CVB Tells Of Banner Booking Year

    GRAND RAPIDS — Reports from the Convention and Visitors Bureau indicate that 2002 was an exceptional booking year.

    The bureau recently announced that it had exceeded its goal of generating a $23 million economic impact for the area and that it had surpassed its self-imposed quota of booking 83,000 room nights at local hotels.

    The numbers from the CVB revealed that the bureau booked more than an estimated $26 million worth of economic-impact dollars and over 93,000 room nights.

    CVB President Steve Wilson said 62 percent of those room nights, or 58,155, were first-time reservations, and he credited the bureau’s promotion of the new $220 million DeVos Place convention center with creating more interest in the city with the trade show industry.

    “There is far more activity now. Our activity far exceeds what we’ve done at any other time,” he said.

    Wilson said that conference planners for religious associations would be coming here for a hardhat tour of DeVos Place in February, a visit that will allow them to see the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the Van Andel Public Museum Center.

    Wilson also noted that the bureau would be launching a new media campaign aimed at meeting planners. He said that $120,000 would be spent on advertising in convention and meeting publications, and another $125,000 on a national public relations campaign in 2003.

    “We still have plenty of open dates and spaces on our dance cards,” he added.

    It was a good year for tourism, too. Wilson said group-tour bookings also rose this year. The 11 percent rise resulted in 6,797 room nights and $2.4 million for the local economy.

    More golfers also visited the area. The CVB golf promotion drew 767 to play at 14 area courses and to stay at a dozen area hotels. Forty-four percent of those on the local links came from outside of Michigan and the promotion added $330,000 to the economy.

    Wilson reported that inquiries from tourists were up by a third for the year, and that visits to the bureau’s Web site increased by 63 percent. Nearly 900,000 pages were viewed in 2002, a rise of 27 percent over last year.

    The bureau’s communications department discovered that over 200 articles about Grand Rapids had appeared in 88 publications this year, including pieces in the Chicago Tribune and the Toronto Globe & Mail.

    Wilson said the travel media would make three press trips to the city this year. The first would focus on the arts in West Michigan, a visit that is scheduled for February when the scrolls are on exhibit. The other two trips would be made in June and September.

    The nonprofit CVB will start its 76th year by launching its newest destination brand in a few weeks. The $1 million campaign, called “Michigan’s West Coast,” is the most ambitious and expensive ever done locally. Travel Michigan, the state’s tourism agency, is also involved in the effort.

    For the push, the CVB has committed $450,000 to the leisure-travel market and started a private fund-raising effort to generate $250,000 in sponsorships. Travel Michigan has given $250,000 to the campaign this year. The Muskegon CVB also will participate in the program.

    Kent County, the city of Grand Rapids, local hotels and member businesses fund the bureau.           

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