Denver has already hosted 319,445 convention delegates in the first three-quarters of 2014, a 2 percent increase over the 312,536 delegates who attended conventions here in the same time period last year. With a very strong fourth quarter of meetings coming up, VISIT DENVER, The Convention & Visitors Bureau, is estimating that 2014 should finish with a minimum of 422,000 delegates, significantly up over the previous best year of 2013, in which Denver had 385,292 delegates, and better than 2008, when the Democratic National Convention helped attract 378,863 delegates.
“We have a number of factors coming together to make this our best year ever,” said Richard Scharf, president & CEO of VISIT DENVER. “First, we have an extremely strong convention calendar of meetings. We always knew 2014 would be a good convention year with large groups like SIA SnowSports, American Academy of Dermatology and Risk Insurance Management Society. Not only did we have a large number of meetings booked for Denver in 2014, but the conventions we had are all in industries that are seeing increases in convention attendance,” Scharf said.
“We book conventions anywhere from five to 12 years out, so our sales team targets segments of the meetings industry that we feel are likely to see huge growth in attendance in the future, such as medical, bioscience, energy, and technology/engineering related,” Scharf said.
He added that, consistent with other top tier cities, the business travel market has come back to Denver in 2014, which creates strong demand, primarily from Tuesday to Thursday. Denver is also experiencing a strong tourism year with blockbuster shows like the record-setting Chihuly exhibition at Denver Botanic Gardens.
“Denver does best when all three mixes are performing well – the convention market, leisure travelers and the business traveler,” Scharf said. He added that two unscheduled Broncos playoff games in early 2014 leading to the Super Bowl, and having the National Education Association group in town with 12,000 delegates over the traditionally slow Fourth of July Weekend, have also added to the year-over-year growth.
Scharf notes that other indicators of just how strong this year is for tourism are the growth in occupancy and average room rate. For the first three quarters of the year, Denver’s hotel room occupancy climbed to 78.2 percent versus 73.0 percent for the same time period last year, while average daily rate reached $124.44 for 2014, up from $115.40 in 2013.
This performance has made Denver one of the national leaders for RevPAR growth, according to Smith Travel Research, a group that studies hotel occupancies in the top 25 cities of the country. RevPAR (Revenue per Available Room) is a performance metric in the hotel industry that uses total guestroom revenue and the room count.
Denver’s increases in occupancy and revenue came in spite of new hotel inventory coming into the market such as the 221-room Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center and the 119-room Crawford Hotel this year, and the 302-room Hampton Inn and Homewood Suites that opened last year.
“Usually, when you add rooms to a city, you will see an overall drop in occupancy and average room rate unless you also increase demand,” Scharf said. “However, this year, the demand is so significant, that we have been able to absorb more than 600 new hotel rooms and still see an increase in occupancy and rate,” he said.
Denver Lodger’s Tax collection for the first three-quarters of 2014 was also up, climbing 14 percent.