At the organization’s Toast the Town event, Experience Grand Rapids President Doug Small said hotels in the county had a record-breaking year for revenue last year and more convention-goers came here in 2012 than in any previous year.
Small said Wednesday hotel revenue totaled more than $127 million last year, a figure that is 11 percent higher than the 2011 number — which set the previous record. The 11-percent increase is higher than the 7.7 percent average gain the state had, as well as the nation’s 7.3 percent hike.
“2012 was another phenomenal year for Kent County hotels," Small said. "Increased leisure visitors, strong convention attendance and an improving business climate all contributed to this success."
Conventions brought 243,491 attendees to Grand Rapids last year, nearly a 40-percent increase over 2011 attendance.
The American Quilters Society attracted more than 21,000 and had an estimated economic impact of almost $20 million.
During 2012, the Experience Grand Rapids sales team booked 14 more groups than the previous year. Those bookings will result in 123,863 hotel-room reservations and 217,722 visitors. The sales team has 25 percent more business leads this year than it had last year, according to Small.
Small said he was waiting for Longwoods International, a tourism research firm, to provide the number of tourists that came here last year.
Longwoods reported in 2011 there were 282,000 incremental visits to the area that had an economic impact of $78.3 million.
“Both culinary and beer tourism continue to distinguish the area as a key destination and attract new and repeat visitors,” Small said.
Experience GR also held a preview of its newest promotion, Cool Brews, Hot Eats, at Wednesday’s event.
The Gilmore Collection catered Toast the Town, and Perrin Brewing, Founders Brewing Co., Brewery Vivant and Vander Mill Hard Ciders provided samples of their products.
Cool Brews, Hot Eats gets underway Monday at 55 area restaurants that will pair locally crafted beers with special menu items created for the event.
The first-ever promotion runs through March 2.