Convention Center Chronicles – Chasing Room Nights

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Room nights (nights spent at area hotels by convention attendees) are the key gauge of success for a convention center.

How do I know this? The Convention Center Authority says so:

Hotel room nights are the key gauge for convention business in Massachusetts

So a discussion of room nights should be central to a discussion of any convention center expansion. Except when it’s inconvenient. Here’s Convention Center Authority head James Rooney earlier this year:

We’ve gotten sucked in…. to measuring the success of this industry strictly on the notion of how many hotel-room nights are generated. That is narrow-minded thinking.

The Authority’s on-again, off-again relationship with room nights is evident from their disclosure. One must work hard to figure out the yearly count of room nights for the past five years. And one has to work even harder to distinguish which room nights are allocated to the Hynes and which are to the BCEC.

Why might this be?

First, in the planning of the BCEC, there were pretty aggressive room night projections made. In 2007, the BCEC alone was supposed to generate 675,000 room nights.

What actually happened? In 2007, the BCEC generated 351,400 room nights. The Hynes and the BCEC together generated only 580,158 room nights.

To be fair, later reports lowered room night estimates to reflect market conditions, a modest reduction in facility size, and construction timing. But the central point remains — the BCEC has not met its projections and appears to be falling short going forward. If that’s the case, why are we considering expanding it and what reliable, accurate data do we have that expansion will provide an appropriate level of benefits?

There’s a collective consensus in this town that the BCEC is a unmitigated success. Let’s see the data that makes the case.

Cross-posted at Boston Daily.