Minneapolis filled more hotel rooms and snagged more big events in 2014 than in any other previous year, according to the organization that handles the city’s convention and tourism business.
Meet Minneapolis said last week that it hit record levels in four areas: the number of hotel room nights booked for future events, room nights booked for leisure, revenue from sponsorships and revenue from the Minneapolis Convention Center. The facility took in $16.6 million in revenue as the city hosted a record 534 meetings and conventions.
Much of the good news is tied to hotel bookings for future events, including more than 71,000 room nights that have already been booked for the 2018 Super Bowl and more than 52,000 bookings for the NCAA Men’s Final Four basketball tournament in 2019.
Melvin Tennant, the president and CEO of Meet Minneapolis, said Minneapolis’ 72 percent annual hotel occupancy rate stands out among other cities. Maintaining a rate of 70 percent, he said, is considered “nationally enviable.”
The city of Minneapolis now has more than 31,000 leisure and hospitality industry jobs.
The organization also noted that Minneapolis’ Target Center was ranked No. 6 among all U.S. arenas based on event tickets sold in 2014, according to the agency Pollstar. It ranked No. 17 in the world.
Minneapolis is competing in an intensely competitive convention and meeting business. While cities like Las Vegas, Orlando and Chicago are still some of the biggest draws, many smaller communities are beefing up convention centers and adding hotel rooms in hopes of winning a share of the multibillion-dollar trade and convention business.
The convention and meeting business sank dramatically during the Great Recession as businesses and events scaled back or even canceled their events. But now it appears to be roaring back around the nation, and Minneapolis joins a growing list of cities experience strong convention and meeting businesses. Even Detroit is surging.
Tennant said there are several factors creating a lot of enthusiasm about bringing businesses and events to Minneapolis.
Along with the new Minnesota Vikings stadium going up downtown, the city is also benefiting from the Green Line, which began light-rail service between downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul in June 2014.
Tennant said there have been millions of dollars in hotel renovations. Meanwhile, plans are underway to renovate Nicollet Mall and overhaul the Target Center.
Meet Minneapolis is looking forward to another busy convention season in 2015. The organization is expecting 35,000 estimated attendees to participate and watch the National Senior Games in July, which will be hosted in conjunction with St. Paul and Bloomington. Other significant meetings and conventions in Minneapolis will include the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, the Society of Government Meeting Professionals, Sister Cities International and the National Association of Black Journalists.
“We certainly hope to replicate the past year’s success in the future,” Tennant said.