A lagging indicator, convention attendance at Chattanooga center falls

A lagging indicator, convention attendance at Chattanooga center falls

June 18th, 2009 by Brian Lazenby in Business Around the Region

The economic recession is having a late but slowing effect on business at the Chattanooga Convention Center.

Executive Director Tim Riddle said revenue generated by events and conventions in May are down over last year and cash flow in the coming months are expected to be down as well.

"We've known for a while that May was going to be down," he said. "It's not going to be a great late summer and fall either."

During a meeting Tuesday of the Carter Street Corp., the board that oversees the Convention Center, Mr. Riddle said that event revenue during May was $313,849, down almost 37 percent from the $497,014 generated a year ago.

The estimated economic effect of Convention Center events in May was $1.77 million, a 26 percent decrease from the $2.4 million impact in May 2008.

Mr. Riddle said Convention Center business is usually one of the last areas to show the effects of the economy because most of the events are booked a year in advance.

Bob Doak, president and chief executive of the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he is seeing slight signs of recovery but nothing indicating a dramatic improvement.

"I don't see the amount of pessimism I once saw, but I don't see a bunch of optimism about what is happening either," he said.

Assistant Director Mike Shuford said no conventions were booked during May, but things have picked up in June.

"(May) is the first month I can ever remember when we didn't have a single contract returned," he said.

Three or four already have been returned since June 1, which Mr. Shuford said is something he hopes to see continue.

Jimmy Hudson, board chairman, said he hopes things turn around soon.

"I hope that the business meetings sector will rebound in the fall," he said.

"That's the segment we are seeing fall off."

Mr. Riddle said he expects things will improve at the end of this year.

"January through May looks back to normal, but we just have to get there."