an estimated 105,900 room nights.” The numbers include the recent confirmation of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s 2007 AOPA Expo with up to 12,000 members, and the Annual Joint Convention of the Islamic Circle of North America and the Muslim American Society, which will draw 10,000 attendees in late June.
The positive impact of the Convention Center in the Capital City has boosted the economic climate of the entire region, explains Phelps. “The higher demand is driving in convention business, and the surrounding suburbs are responding to that success.” In the past year alone, a number of new hotels have opened or are currently under construction in Greater Hartford, he notes. This June, construction is scheduled to begin across the Connecticut River in East Hartford for a new Hampton Inn & Suites.
The GHCVB works in partnership with Hartford’s businesses, institutions, nonprofit organizations, and surrounding communities to market the entire region as a premier destination for national, regional and statewide conventions. The 32-year-old GHCVB receives its funding from the Capital City Economic Development Authority (CCEDA) and from its membership of close to 300 businesses and organizations.
During the past year, the GHCVB restructured its sales team to intensify its marketing of the region and to better serve conventioneers who already have booked their meetings in the region. The sales force has been reorganized into focus areas, including religious associations and sporting events. Our Convention Services Department assists groups with everything from site visits for meeting planners, to hotel and restaurant selection, to scheduling leisure tours for spouses that take place during the conventions.
The GHCVB is working to identify new niche markets on which to focus special outreach efforts. As an example, Phelps sites science-based groups as one such market. “The past year’s National Science Teachers Association’s Eastern Area Convention and the Northeast Regional Convention of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics were very both well-attended,” notes Phelps. “With the Connecticut Science Center set to open in 2008 on Downtown Hartford’s riverfront, we are continuing to explore ways to build upon that market segment.”
Another major focus of the sales staff is to work with returning groups, which have experienced success here in the past, to build their attendance. An example of this type of intensive effort – in this case, by the Greater Hartford Sports Commission (a division of the GHCVB) – helped the Connecticut Polar Bears’ female youth ice hockey tournament become the largest in North America (girls or boys) in December. Similarly, the BFL Bass Fishing Tournament will return to Hartford this July, with unprecedented numbers.
An aggressive outreach strategy to reach potential clients has been employed by GHCVB sales executives, including the debut of a series of focused, personalized presentations to key decision-makers in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Philadelphia and New York.
In the next few months, the GHCVB will host more than 400 meeting and trade show planners from all over the U.S., who will tour area meeting facilities, hotels and attractions, to see with their own eyes what Hartford has to offer their event. The GHCVB will involve leaders from the region’s hospitality industry with these site tours.
This fall, the GHCVB plans to step up national visibility for Greater Hartford with new strategies to boost attendance at conventions. Sales staff will attend major events of associations already contracted to come to the region, and personally provide information and services to attract more members to attend. Advertising and innovative promotional efforts are planned in more membership and tourism publications, with emphasis on electronic and on-line marketing, including the GHCVB’s website, www.enjoyhartford.com.
This week, the GHCVB will introduce its members to an opportunity to participate in a program to help them enhance customer service for visitors. Hotels, restaurants and attractions will have the opportunity to schedule property inspections and reviews of their establishments, followed by comprehensive evaluations with specific recommendations designed to enhance and promote convention and tourism business.
Local partnerships with area hoteliers, restaurants, attractions and businesses are essential to the region’s success in securing convention bookings, Phelps says. The GHCVB heads up the Hartford Hospitality Task Force, composed of dozens of industry and community entities, and the office is a major partner in the Hartford Image Project. Building upon the Task Force’s success in spearheading a first series of hospitality training seminars and bus tours for front-line workers, Phelps announces that expanded bus tours of Hartford sites are planned for this Summer, to ensure that workers can knowledgeably answer visitors’ questions and provide information about the city.
Phelps cites the GHCVB’s award-winning “Bring It Home to Hartford” campaign as another major reason for the past year’s success in bringing future meetings and conventions. The innovative program encourages Hartford-area residents to bring convention and meeting business into the region.
“We are off to a dynamic start with the new Convention Center and the effects are reaching throughout our region,” adds Phelps. “The Greater Hartford Convention & Visitors Bureau and our hospitality industry and business partners are moving forward with new programs and strategies to capitalize on that excitement and momentum.”
For more information about the Greater Hartford Convention & Visitors Bureau, its programs, services, and the “Bring It Home to Hartford” campaign, call 860-728-6789 or visit www.enjoyhartford.com.
Laura Soll, GHCVB Public Relations, 860-688-4499
H. Scott Phelps, GHCVB President, 860-728-6789 ext. 222