Below please find ASAE’s response to a June 27 Washington Post column that questioned the value of the District’s investment in a convention center and the overall value of the meetings industry.
June 30, 2014
It strikes me as short-sighted – or at the very least, premature – to be denouncing the worth of DC’s new convention hotel, the Marriott Marquis, mere weeks after its opening (“Debunking the conventional wisdom about conventions,” by Steven Pearlstein, June 27). While it’s true that the city has been marketing the headquarters hotel since ground was broken in 2010, the fact that it opened on time and is now housing thousands of convention delegates, business travelers and other visitors to DC will undoubtedly have a profound, long-term economic impact on the city and on future bookings at the neighboring Washington Convention Center.
Mentioned (but glossed over) in Pearlstein’s column is the fact that the District is already beginning to book large city-wide conventions that would have been impossible to attract without a headquarters hotel property within walking distance of the convention center. With the Marriott Marquis now online, the District can land larger meetings, such as the 40,000-attendee American Dental Association conference coming to DC in 2015, which the city could not previously accommodate. This type of new-to-market business is important to the city because it augments existing business, and ensures the new Marriott property doesn’t siphon business from other hotels downtown.
Pearlstein’s column alludes to the competitiveness of the meetings industry, which it certainly is, but adding the Marriott Marquis to the city’s inventory allows the nation’s capital to at least be in the game when it comes to competing against other destinations for convention business.
The economic significance of the meetings industry can’t be denied. According to a 2014 study conducted for the Convention Industry Council by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), direct spending by meeting delegates is more than $280 billion annually. The industry also provides jobs for more than 1.7 million Americans, including more than 500 permanent employees at the Marriott Marquis, 63 percent of whom reside in the District. More jobs and more spending by convention delegates in the District should more than justify the city’s and taxpayers’ investment in the new hotel and the convention center next door.
John H. Graham IV, FASAE, CAE
President and CEO