Thursday, March 26, 2009

VisitPittsburgh: Good 2008, Hopeful 2009

The region’s visitor and convention promotion agency says it did well last year but things will be tight in 2009. At its annual meeting Thursday, VisitPittsburgh released data showing 573 meetings and conventions were booked in 2008, including 43 conventions. That compares to 454 meetings and conventions booked in 2007. VisitPittsburgh Vice President for Marketing Craig Davis admits many of the events in 2008 were booked before the downturn in the economy, but he says bookings going forward are still strong compared to other cities. He says Pittsburgh has the advantage of being within a short plane trip or a half-day car drive of most of the east coast and Midwest, which helps keep travel costs low. He says hotel and room rental is also lower than most alternative cities. Davis notes Pittsburgh's hotel occupancy in 2008 increased by 2.5% over 2007. That makes Pittsburgh the second-highest ranked city in the country for hotel occupancy growth. Davis says as they build their budget for 2009, the agency is expecting a 7% drop in revenues from hotel taxes. Putting further downward pressure on VisitPittsburgh’s budget is the threat of cuts at the state level. The state provides about 20% of the organization’s budget and the governor’s proposed budget calls for a 40% reduction in state funding for all tourism agencies. Davis says they are lobbying to have that funding restored.

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