Local Hotels Look To Add More Business Outside of Major Events

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COLUMBIA - It's national tourism week and in Columbia, tourism means Mizzou football, the True/False Film Festival and Roots N Blues N BBQ. Those weekends fill up the city's hotels and have led to new hotels like The Broadway Hotel and the Holiday Inn and Suites on Stadium. But the tourism that's fueling hotel growth is hurting occupancy the rest of the year.

"There's a dozen weekends a year or so that really fill up the city and it's hard to find rooms, but you take into account the whole year and you look at the annual occupancy levels," Bob McDonald, the General manager for The Broadway Hotel said. "The average occupancy for all the hotels in the market is between 55 and 58 percent. Yes, this market can count on a dozen or so weekends but that doesn't go to making all the hotels completely profitable."

This past fall, the occupancy rate in Columbia was actually down during football season. In September 2013, the occupancy was 60.4 percent, down from 62.7 percent in 2012. October saw a similar drop down to 60.9 percent from 62.6 percent. The most recent number from the Convention and Visitor's Bureau (CVB) are for February and actually show an increase, moving from 47.2 percent to 48.4 percent full.

"Football season is only a few weekends a year, so there's definitely some responsibility upon us to help fill the rooms the rest of the year," Megan McConachie, the Web & Communications Manager at the CVB said. 

McDonald says the numbers have to go up or some hotels could be forced to close.

"55-58 percent, if you ran that as a hotel on a continuous basis, you wouldn't stay in business for very long," Mcdonald said. "You have to have a level that keeps your hotel about three quarters full."

The CVB is focusing on adding more events outside of weekends.

"Our sales people really focus on that Sunday-Thursday business," McConachie said. "When they go out looking for conferences, a great lead for them is a conference that wants to have a Sunday-Thursday meeting."

McDonald says he think the numbers will likely go up naturally.

"That occupancy level should go up as business increase in the marketplace, as the business community expands, as popualtion expands, you'll see more and more hotels that want to build here."

Statewide, tourism spending is up $14 million to $354 million in 2013, a 4 percent increase.