- Steve Klein, General Manager – Radisson Hotel & Conference Center
Conventions are defined as “a large meeting of people that come to a place for usually several days to talk about their shared work or other interests or to make decision as a group.” This description accurately illustrates what the majority of these large groups come to Fresno for. As General Manager of the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center for the last fifteen years, I have experienced the ups and downs of this industry first hand.
Fresno is unique in some of the types of conventions we attract. Most coming to Fresno fall into one of these categories: religious, fraternal, youth groups and social groups. While some of these conventions rotate their location every year, about half of them are annual.
Conventions are held in our area for several reasons – Fresno’s central location in the state; our hotel rates are generally lower than Los Angeles, San Diego and the Bay area; the weather is great; and there is a fair amount of flexibility concerning available facilities. The Fresno Convention and Entertainment Center (FCEC) has an excellent layout of meeting rooms, a top notch theatre and a very large arena available for use. Along with the large amount of space in the Radisson and surrounding hotels, downtown Fresno can accommodate most mid-sized conventions.
Regarding the state of conventions in Fresno; the past 5 years it has been fairly flat. We did hit a spike during the mid-2000’s (2004-2007), but have not seen that growth again. Challenges in attracting organizers of these large events include the lack of available activities in the downtown area and the need for renovations in available meeting places.
The convention business is extremely important to the City of Fresno and the Central Valley. These events bring money to our city through taxes on rooms in hotels and sales tax on beverages, food, etc. Local businesses, like the floral shops, the fast food industry, the shoe stores and gift shops in the downtown not only benefit from these events, they are dependent on this influx of revenue to help their bottom line. The income that the FCEC generates through conventions often goes unnoticed, because most of that revenue is in the hotel tax and that goes directly to the City’s general fund.
Through efforts such as those to revitalize downtown, renovations to meeting facilities and a more coordinated city wide sales effort, this industry can truly be the contributor to our economy it should be. We can all work together to bolster this essential industry and in turn strengthen our city as a whole.