Coming off of two straight record years, Visit Indy is looking to 2016 with a particular focus on two events. Vice President Chris Gahl says the world will have its eyes on Indianapolis during the NCAA Women’s Final Four in April and the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 in May and hopes the city will get "Super Bowl-level excited." He says if the city takes full advantage of the events, it will help "address any repairs that need to be done in the mind of meeting decision-makers."
The organization announced this week at its annual meeting that convention sales results topped the previous record, which was set in 2014.
Visit Indy says it booked over 900,000 convention hotel room-nights into the future, which was 117 percent of its sales target. Contracted hotel room-nights are used as a key metric to measure the health of a city’s tourism economy. Indianapolis’ numbers from 2015 include conventions, trade shows, meetings and events that will meet up to a decade later.
The organization said year-over-year convention bookings dropped by 43 percent in the second quarter of 2015, following the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. However, convention sales were up year-over-year by 31 percent after July 1.
"It took a few months for our team to methodically reach out to meeting decision-makers and communicate that Indianapolis already had its own long-standing human rights ordinance with full LGBT protections, and that Indiana’s religious freedom law had been amended and could not be used for discrimination," said Leonard Hoops, president and chief executive officer of Visit Indy. "We’re optimistic that groups that did not choose us during the second quarter of last year will reconsider us in the future especially when they compare Indy’s comprehensive HRO to other major cities."
Earlier this month, Visit Indy reported that since April 2015, the city lost out on hosting 12 conventions, costing the city $60 million in economic impact.
Visit Indy says one of its "key wins" last year was a commitment from the National FFA Organization to hold its annual convention and expo in Indianapolis from 2019 through 2024. The six-year period is expected to generate $216 million in economic impact. The organization also inked deals with the American Chemical Society, the American Association of Nurse Practioners’ National Conference and the International Dairy-Deli-Baker Association’s Seminar & Expo.
The organization also reports a new record for summer weekend travel to Indianapolis, tracking nearly 406,000 non-group weekend hotel room-nights from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The previous record was set last year at over 401,000.
Gahl says boosting Indy’s perception will continue to be a focus in 2016.