Convention's growth outpaces Louisville hotel growth, for now

Convention's growth outpaces Louisville hotel growth, for now
The convention is the world's largest showcase of skilled trades, career and technical education.
SkillsUSA Championships is free and open to the public Wednesday, June 27 and Thursday, June 28 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
SkillsUSA Championships is free and open to the public Wednesday, June 27 and Thursday, June 28 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY(WAVE) - A popular convention, and its $26.2 million economic impact on the city of Louisville, is leaving town in a couple years, citing outgrowth of the city's accommodations.

Each year, people from around the country from to Louisville for the Skills USA National Leadership and Skills Conference. But in 2021, they're headed to Atlanta, taking the economic development and thousands of talented students, their families and company executives with them.

Even though the city of Louisville is gaining new hotel space as with the new Omni Hotel, the growth of that conference is far outpacing open hotel rooms.

"We expect about 19,000 people coming in for this event," SkillsUsa Executive Director Tim Lawrence said of this year's conference.

That's 19,000 people spending their money in Louisville. From chemical engineering to computer technology, the annual Skills USA conference is a partnership of students, teachers and 600 companies looking to put talented young people in their job pipeline.

"It's more than a conference, it's about the economy," Lawrence said. That statement speaks to what SkillsUSA means every year to Louisville, putting millions into the economy. Lawrence told WAVE 3 News, the conference loves Louisville, the people and the huge space at the Kentucky Fair and Expo Center but they're running out of room.

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"We're in 44 different properties and hotels," Lawrence said. "We're filling every room that's available within the perimeter of the city, and we're running about 100 buses to move the people around the city."

That's a big cost for the group.

"Atlanta has, downtown, a half a dozen properties that are over one thousand rooms," Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO, Karen Williams-Goetz, said.

While Louisville is seeing new growth in boutique and smaller hotels, large hotels with a high percentage of double beds are key for larger conventions.

There are 1,300 rooms at the Galt House, but it took years to get another large hotel built with the Marriott in 2008. This year, 600 plus rooms opened at the Omni.

When it comes to future conventions, more rooms are coming to Jefferson County by the end of 2018 and the newly renovated Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville opens back up in August.

"We will have booked over 400,000 new room nights that are just downtown at this Convention Center from 2018 to 2023," Williams-Goetz said. He added that means 25 percent new business.

Those rooms are already spoken for, getting city officials excited. They are also hopeful that when SkillsUSA looks to their future after their time in Atlanta, they'll come back to Louisville.

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