City convention bookings falling as it goes for a big one

At a time when Kansas City is trying to land the 2016 Republican National Convention, its convention bookings are declining, staff reported Tuesday.

Oscar McGaskey, director of convention and entertainment facilities, reported to the mayor and city manager that a shortage of downtown hotel rooms was a factor.

Anymore, people want to be in a four-block area of their convention, he said, and “Kansas City just hasn’t been able to compete.”

He suggested targeting smaller conventions such as religious, government and sports groups.

Mayor Sly James said the Republican National Convention wanted from 32,000 to 35,000 hotel rooms and the city will have to send visitors to hotels in Johnson County and elsewhere to accommodate that.

He also said Kansas City’s aging downtown hotels are not exactly wowing potential convention groups.

“Their enthusiasm level is high before they do the hotel tours and it’s low when they come back,” James said. “We’re not there.”

That is not to denigrate the hotels or people who work in them, he said, but it is like a house built in 1985 might not provide all that is wanted today.

James called for targeted marketing efforts to get more conventions.

“We ought to be banging on their doors and telling them why they ought to be coming here,” he said.

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