Over-representing convention growth

An recent article on KUHF’s site claims that Houston convention business is booming. That’s amusing, considering they’re building the new convention center hotel precisely because they felt like they were missing out on too many conventions. What’s more amusing are the examples they give as proof of this boom—the Rodeo, the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC), the NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits and the NBA Allstar Game.

I’ll give them the NBA Allstar Game. Even though it’s not a convention and didn’t occur in the convention center, it’s a high profile and competitive event to host.

I’ll give them half credit for getting the NRA Meetings and Exhibits. While it could theoretically be hosted many places, selling guns and talking about guns in arguably the most gun-friendly state in the nation doesn’t seem like a big stretch.

But the Rodeo? Are you kidding me? That’s not some new win—that’s been in Houston for years. Houston didn’t win it from anyone. The Houston rodeo isn’t going to move to Oklahoma City if we don’t offer up enough hotel rooms one year.

And OTC? Please. Houston’s the energy capitol of the world, or at least the US. That’s why they’ve been hosting OTC in the same convention center for years. Having it anywhere else would just mean that attendance would drop because all of the people in Houston would have to fly somewhere else.

If the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau has genuine proof of convention business improving, I wish they would share it, because these examples are pitiful.

And after we’re peppered with these so-called proof points, Bureau president Greg Ortale starts attacking the San Antonio Riverwalk out of nowhere. He calls it a “flood control project” that has “a few restaurants around it and some hotels and some other stuff.” He then goes on to claim that Houston has “as competitive a product as any other cities in Texas certainly.”

No. No we don’t. In the paragraph just before Ortale starts railing on the River Walk, he notes that downtown Houston will have 6,000 hotel rooms AFTER the new Marriot is constructed, compared to 13,000 already-built in downtown San Antonio. That’s not remotely competitive. That’s called getting dominated.

Moreover, the River Walk in San Antonio is one of the most vibrant, visited, sought-after tourist destinations in the state of Texas. It’s lined with restaurants, entertainment venues, hotels, a mall, a movie theater and the Alamo.

The George R. Brown is surrounded by a sea of crumbling surface parking lots and an army of less fortunate people who live under nearby bridges or at area halfway houses and treatment centers. Discovery Green is its only bright spot.

If the area was in such “competitive” shape, the city wouldn’t have authorized a $15,000 per unit incentive to encourage mixed use development around the convention center to try and create that combination of street life, restaurants, bars and etc. that the city knows the area lacks.

I’m sorry to see such a poorly crafted puff PR piece reprinted by a “news” organization. The article was a combination of empty chest-pounding and childish attacks at superior competitors. Truth be told, I do hope the Bureau is doing well, and if they are, they should try sharing some actual good news instead of this travesty.

You can see the original article on KUHF’s site.

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