City sees banner year for conventions in 2012
Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in South Boston.
In another sign that Boston is shaking off the economic downturn, the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority said yesterday that 2012 will be its best year since 2007, with booked conventions expected to generate more than 600,000 hotel room stays for the first time in five years.
The banner year strengthens the convention authority’s case for a $2 billion proposed expansion of the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in the Seaport District and shows that the seven-year-old center has established itself, said James Rooney, executive director of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority.
“It’s a sharp elbows business with a lot at stake, there’s a lot of money spent in this industry, and we’re doing very well,’’ Rooney said. “The downside is we know we can do more, but we need additional capacity in terms of exhibit space and hotel rooms.’’
Next year’s conventions are expected to generate $625 million in economic activity, about $25 million less than convention-related spending in 2010.
Despite the increase in hotel stays, the convention authority estimates that visitors will spend less on shopping and dining than in 2010, reducing the overall economic impact.
Among the events coming to Boston next year is the BIO International Convention, the largest biotechnology conference in the world, which was held at Boston’s John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center in 2000 and the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in 2007.
BIO organizers said they like holding the annual event here because the city is a biotech hub, and attendees flock to Boston to meet the local players. Next year, the BIO conference expects more than 15,500 people, pumping an estimated $25 million into the city’s economy.
“Every time we’ve gone into Boston, we’ve had a higher attendance than any other place we go,’’ said Robbi Lycett, vice president of conventions and conferences for the Biotechnology Industry Organization.
The organization would like to hold the conference in Boston every three years, but might not be able to come back because of space limitations, Lycett said. The convention is already crowded in the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, the Hynes, and meeting rooms at several waterfront hotels, she said.
And if attendance grows as anticipated, it would be difficult to accommodate everyone unless the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center expands, she said.
The state Legislature is expected to take up the $2 billion expansion next year. The plan includes new hotels, parking garages, and restaurants, as well as a new ballroom and an expanded exhibit hall. The additional space and hotel rooms would allow the convention authority to book the approximately 13 major events it has to turn away every year, Rooney said.
Critics have questioned the expansion, saying that the state’s limited economic development funds could be better spent elsewhere and that the $850 million convention center has not measured up to its potential. Critics cite a 1997 study that predicted the center would generate 768,000 annual room nights by 2010, well above the 584,000 actually reported last year.
Convention authority officials, however, note that a report issued in 2003, the year before the center opened, projected 508,000 room nights by 2010.
Tourism is on the rebound across Boston, with Logan International Airport on track to hit a record number of passengers this year and the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau expecting the number of overseas visitors in 2012 to top all-time highs reached in 1999 and 2000. But Patrick Moscaritolo, president of the visitors bureau, isn’t ready to uncork the champagne.
“We hit a peak and then we hit a valley,’’ he said. “It’s the nature of our industry.’’
about the mcca
The MCCA owns and oversees the operation of the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center (BCEC), the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center, The MassMutual Center in Springfield, MA and the Boston Common Garage.
The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority’s (MCCA) mission is to generate significant regional economic activity by attracting conventions, tradeshows, and other events to its world-class facilities while maximizing the investment return for the residents and businesses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.