Exterior of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center

The Convention Center Connection

The ongoing $1.5 billion expansion of New York’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center is a reminder of just how connected meeting facilities are to the health of the city’s hotel industry, which provides accommodations for the thousands of attendees, sponsors and support staff, frequently for multiple-night stays.

The Javits project will add 1.2 million more square feet of exhibition space, bringing the venue total to 3.3 million square feet. The work includes construction of a 58,000-square-foot ballroom, which the center claims will be the largest on the East Coast.

The “convention-center connection” benefits hotels large and small, from the 500-plus-room “big box” full-service convention hotels to much smaller limited- and select-service hotels. The latter can benefit from convention business, too, if managed effectively.

Large citywide conferences and events are the lifeblood of convention centers. Accordingly, local convention and visitor bureaus typically work on behalf of their client hotels by assembling “room blocks” to house attendees. Hotels are invited to participate, and most wisely agree.

Considering that the lead time for a big conference can be two or three years, participating in the room block gives a hotel a base of business on the books for a fixed number of nights far in the future. In industry parlance, these bookings represent “found business”  or, more to the point, “money in the bank.”

While many who attend conferences will opt to stay at full-service convention hotels for the convenience of being able to order room service or dine inside the building, others will be happy to book a limited- or select-service hotel if only they’re traveling on a budget because such hotels are priced substantially lower than their full-service cousins.

Conferences present hotels with opportunities to attract additional bookings. Given the appeal of a destination like New York, Chicago, Miami or San Francisco, some attendees may wish to arrive a few nights early or stay a few nights afterward, possibly with their significant other. If offered an attractive “pre-con” and “post-con” rate, they’re likely in many cases to book a limited- or select-service hotel, since that part of their stay will be on their own dime.

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