Why Yakima Needs to Improve Its Convention Infrastructure

The meetings and convention market is a crucial part of our local tourism industry and economy. It’s also important to other cities around the Pacific Northwest. Yakima competes with these cities to attract meetings. If we are to be successful in bringing and keeping conventions, we must maintain and improve our convention and hospitality infrastructure. If we don’t, we risk losing millions of dollars in revenue, taxes and jobs created by the convention industry.

Meeting planners review many factors when choosing a city to hold their event: location, costs, support infrastructure, surrounding attractions, activities, etc.  A recent survey of 398 U.S. planners conducted by the Kliman Group and Fulcrum found that the top three “destination strength elements that contribute to destination appeal” when choosing a city are lodging, air service and meeting assets (e.g. convention center). Yakima is largely a drive-to destination and while the City has made great strides in improving air service, it’s currently not a major factor for convention planners in our market. Quality lodging and the convention center, however, are crucial factors. The Yakima Convention Center has a stellar reputation for service, plus has had significant improvements since it was built. We must, however, do more if we are to remain competitive.

According to data we track, the primary reason for cancellations and groups not booking the Yakima Convention Center is due to a scheduling conflict with another group for the center (31%). The second most common reason was a lack of meeting or exhibit space for dates group desired (28%), followed by groups opting for a self- contained location, specifically at a hotel (20%). Collectively, these three reasons account for nearly 80% of lost convention business.

There is growing concern among current and past clients regarding the perceived lack of space at the center. Some of these groups have chosen other venues instead of the Yakima Convention Center, including Spokane and Tri-Cities, while others indicate they are on the verge of outgrowing the current Yakima facilities.

In 2015, the City of Yakima, with the support and involvement of the Yakima Public Facilities District, commissioned Kidder Mathews to conduct a market study on our convention center, lodging facilities and to assess competing markets. The researchers involved in the study have extensive experience in hotel and convention center analysis. Their study recommended that market conditions warrant an additional 51,000 square foot exhibit hall. As stated in their report, “By adding a dedicated exhibit hall to the Yakima Convention Center Campus, the city would create a definite competitive advantage over both Kennewick and Wenatchee. With the exception of the Spokane exhibit hall, Yakima would be the only facility with true exhibit space…. It would distinguish the new facility from alternative options in the competitive markets.”

The new exhibit hall would also increase the center’s scheduling flexibility, improving our ability to host multiple events and organizations concurrently. The added space would also allow the center’s sales team to target organizations that have outgrown the existing facilities. Both advantages would support efforts to recapture lost business due to capacity and scheduling, which accounts for 58% of total defectors.

Davenport Grand Hotel in Spokane, WA

Davenport Grand Hotel in Spokane, WA

Likewise, our headquarter lodging needs to be addressed. Last year, Spokane welcomed a new headquarter tower hotel connected to their convention center with more than 700 guest rooms, 60,000 square feet of meeting space and a parking garage. In the Tri-Cities, a new SpringHill Suites opened last summer, also connected to their convention center. In Wenatchee, the City recently sold land to a developer to build a 170 plus room Hilton Garden Inn along the waterfront next to an existing walkway to their convention center. These are our three main competitors.  We are losing conventions to these cities because of the condition and age of our headquarter hotel. Kidder Mathews recommends building a new headquarter hotel to replace the aging Red Lion. A number of scenarios and locations around the Yakima Convention Center Campus are being evaluated. Other possible hotel plans in the city core could have a bearing on the final configuration for the project.

Currently we are working with the City to secure an architectural firm to estimate costs and develop renderings of a center addition and headquarter hotel. This would help show what the vision could look like and assist us in advancing the project.

The Yakima Convention Center is a cornerstone in the health and vitality of Yakima. It currently pumps more than $11 million into the local economy. It brings visitors and locals to the city center, generates activity for partner facilities plus increases customers for businesses and attractions across the community.

I hope you will join me to work with the community, private and public sectors to ‘raise the bar’ and upgrade our convention amenities.

John Cooper

Yakima Valley Tourism

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Yakima Valley Garners Media Exposure

One of our roles at Yakima Valley Tourism is to court, host and tour lifestyle and travel media to Yakima and the Valley. We’ve had a busy time of late, and here are just a few of the results from our efforts:

For a complete look at the media Yakima and the Yakima Valley have received in recent months, check our Media Page on our website.

