February Focus: business travel
Nearly a dozen new conventions have booked the Oregon Convention Center through 2024, thanks to the new Hyatt Regency Portland hotel being built nearby, and business travelers from throughout Oregon are expected to benefit along with those from outside the state.
Construction on the Hyatt Regency Portland began last August on a parcel just north of the convention center that is bounded by Northeast Multnomah and Holladay streets, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Interstate 5. When it opens in the late fall of 2019, the LEED-certified hotel will feature 600 rooms, 32,000 square feet of meeting space and retail shops. The 14-story hotel's amenities also will include a bar, restaurant and gym.
Mortenson Construction is the developer and design-builder for the hotel project, as well as an accompanying parking garage that will provide 445 parking spaces, 130 bicycle spaces and 18,000 square feet of commercial lease space. The spaces in the parking garage will be shared between building tenants and hotel guests.
The public-sector piece of the project is a partnership of Metro, the city of Portland, the Portland Development Commission and Multnomah County. More than 80 percent of the public sector's investment comes from a $60 million Metro revenue bond that will be repaid with taxes generated by hotel guests. The balance includes $10 million in state lottery funds and a $4 million grant from the Oregon Convention Center's reserves. Of the total $224 million project cost, Hyatt Hotels is paying $150 million, according to Metro.
Metro Council President Tom Hughes said momentum for the hotel's construction kept building over the last several years as Portland's inability to attract more conventions and other large events became undeniably apparent.
"We were beginning to hear from people that they could not hold their convention here because we didn't have a headquarters hotel, so we knew we were losing business," he said, adding an estimated 10 to 12 conventions were lost each year for this reason. A survey of national meeting planners found that they were 79 percent more likely to book events at the Oregon Convention Center if there were an "amenity-rich" hotel next door.
Marketing for conventions with the new hotel as a centerpiece began last October and, so far, four conventions are scheduled for 2020 and another three are expected to confirm for that year. As of late January, 10 conventions are confirmed through July 2024. Hughes said that adds up to 93,000 room nights, with convention attendees each spending anywhere from $330 a day to $404 per day while staying in town. In fiscal year 2015-2016, convention attendee spending totaled more than $729 million in the Portland metro region.
While conservative estimates predict the region's convention business will grow by a third once the hotel is open, Hughes said, "I think we're going to see substantially better than what we had thought we were going to see."
He noted that the Hyatt Regency Portland will benefit in-state business travelers as well. Of its 600 beds, 500 can be blocked for convention attendees. The 100 remaining beds are available for in-state travelers who may be attending business conferences or other meetings.
"I do think we will see more businesspeople in Portland and the rest of Oregon who will now finally see their associations be able to come to Portland for their conferences," Hughes said.
Construction of the new hotel will create 2,000 jobs and, once it is open, it will support 950 permanent hotel and hospitality jobs. Metro is working with Mortenson Construction to pursue diversity goals for the project and help open doors to careers in the construction industry with a focus on women and people of color.
Travel Portland noted that the LEED Platinum-certified Oregon Convention Center is the largest convention center in the Pacific Northwest, and that the Hyatt Regency Portland is Hyatt's first full-service hotel in Oregon.
"One of Portland's greatest strengths is the city's hospitality," Jeff Miller, president and CEO of Travel Portland, said in a statement. "From travel and tourism to food and beverage, our people know how to offer one-of-a-kind and inclusive experiences. Hyatt Regency Portland at the Oregon Convention Center will present us with more opportunities to show the world what a vibrant, progressive and welcoming city Portland is."
Travel Portland pointed out that not only will the hotel provide quick access to the convention center, it also is located along the bus, streetcar and MAX lines and provides convenient transit to and from downtown and Portland International Airport. In addition, it's close to shopping at the newly remodeled Lloyd Center and other nearby neighborhoods that are attractive to tourists.