Do conference centers bring tourists?
I am working on a research project for the city of Santa Cruz, CA. I am trying to find ways we can boost our hotel occupancy rates during the off season. Building a conference center hotel seems to be the most obvious idea. Does any one have any experience with such a project. What worked? What didn't work? Other ideas on boosting tourism would also be appretiated.
Get a feasibility study done before you commit money!
A boutique conference center, LEED with excellent ocean views and plenty of space to stretch your legs, plenty of amenities might do the trick. Quality can help but is not the be all end all if you don't have the market for it.
Some conference centers have corporate sponsorship, which guarantees them space and could reduce public financing. Given Santa Cruz's proximity to Silicon Valley, I would imagine there are some tech companies willing to pony up.
However, a conference center is best at selling rooms on site. A stand alone facility is risky unless you build it near to good hotels. Then you sacrifice views, space, and amenities that add value to such a facility.
What about Santa Cruz's existing conference center?
This conference center in Santa Cruz sounds pretty nice. I found it at the International Association of Conference Center. This is where you can start to identify your market niche that your new center would fill. A LEED, boutique conference center could cater to a range of market segments (i.e. small, mid, large businesses). You might be limiting your potential market if you just go to design firms and healing arts, so then a small conference center for small and mid-organizations might do. But then again, it is California... Ask your local and regional (in SF or San Jose) meeting planners what their clients are looking for. Ask your industry clusters what they are looking for and if they are willing to invest in a space.
There are only a couple LEED conference centers. As with most LEED building types, there are few examples.
Hope that helps.... I think there's little hard data out there, so you'll have to do your homework by talking to people.