Convention business rebounding strongly in 2022

Full recovery from COVID expected in 2023

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

AFTER TWO YEARS when its gathering halls were nearly empty of traditional big events, save for COVID vaccination clinics, Massachusetts Convention Center Authority officials on Thursday declared that they just completed their most successful financial year in history.

“After two challenging years, we rebounded stronger than we could have expected,” Massachusetts Convention Center Authority Executive Director David Gibbons said at an MCCA meeting Thursday.

The authority, which runs the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and the Hynes Convention Center in Boston and the MassMutual Center in Springfield, hosted more than 370,000 attendees in fiscal 2022, Gibbons reported, and booked over 365,000 hotel room stays for attendees — generating an economic impact of $770 million.

Hotel room bookings increased dramatically throughout the year. At the start of 2022, event attendees were booking about 50 percent of the available rooms. By the start of the third quarter, bookings increased to about 85 to 90 percent. Gibbons said the authority expects a “full recovery” by 2023.

Next year the authority is estimating that its events will generate 694,725 hotel room nights for attendees in just the two convention centers in Boston.

MCCA brought in a record-high $65.5 million in revenue, compared to $19.5 million in 2021.

“We’ve been very frugal,” Gibbons said. “Before anybody could spend anything, we had to know exactly where we were at any given time. The financial rigor and discipline of the team — when the business started to flow it flowed extremely well, then cascaded.”

Parking revenues were higher than expected and there were a few one-time events this year, outside of the convention center’s typical annual events, that brought in big money.

The annual events were also back, though, including the Seafood Expo — which brings thousands to Boston for the largest seafood trade event in North America. Next year’s event is already scheduled to be at BCEC.

“Several factors helped us accomplish these results, highlighted by the event industry’s accelerated recovery versus pandemic estimates with both spending and attendance showing surprising resiliency,” MCCA communications manager Philip Crohan told the News Service.

Looking forward, MCAA officials hope to add an extension to BCEC with money from an economic development bill that’s in flux on Beacon Hill, and will focus on continuing repairs to the Hynes and booking events up to 2025 as they wait for the state’s decision on whether it will sell the convention center.

In Springfield, the authority is decommissioning the civic center garage at the MassMutual Center to make way for a new parking arrangement that will incorporate new retail and community space, stealing “a few pages from Lawn on D,” Gibbons said.

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“The MCCA rebounded stronger than anyone could have expected and operated ‘in the black,’ without requiring any supplemental funding from the Convention Center Fund to support our fiscal year 2022 operations,” Crohan said.

“Business has been very, very strong,” Gibbons said.