Sunday, June 25, 2017 This Week's Paper

Consultant recommends changes in booking events at center

A consultant who specializes in the operation of convention centers feels the city could make changes to bring more national events to Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center.

Convention, Sports and Leisure (CSL) International, a consulting firm based in Minneapolis, in conjunction with Venue Solutions Group, was hired by the city to analyze the operations and performance of the center. They compared the center to comparable facilities around the nation.

Late last year representatives of the two firms were in town to speak with convention center staff, as well as others involved in the tourism industry in Tacoma.

Bill Krueger, a director with CSL International, discussed his findings during a recent meeting of Tacoma City Council’s Government Performance and Finance Committee.

He said some groups want a block of 400 rooms, in one or two hotels, before booking a convention.

There are two hotels within a block of the center – Hotel Murano with 230 rooms and Courtyard by Marriott with 162. Krueger said another hotel the size of Murano in the vicinity would do much to attract more conventions.

He noted Murano is a fine hotel, but it does not have the brand identity that business travelers are familiar with, such as Hilton Hotels.

Krueger said the center, which opened in November 2004, is well maintained and attractive. He said it gets rave reviews from people who have visited.

The report stated that Tacoma’s center handles sales and marketing differently than the majority of centers around the nation. Krueger noted that Tacoma Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) actively engages in the generation of leads for conventions, conferences and trade shows, while sales, marketing and booking activities are the responsibility of center staff.

Krueger noted Tacoma has three sales people booking events at the center. He said it is common in other cities with similar sized centers to have at least three people on the staff who book just local events.

Krueger recommends handing over responsibility to booking conventions that bring in people from out of the area to the CVB. He noted that employees of such bureaus can do some things that city employees are prohibited from, such as giving away gifts to convention planners.

“This model works well,” he remarked.

Krueger said the local CVB has a smaller budget compared to bureaus in cities of similar size.

Rob Henson, who is serving of director of public assembly facilities on an interim basis, told council members that Krueger’s recommendations are under consideration.