Austin campaigns to expand convention centre that has to turn away half its business Americas

A new coalition has been formed in Austin, Texas, to lobby for the expansion of the city’s main convention centre. The lobbyists claim demand for meeting and exhibition space in downtown Austin vastly exceeds the supply.

The New Vision for Austin’s Convention Center coalition claims that, in the financial year 2016, the city lost US$480m worth of opportunities for positive economic impact and more than 800,000 hotel room nights, all because the convention centre was either fully booked or too small.

The coalition claims the convention center has to turn away half of its business due to lack of space or availability. Expansion of the facility, they say, would serve as an economic engine for the city. Without the travel, convention and tourism industry, Travis County residents would have to pay an additional $1,080 per household in state and local taxes to maintain current levels of service, the coalition, which includes community, business, arts and tech Leaders, claims.

The coalition is led by a steering committee including former Austin Mayor Lee Cooke.

“According to the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, the hospitality industry has surpassed education as the Austin MSA’s third-largest employment sector,” says Mary Guerrero-McDonald, coalition steering committee member and Austin chair of the Building Owners & Managers Association Local Regulatory Issues Committee.

In 2015, the greater Austin MSA welcomed 24.1m visitors who contributed to $7bn in economic impact and 124,000 jobs in the leisure and hospitality workforce.

“Our residents who work in the tourism and hospitality industry include countless small business employees, as well as artists and musicians who depend upon this income,” John Bernardoni, coalition steering committee member and driving force behind past efforts to save, restore and rejuvenate the historic Paramount Theatre, said. “It’s important for Austinites to know that we all benefit in revenue generated from the tourism industry.”

Tom Hall

Editor, Exhibition World