Perhaps not coincidentally, a week after Nielsen Expositions announced it would keep Outdoor Retailer Summer and Winter Markets in Salt Lake City through at least 2016, a consultant told the Salt Lake City and County councils that a 1,000-room hotel needed to be built to sustain the city’s convention business.
Jeff Sachs, managing partner of the Strategic Advisory Group, a consultancy that specializes in the hospitality and convention facilities business, told separate meetings of both groups on Tuesday that the kind of hotel Salt Lake needs would cost about $335 million, $100 million of which would be publicly funded.
“The cities that don’t [build convention hotels],” Sachs said to the Salt Lake City Council, “put themselves at a competitive disadvantage.”
Nielsen officials had been considering whether to move the two big outdoor-related shows from Salt Lake after its contract with the Salt Palace Convention Center ends in 2014. Although the popular shows have outgrown two expansions of the center in recent years, most recently in 2006, Nielsen Vice President and Show Manager Kenji Harotunian has said frequently that enough space in the convention center is not the only problem with Salt Lake City: The infrastructure to accommodate up to 27,000 attendees in the summer and 21,000 in the winter is not there.
“The hotel situation is more urgent than the space situation,” Harotunian has told EXPO. “There are people staying 40 miles away. If there aren’t enough rooms, there aren’t enough rooms.”
With its decision to extend its stay in Salt Lake for two more years, Nielsen and Outdoor Retailer may have given the city some time to resolve that dilemma.
“The biggest issue is convention-quality hotel rooms. That’s more of a priority than the convention center,” says Visit Salt Lake President and CEO Scott Beck.
Sachs says at least part of the problem can be solved with a 1,000-room hotel near the convention center that has two ballrooms and substantial meeting space. He says in his report that such a hotel would generate an additional $170 million in economic activity each year in the Salt Lake City area.