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Calitri says bigger conventions means higher revenue from hotel tax

July 8, 2019

Photo by AP Imagery

Marriott’s TownePlace Suites marks Owensboro’s 17th hotel in operation. As construction begins on downtown Owensboro’s Home2 Suites by Hilton, those at the Owensboro Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) are hoping to fill these rooms with as many visitors as possible.

The CVB has been pushing for more local tourism, with a focus on bettering Owensboro’s branding, economic development and entertainment venues. Part of bringing more out-of-towners to conventions held at the Owensboro Convention Center is by building more hotels that can hold a higher number of guests.

“We’ve been limited in Owensboro on the size of the conventions we can host,” said CVB President and CEO Mark Calitri. “The convention planners and convention customers will turn us down because they want to stay close to the convention center. The new hotel downtown is going to give us a chance, and we’re already starting to build on business and conventions because of that.”

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Calitri and his team have been working to bring bigger conventions to the local area ahead of the finished construction of downtown’s newest hotel.

“We’re starting to put out the feelers. We have to do this two to three years out,” he said. “We can’t start planning when the hotel is finished being built.”

Calitri said Owensboro needs at least 400 hotel rooms — ones that can be realistically used for convention-goers and not the general public — in the downtown area to achieve their room-number goal. Right now, downtown hotels offer around 400 rooms, but many of those are used for events and stays that aren’t convention-based.

“If we could have even 300 rooms in close proximity to the convention center, it opens up a whole new realm of business room for us,” Calitri said.

While Home2 Suites will join Holiday Inn Owensboro Riverfront and Hampton Inn Suites Downtown-Waterfront in serving as convenient options for convention guests, TownePlace Suites in Gateway Commons also plays an important role when it comes to big conventions held downtown.

“It’s going to help us because of overflow,” Calitri said. “We can still book the two downtown hotels and spill over into TownePlace Suites [in Gateway Commons]. It’s a good option for us to have.”

With a focus on Owensboro’s local market, employees at TownePlace Suites are trained to help guests uncover the best of the City’s locally-owned restaurants, markets and entertainment.

In fact, a map of Owensboro hangs in the front lobby of the hotel, where multiple locally-owned places and events are highlighted for guests to see and receive information about.

“We will have 30 to 35 different [venues and events] from the local market featured at all times,” said Director of Sales and Marketing Sarah Keown. “Museums, hospitals, schools and events like Friday After 5 will be featured permanently, at all times.”

In bringing new hotels to the area, Calitri’s goal is to fill these rooms with as many out-of-town guests as possible. In order to achieve a high revenue from the local hotel tax, of which the CVB gets three percent, Owensboro must continue working to bring more people to the area.

“It won’t help us if the number of guests is divided between the different hotels,” Calitri said. “We need to focus on bringing new people into Owensboro.”

By hosting bigger conventions, Calitri believes the hotel tax will benefit from a year-round increase in hotel guests across the city. By increasing the hotel tax revenue, the CVB can continue to build Owensboro as a tourist destination, thereby improving on Owensboro’s future success as a city, he said.

July 8, 2019

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