Yakima Valley Tourism Launches Spring Marketing Campaign

findSpringLogo

Yakima Valley Tourism has launched their spring marketing campaign to attract visitors. “Find Spring in the Yakima Valley” targets wine visitors, families and others interested in sunny spring events, local culture and activities.

Visitors to Yakima Valley Tourism’s website Find Spring will find details on seasonal festivals including Spring Barrel Weekend April 25-27, Cinco de Mayo festivities May 3-4 plus numerous other events. Visitors to the website may also enter a Wine Country Get-Away Giveaway that includes lodging, dinner in Downtown Yakima, VIP wine tasting at three Yakima Valley wineries plus a $100 gift card toward new Oakley sunglasses.

“Spring in the Yakima Valley is a unique Washington experience,” stated John Cooper, President & CEO of Yakima Valley Tourism. “In one destination you can combine sunshine, blooming orchards, spring barrel wine tastings and many other celebrations.”

The campaign is largely focused at consumers online and is supported by media buys in Sunset magazine, online versions of the Seattle Times, Washington Tasting Room Magazine (print and online) and 425 Magazine (print and online) plus social media placements in Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Yakima Valley Tourism Awards Luncheon

Pat_Casual (2) We’re off to the races with our next Tourism Awards Luncheon! Adopting a Kentucky Derby theme, there will be lots of springtime fun. Our Master of Ceremonies and speaker will be Pat Cashman, Seattle comedian and television personality. Many will remember Pat when we brought him here in 2008 as our “Tourism Party” Presidential “candidate” for our annual lunch. The reviews were stellar!

Pat Cashman has been a broadcast performer and writer for more than twenty years. Along the way, he has been a TV weatherman, talk show host, stand-up comedian, short story writer, newspaper columnist, TV sports reporter, radio and TV voiceover announcer—and character voice talent in cartoons and video games. He is the announcer on Nintendo’s “Super Smash Bros”—currently the most popular video game in the world.

He was a featured performer, writer and producer on the Seattle-based sketch TV show “Almost Live!”—a program that was syndicated nationally and appeared for two years on the Comedy Central network. For his work on that show—and other TV efforts from performing to writing, directing to editing—Cashman has won dozens of Northwest Emmys, advertising awards, radio honors and medallions from the International Film and TV Festival of New York.  He’s now working on KING 5 TV’s  The (206), poking fun at all things Seattle and beyond. Check it out here!

A highlight of the program will be the awarding of the Tourism Business of the Year Award and Tourism Person of the Year Award.

Keeping with the Kentucky Derby theme, we’ll be giving away prizes for the best derby hats so we encourage participants to come with their wildest and most colorful hats! We’ll also be doing  a “horse race” like you’ve never seen before!

Details:

When: April 30th, 11:45 a.m

Where: Yakima Convention Center, 10 North 8th Street Downtown Yakima

Cost: $27 per person

RSVP by April 23rd: laura@yakimavalleytourism.com

Cancellations after April 23 and “no shows” will be invoiced.

509-575-3010 or 800-221-0751

SPONSORS: Charter Business,  Greater Yakima Chamber of Commerce, Hilton Garden Inn, Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express,  Horizon Distribution Inc., Miller & Associates Wealth Management LLC, Ron’s Coins & Collectibles, Tree Top, Inc., Treveri Cellars and the Yakima Valley Hotel and Conference Center.

Website Dedicated to Local Yakima Valley Products Launched

yvMadeScreenShotHomeThe Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau (VCB) has launched a new program just in time for holiday shopping. Yakima Valley Made is a website that provides the public a directory of more than 100 Yakima Valley based farm products, hand crafted consumer goods and local food or beverage products. “With the rise of so many hand crafted artisan goods we saw a need to develop a central source for those products,” stated John Cooper, President & CEO of the VCB. “The site is a work in progress as vendors and locally crafted products are identified and added to the website.”

A number of the products listed on the website are available at the Yakima Valley Visitors Information Center at 101 N. Fair Avenue in Yakima. To view the site visit www.yakimavalleymade.com. Yakima Valley businesses producing locally grown or made items sold directly to consumers that want to be on the website should contact Laura Rodriquez at laura@visityakima.com

Funding for the project came through a grant from HUD Office of University Partnership at Heritage University with technical assistance provided by Yakima County Development Association/New Vision.