A few weeks ago in the Albuquerque Journal business section, Dale Lockett of the Convention and Visitors Bureau and Charlie Gray of the Inkeepers Association made a push for a downtown arena and convention center expansion. Given what I knew to be the economic reality of the convention business, I simply had to respond to their claims. My letter to the Business Journal was published today and I’ve pasted it below:
I can’t believe that Dale Lockett of the Convention and Visitors Bureau and Charlie Gray of the Inkeepers Association are still pushing for a downtown arena and convention center expansion. Were they not aware of the 41 percent decline in bookings related to convention center events in 2009 relative to 2008? This is hardly an argument for pouring additional taxpayer money into a bigger convention center and additional hotel space associated with the convention center.
Albuquerque taxpayers (and businesses) should consider themselves lucky that they haven’t gone overboard in the economically-devastated convention industry like some other cities. Take Atlanta for starters, that city’s Georgia World Congress Center recently reported a $1.3 million loss. Then there is Las Vegas, another big convention town, where many of the big casinos are reporting revenue losses of 30 percent over last year.
All across America the convention industry has been in a sustained decline for the better part of a decade. If some entrepreneur felt that the trend was going to change suddenly and wanted to invest their own money in such a venture in downtown Albuquerque, I’d be all for it. Surely, however, the dying convention industry is not worthy of a bailout courtesy of Albuquerque taxpayers!