More Meetings in MO

Meetings in the state of Missouri revolve around Kansas City, St. Louis, and an ever-growing market in Branson. Although on opposite ends of the state, both Kansas City and St. Louis are second-tier cities offering reliable transportation access and civic and private infrastructure for groups of all sizes. 

Kansas City
Kansas City is having a stellar year so far. In the first two months of 2012, the city hosted more than a dozen conventions that contributed more than $20 million to the local economy. High-profile groups included the concurrently held 40th National Soccer Coaches Association of America Annual Convention and the Major League Soccer SuperDraft (Kansas City is one of a few soccer hotbeds in the U.S.).

In fact, Kansas City has been on a streak for awhile. In 2011, it recorded its best year ever in terms of hotel demand, with 6.6 million room nights sold, according to Smith Travel Research data. In 2012, the city has 21 citywide conventions and 220 meetings on the books. 

While local hotel development conditions remain challenging, with plans for a 1,000-room convention headquarters hotel still murky, one notable flag change is the conversion of the former Hyatt Regency to the Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center. The 730-room property gives manager/operator Starwood Hotels & Resorts a second flag at the mixed-use development Crown Center, joining the Westin Kansas City at Crown Center. 

St. Louis 
Like Kansas City, meeting planners love St. Louis, too, as the 2012 Meeting Professionals International (MPI) World Education Congress can attest. The major industry gathering, which will take place in late July, attracted 2,500 meeting planning and hospitality professionals last year in Orlando. The WEC will give the destination critical exposure. 

The city’s convention center, America’s Center, is keeping busy with a calendar of regional consumer and national association events like the recent St. Louis Boat and Sports Show and National Frame Building Association’s Frame Building Expo. The St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission (CVC) recently trumpeted the America’s Center booking of the 2015 American Society for Mass Spectrometry’s Annual Conference on Mass Spectrometry and Allied Topics. The show is expected to land 7,000 attendees and generate $6.9 million in direct spending. 

America’s Center actually comprises the convention center; the St. Louis Executive Conference Center, which is inside the convention building; and the Edward Jones Dome, a 66,000-seat multipurpose arena. 

On its centennial anniversary, Branson suffered some bad timing, as the destination—which has been evolving from a leisure-only to a meetings hub—was hit by a tornado in late February that resulted in damage to some of its attractions and group hotels. 

According to the Branson/Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Branson Airport and area golf courses were spared and are operating normally while recovery work on damaged properties, including the convention center and its attached hotel, is in full swing. 

Repairs could extend to mid-May, when the currently closed Branson Convention Center, managed by Hilton Hotels, should get back its full complement of 220,000 square feet of space, including a 23,000-square-foot ballroom. The directly connected 292-room Hilton Branson Convention Center Hotel also should reopen to full capacity. Meanwhile, the nearby 242-room Hilton Promenade at Branson Landing is in operation and has been a surrogate host for displaced groups.