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For decades a lack of hotel rooms was given as the reason that Milwaukee could not book larger and more conventions to the city.
Although the situation has improved, Paul Upchurch, president of VISIT Milwaukee, said that according to research, Milwaukee could use 500 to 700 more hotel rooms near, or connected to, the convention center.
Much of that research comes in the form of the Destination Attractiveness Mathematical Market Metrics (DAMMM) report, a standardized research report released annually.
According to the most recent DAMM report, Milwaukee has about 1,600 convention hotel rooms which are rooms considered near enough to the convention center.
"Our sweet spot is about 1,800 rooms on peak nights, which is the busiest night of a convention," Upchurch said. "Our situation has improved in recent years and we are getting close to where we want to be. But we aren’t there yet."
Milwaukee doesn’t compete with New York or Las Vegas or Chicago for conventions. Our competitors are cities like St. Louis, Kansas City, Indianapolis and Cincinnati, and Milwaukee is well behind those cities in what are called "Total Convention Hotel Rooms," that is rooms that are in close to the sites of the conventions.
St. Louis has 5,000, Indianapolis has 4,500, Kansas City has 3,900 and Cincinnati has 2,700. Milwaukee ranks 12th among cities we compete against for convention business.
"The PGA Championship held this summer filled all the available rooms," Upchurch said. "And after a slight downturn during the recession we have started to book more and more conventions.
"When an organization is approached the two most important issues are the size of the convention center and the number of hotel rooms.The Hilton and the Hyatt are both connected to the convention center and there are others that are close by."
Upchurch says VISIT Milwaukee goes after conventions that "we know will fit."
While hotel rooms are at the top of the list, there are many other factors that go into convention planners' decisions.
Fenich & Associates is the North Carolina research group that issues the DAMMM report. The company has 60 variables that factor into development of the score for a city, ranging from the number and quality of golf courses to crime statistics to botanical gardens to the payroll of performing arts groups.
The full DAMMM rating is confidential and VISIT Milwaukee would not release it, but a description of the study and all 60 of the variables are available here.
"The DAMMM report is an industry standard," Upchurch said. "It does the research and then spits out what your fair share of the convention market should be. And hotel rooms are one of the key components of that number."
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